Though businesses are starting to reopen, many of us are choosing to remain home and limit our exposure to Covid-19. We are picking up new hobbies, reading books and listening to podcasts.
As a young person who loves local politics, I was thrilled to learn about a podcast called The Youth Vote, started by a young Ohioan named Isaac Mitchell. Living in Cincinnati and recently graduating from Ball State University with a degree in political science, Isaac doesn’t have a professional background in podcast recording or own expensive recording equipment. This has not stopped him from sharing the stories of young politicians.
“This is entirely a grassroots project that I am starting from the ground up,” says Mitchell. He also assures his listeners that the quality of the podcasts will only improve as more people listen and as he connects with more professionals in the field.
In 2019, Mitchell was a manager on two local political campaigns in the Cleveland area: a 19-year-old candidate running for North Royalton City Council and a 26-year-old running for city council in Euclid. “That really opened my eyes to the fact that 1.) there exists a lot of young people who are qualified and motivated to run for office and make political change, and 2.) they don’t get the attention they deserve.”
Mitchell wanted to not only share the stories of these impressive young people, but to inspire other young individuals to pursue politics. Though his main target for the podcast is young people who are on the fence about engaging in this line of work, the podcast has also garnered positive feedback from listeners aged 50+.
“They say it showed them that there are so many qualified young people running for office,” Mitchell shares.
Mitchell is not just interviewing the young people he has come across in his campaign management role — in fact, the vast majority of his conversations came about from cold calls, emails, and direct messages on Twitter to young politicians he finds interesting. Young people are especially accessible on social media, often responding within the hour to Mitchell’s inquiries.
“I have had a lot of experience reaching out to elected officials and political candidates who completely ignore people who are not donors. I remember being a 20 year old reaching out to my state representative, trying to set up a meeting because I was in her district and wanted to share my thoughts, and to hear where she was coming from, but she wouldn’t do it.
“When we are talking about people who are young, they know they have to earn every single vote and earn the attention. They will go on any media platform to talk about their ideas.” Mitchell tells me, echoing my experience of seeing older incumbents in particular taking voters for granted and not paying attention to the youth vote.
I ask Mitchell to share his favorite interview or moment so far on the podcast.
“I have two,” Mitchell says, “My first one would be talking to Anton Krieger because it was really cool to be able to talk to somebody I worked with. The other really cool experience was actually the very first interview I did with Raaheela Ahmed. After interviewing her and going back to listen to it again, it left me so inspired. A lot of times I have been on the fence about whether I want to run for office one day and continue to be an activist. After listening to her, I was like ‘Yes. This is 100% the career for me.’”
Though Mitchell’s interviews have been with a wide variety of unique young politicians who do not fall into one category, there have been a couple of major commonalities he was able to identify among the conversations he’s had so far. For one, young people need to immediately establish credibility. Some people might do with a professional job, or some sort of activist experience. Mitchell asks every interviewee what they do to get voters to take them seriously and how the voters respond.
“In half of the campaigns it seems that voters were turned off or skeptical by having a young candidate, but in the other half it seemed that there were a lot of voters who seemed instantly more interested.” These voters who have faith in the youth vote and the young voice see energy and fresh ideas.
I urge you to be a voter who falls into the latter half. Believe it or not, a young person might be the absolute best representative to advocate for you and your interests. Have you had enough with complacency and entitlement? Listen with open minds and consider what you need from a representative: passion, empathy, energy, excitement.
You can find The Youth Vote wherever you listen to podcasts.