The clones of the anti-war anti-vet crowd are out on the streets in the US and the Vietnam vets, have been through this once before, have to find ways to bypass a rather partisan media to defend its literal and figurative sons and daughters from being treated the same way that they were. Despite the "concern" expressed, very few of those making such expression actually have family involved and those that do are making statements antithetical to both the wishes and the best interests of the individuals involved.

Campus Protest Redux?

Kerry Tries Tapping Youthful Discontent
Senator Makes Bid to Win Hearts of Younger Voters as They Turn Against Bush, Iraq War


April 19, 2004
Campaign Journal

BOSTON -- When Iowa's caucuses launched John Kerry toward the Democratic presidential nomination three months ago tonight, what surprised his rivals most was the support the Massachusetts Democrat won among the record number of young people who turned out to vote and who had been assumed to favor former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Last week and again yesterday in Miami, Mr. Kerry was back on campuses in a five-state college tour, determined to prove that a wordy, patrician Washington insider can still light a fire under a dot-com generation alienated by politics and not even born when he fought in Vietnam.

"Change Starts with U" is Mr. Kerry's new red-white-and-blue logo, and a flag-draped outdoor rally at the University of Pittsburgh Friday drew thousands to hear the challenger -- and, no doubt, the music of rocker Jon Bon Jovi. Mr. Kerry has keyed his message to the economic anxiety of debt-burdened students and their growing disenchantment with President Bush and the Iraq war. Most important -- and revealing -- is the challenge Mr. Kerry throws down, daring young people to pick up the mantle of activism that propelled the civil-rights, antiwar and environmental movements of his own youth in the 1960s and '70s.

It was 33 years ago this week, in fact, that the former Navy officer led a famous Washington antiwar protest with thousands of Vietnam veterans, chanting "Bring our brothers home." Today, rock star Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" is a campaign anthem; the song's lyrics -- "Like soldiers in the winter's night,...We swore blood brothers against the wind, I'm ready to grow young again" -- evoke Mr. Kerry's youth and a boyhood friend killed in the war.

"It was young people who helped to end the war in Vietnam and young people who created the Clean Air Act," the senator tells students. "All of these things happened because people said, 'We can make a difference.' We need you back. We need you back in this system."

From Boston and New York to Miami and Atlanta, Mr. Kerry is raising millions almost daily to help finance new television ads -- now being filmed -- to introduce him to battleground states. But his hopes for November rest most on two building blocks this spring: that voters care deeply this election about the issues of the Iraq war and the economy, and that he can grow as a candidate against the much-better-known President Bush.

But Mr. Kerry can't count on winning by following the 1992 model of Bill Clinton, who ousted Mr. Bush's father with just 43% of the vote. To win, he must expand the Democrats' base, and the courtship of younger voters is a case study of this dynamic.

Issues are clearly a force: no set of voters has swung more with the changing circumstances in Iraq. An October 2002 survey by the Pew Research Center, before the war, found that 18-29-year-olds supported military action by a higher ratio -- 3-to-1 -- than any other age group. Today, the opposite is the case: An April survey found only 40% of 18-29-year-olds favored keeping troops in Iraq until a stable new government is established in Baghdad -- the lowest support of any age range.

"It isn't so much that Kerry is pulling them as their changing impression of Bush is driving them away from the president," said William Galston, a University of Maryland political scientist specializing in young voters. "They will support him because they don't like Bush," agrees Jeff Lugowe, a Brown University student, who had backed Kerry rival Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. "I won't be ultracommitted."

[Charts of college student surveys]

Nonetheless, it is a foothold, and Mr. Galston says the Democrat challenger has recognized a genuine restless appetite among the young for community service and is challenging them to take the next step into national politics.

"A lot of kids today are committed but they aren't sure of they're translating their idealism and enthusiasm into local community stuff," Mr. Kerry says in an interview. "There has been a complete transformation in people's relationship with government," he says, recalling his own mindset when John Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign inspired him in high school. Government for Mr. Kerry then was a "healthy, trusted, well-thought-of institution. ...Today it is not particularly viewed as healthy, it's viewed as dysfunctional, it's not trusted and it doesn't appear to be dealing progressively with the issues with which people are concerned."

After nearly a lifetime in government, the senator has to worry about not being trusted himself. Among the students last week were many who had hoped Democrats would choose a fresher face such as Gov. Dean or Sen. Edwards. If Mr. Kerry were only as direct -- "from the street," he says -- as Mr. Springsteen's lyrics, he might be a better candidate already. But he has to find his own metaphors.

"I don't want to talk specifically about the '60s. ...I want to talk about things we have accomplished and how," he says. "You have to show people, do this and this can happen, embrace this and here's an outcome rather than just a word. ...I'm trying to get away from political words. Increasingly I've become distrustful of our own language. Gotta find a new language."

At the same time Mr. Kerry conveys an almost wistful determination to connect with young people as if to renew himself. "Purpose" is a favorite Kerry word. "I think people look for a purpose. I remember being young, you're sitting around saying, 'what am I going to do, what's it all about.' ...If you can connect some of these challenges we have to a real purpose and endeavor, it's great."

He is most effective when he talks in specifics. At City College in New York he tells of being on a Navy ship coming back from Vietnam and hearing the news of Robert Kennedy winning the California primary and then being killed in June 1968. He turns around a question on race in America to remind students of the advances made in the South because of the civil-rights movement. When Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in April 1968, the civil-rights leader had come to Memphis, Tenn., to help sanitation workers organize, a mission not just of racial but "economic justice in America," Mr. Kerry says.

"I think it's good to remind people what we've done, what we've accomplished," he says. "The fact is nobody does give the South credit, they've done amazing things down there. Things actually moved and changed. We did them before. We can do them again."

"I think people want real leadership, not as postured, sort of going-in-the-wrong-direction stubbornness. Real leadership is taking us to a better place."

Write to David Rogers at


"'. . . inside every liberal there is a fascist struggling to get out and run things his way in the name of compassion and democracy.'" --- Alfred Coppel, A Land of Mirrors, 1988