In late 1999, I went to Washington, DC, for a political forum that included all the Republican presidential contenders. Each candidate made a presentation followed by questions and answers. My question was for Senator John McCain. A significant element of Mr. McCain’s political platform was campaign finance reform. His proposal was similar to what eventually became the McCain-Feingold Act passed in 2001, which limited the amounts that individuals and entities could contribute to campaigns.
I had the first question: “Mr. McCain, I have a deep respect for you as an American and Senator, but could you please explain why you are proposing a law that appears to be contrary to Republican principles?”
This question deeply upset the Senator. He turned to the moderator and mumbled “And when did I stop beating my wife?” As I edged my way back to my seat, Mr. McCain followed me down the stage giving me an earful about how the youth of America was not voting, and that the reason they were not voting was because the campaign financing system in our country was broken and corrupt.
Senator McCain never really answered the question, but he was profoundly incorrect about why America’s youth wasn’t voting, and – trust me on this – I remember being a teenager much better than he does. It really is abnormal for anyone who is 18 years old to be concerned about our electoral system. If they are still students, they are often focused on graduating high school or getting into college. Many of them, regrettably, are more interested in getting drunk and finding someone to bounce around with on Saturday night. People like myself who were interested enough to work on campaigns were the exception – not the norm.
When these young adults finish school, they become most interested in building the foundation of their careers and their future life. It’s usually only when they settle down, buy a home, start a family, and begin to make progress in their careers that they start to realize how expensive government is, and begin to get involved in the political process. It has been this way for generations and is validated by voter turnout.