The Virtue of Nonprofits

Trevor Gulock, Contributing Writer

The 2020 Presidential Election held the highest voter turnout by percentage than any other election since 1900. With both candidates topping 2008 Obama’s record-setting 69.5 million votes, Biden clocked in at a whopping 81.2 million votes. The tension, widespread campaigning and controversial political arena at the time resulted in a chart-topping election despite the restrictions of COVID-19. The demographic that made this possible was young voters; but specifically non-white voters who have do not hold a college degree.  The lesson learned by strategists from both the 2016 and 2020 elections was to target voters who do not usually vote. “Fairweather” voters typically do not hold party loyalty, are less swayed by the history of political parties and are more likely to vote on “bread-and-butter” political issues directly affecting their lives. Therefore, they are more easily influenced by often misinformative political campaigning and hot-button issues. Both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for influencing these demographics; but all too often by making promises they cannot keep. Non-profit organizations such as NextGen America market themselves as looking to mitigate these — sometimes bordering on unethical — campaign tactics and preserve a holistic view of the American electorate. Among this reasoning, many programs also seek to maintain the high voter turnout seen in the 2020 election in the absence of ad hoc contributing factors such as Black Lives Matter, the COVID-19 recession and Trump’s impeachment. 

With just over a year until the 2022 midterm elections, NextGen is looking to register 288,000 new voters across the country. In order to achieve this mission, the organization has budgeted over $32 million to engage specifically young voters, increasing voter accessibility. “I think we’ve won a lot already with the power and turnout of young voters. But ultimately what we care about at NextGen is delivering on real change,” NextGen Executive Director Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez said, sending a direct message to any legislator who is trying to ‘cling to the past’ of broad voter disengagement. While NextGen currently operates in eight states — Texas, Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada — with a mission to both inform and mobilize voters, Ramirez seems particularly keen on Texas voters. “As one of the youngest states in the country,” Ramirez notes, “young people in Texas have the power to determine an entirely new direction not just for our home state, but the nation. If the legislature of Texas actually enacted the will of young Texans we wouldn’t be banning abortion, we wouldn’t be trying to build a useless border wall and we wouldn’t be passing voter suppression bills.” Such remarks seem particularly partisan coming from a non-profit organization with such a simple mission – to ‘inform’ and ‘mobilize.’

That these nonprofits are looking to generate a more representative and diverse voting population within our American democracy is, of course, morally just. But to what extent is theirs a moral justification? With a budget of $32 million and an executive looking to invest in generating left-leaning turnout, it is clear money still speaks volumes in our nation’s politics. However, if this money – looking to ‘recruit’ your vote – succeeds in providing higher voter turnout, then the methodology is self-justifying. Our nation is still tasked with educating all voters to look beyond the marketing materials being handed to them (either Democrat or Republican) to gain a comprehensive understanding of the candidates and vote within their best interests.

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