Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Norton Urges Political Participation

Dan Gelfand/The Hoya Norton

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D- D.C.) called Saturday for increased political engagement and activism by young Democratic voters to dislodge the Democratic Party from a post-2000 election “funk” and lead it to victory in November’s elections.

Norton, now in her seventh term as the District’s representative, spoke in ICC Auditorium as part of the National Campaign Training Conference hosted by the Georgetown University College Democrats. She challenged an audience of young volunteer coordinators to return the Democratic Party to the “progressive majority” it held in the 20th century.

“Politicians do not listen to people who do not vote,” Norton said, referring to the “truly microscopic” voter turnout among 18-24-year-olds. Norton also appealed for more higher education funding and student grants.

Norton encouraged her audience to visit high schools and colleges to register young voters and boost voter turnout. She said increased participation by young voters is key to dispelling the “shock” and “disillusionment” the Democratic Party suffered after its defeats in the last two election cycles.

“Despair is as unwarranted as it is self-inflicted,” Norton said.

The Congresswoman taught full-time at the Georgetown Law Center until her election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990. She has since maintained her tenure by continuing to teach one class every semester. “To tell you the truth, it was harder to get tenure than it was to get elected,” she joked.

Norton also criticized President Bush and “very conservative elements” in the government for “anti-equal opportunity, anti-affirmative action” policies, and accused Republicans of “cheating through” last year’s Medicare Prescription Drug Modernization Act by holding debate open for an unprecedented three hours.

“[Bush] is in our face and we have got to get in his,” Norton said.

Norton urged young voters to hearken back to the time of segregation and the Vietnam War, during which, she said, young activists “reinvented government itself” by inspiring mass reform movements. She recalled her own experiences as a Vietnam protester and feminist, and told her audience of Democrat students, “You must create your own politics.”

Norton said that without the “searing experiences” such as Vietnam, which inspired her own generation, the young people of 21st century America have largely withdrawn from the political realm. She called on her audience to “spread the word” about issues, such as the federal budget deficit and Social Security, which will affect young voters in the future.

“It’s your Social Security on the line. It’s your Medicare on the line,” she said, referring to budget deficits that she said would eventually require tax increases or service cuts to pay off.

Despite Republican victories in the 2002 elections, Norton sounded a note of optimism about Democratic electoral prospects in the future. She pointed to razor-thin margins of victory in many races, and blamed low voter turnout for Republican victories in predominantly Democratic districts.

“We do not live in a pro-business, pro-tax cut” society, she said. “Independents, on most issues, lean toward us rather than toward them.”

Calling it the “last great civil rights issue left standing in our country,” Norton also condemned the lack of equal representation in Congress for District residents. The District has no senators, and Norton, although allowed to participate in debate and serve on committees, can only vote in committee and not on the House floor.

“I am treated as a full equal, in every way except that which is important to the people I represent,” she said.

Norton drew attention to the casualties District residents have suffered in past American wars. “D.C. lost more residents in Vietnam than 10 separate states,” she said, “and we are only a city.”

She told her audience that “you have lost your rights the moment you cross the District line,” and called for increased activism to force Congress to grant equal representation to local residents.

Other speakers at the weekend conference included Terry cAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and several political activists and consultants.

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