The number of young voters participating in the Iowa Caucuses tripled from four years ago. The number of young voters participating in the South Carolina Primary also tripled from four years ago.
It seems that most young voters are supporting the youngest candidate, Senator Obama. It also occurs to me that young people get their information and communicate through social media. So it doesn't surprise me that the campaign that has used social media most aggressively and effectively is Senator Obama's.
I think it's also important to note that on the Republican side, Ron Paul, the GOP's leading fundraiser last quarter thanks to the 'net, is still in the race (at least for the next few days) while at least one "major" candidate has already dropped out and another seems ready to fall.
Perhaps Senator Obama's words and inspriation are the motivating force behind this historic increase in youthful participation - after all, he seems to be resonating with the family that included the last President to motivate young people so well. I really don't know. Maybe if he isn't on the ticket in the general election a lot of this enthusiasm goes away. But there's no denying that online tools are helping the Senator's campaign move people away from the laptop (or perhaps more appropriately, the handheld device) and toward the polls.
And I have to smirk when I remember Tom Friedman's column last October about how all these social media gagdets and the kids who use them (he called them "Generation Q" for "the quiet generation" were just a bunch of hooey:
But Generation Q may be too quiet, too online, for its own good, and for the country’s own good. When I think of the huge budget deficit, Social Security deficit and ecological deficit that our generation is leaving this generation, if they are not spitting mad, well, then they’re just not paying attention. And we’ll just keep piling it on them.
That incredibly loud noise Tom Friedman didn't hear was a new generation of Americans participating in the political process in Iowa and South Carolina.
It looks like, at least for now, that "virtual" politics is real politics after all.