There are many (there are millions) outside the frontiers of active political life who are dazed by the aloofness of the political element. They (we) pick up the paper and learn that Mitt Romney is way ahead in GOP money raising -- that, in this sense, he is the GOP complement of Hillary Clinton. The suggestion is that Barack Obama is slipping on the Democratic side, even as John McCain is slipping on the Republican side, for sudden want of cash. The whole situation tends to reinforce a sense of helplessness utterly alien to the finer workings of democratic government.
It is surely wrong to proceed from now until next February on the assumption that the money in the bank will tell the whole story, or at least as much of it as needs telling before the primaries begin. Whatever his politics, the voter can't help feeling that as an individual contributor, he doesn't count for very much. Thus the headline in The New York Times was "Romney Leads GOP in Money, Tapping Wall St. and Mormons." Such a formulation seems to be telling us: Unless you can mobilize a corporate or religious institution, you might as well just sit around and wait fatalistically to see who the parties offer us on Election Day 2008.
For this reason one looks out for budding phenomena, capable of generating independent political strength. I note the birth of TheScoop08, a venture by students teeming with intelligent concern for the listlessness they propose to combat. They will use the instruments that are uniquely available to the very young. What they have is time and the capacity, before professional and family life absorbs them, to allocate prime attention, after their schoolwork is done, to matters of choice.
TheScoop08 is the undertaking, at this moment, of two young men. Andrew Mangino and Alexander Heffner are -- brace yourselves -- a sophomore in college and a junior in prep school! Tradition requires the use of an exclamation point, OK; but here tradition is superseded by genuine awe.
Their venture anticipates a yearly budget of $15,000 and a staff of approximately 50 students nationwide. "TheScoop08, when it launches in August," Mangino and Heffner write, "will be the first-ever student publication focused exclusively on a presidential race." They continue: "The 2008 campaign is unprecedented in the interest it has spurred on campuses and in high schools across America. Young people are excited to move forward, and they are willing -- perhaps for the first time in a while -- to care."
Listen now to the character of TheScoop08's proposed agenda. "More than 50 aggressive and passionate student journalists representing nearly every state will each contribute regularly to TheScoop08 through Election Day 2008. For example, a reporter might be assigned to a particular candidate to cover in-depth ('Candidate Correspondent'), to a compelling and complex issue ('Policy Correspondent'), or to a modern and innovative beat (e.g., 'Democracy Correspondent,' who would trace this election's historical value in comparison to past contests, or 'Rhetoric Correspondent,' who would write features analyzing the candidates' words)."
TheScoop08 hopes to sponsor a pre-primary debate for the candidates, plus exclusive interviews, "as campaigns are searching for better ways of reaching millions of students at once." A look at the almanac reveals that in the 2006 election, young people (defined as people aged 18-29) voted 61 percent Democratic, 39 percent Republican. In 2004 it was 54 Democratic, 45 Republican; in 2000, the vote was split, 48 Democratic, 46 Republican.
What especially attracts attention is the arrant boldness of the venture. At least Henry Luce and Briton Hadden waited until they were 23 to launch their revolution. And the idea is engrossing. A Rhetoric Correspondent to check every speech by Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney, a Democracy Correspondent outside the door of Barack Obama, a Policy Correspondent listening in to the late-night contributions of Rudy Giuliani. All under the guidance of Scoop editors at high schools and colleges across the nation.
For more details, go to www.thescoop08.com.