The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness
The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

What the Senate Ticketmaster hearing tells us about young voters

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. This is Caroline, your D202 researcher, in today for Olivier.

On this day in 1971, Charles Manson and three of his followers were convicted of murder and conspiracy in the 1969 slayings of seven people, including actress Sharon Tate. Tate, who was 26 at the time, would have celebrated her 80th birthday Tuesday. 

The big idea

The Daily 202 (Taylor’s Version)

Want an example of the power of young voters and politicians’ eagerness to court them? Look no further than the hearing the Senate Judiciary Committee held Tuesday on whether Ticketmaster has gotten too powerful. 

It began with The Great Taylor Swift Ticketmaster Fiasco of November 2022. Demand was colossal, and as millions of her fans swarmed to grab seats for the star’s first tour in nearly five years, the platform suffered a meltdown. 

Outrage ensued, and the Swifties sprang to action. Fan social media accounts morphed into political lobbying tools, demanding that lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) figure out what went wrong. And it worked — at least in the sense that it got bipartisan attention. 

On Tuesday, executives from Ticketmaster and its parent company testified as the Senate Judiciary Committee tried to determine whether the platform’s domination of its industry (it controls more than 70 percent of the market for ticketing and live events) is a problem and whether it can be addressed. 

Amid all of the hearing’s playful references to Swift’s lyrics, of which there was no shortage, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) distilled the essence of the day: “I think Swifties have figured something out. They’re very good at getting their message across.”

Consistency, reach and persistence

But it’s not just Swifties. (And there’s no age limit, of course, on loving Swift, but her fans do trend younger.) Music preferences notwithstanding, young voters are showing staying power as a political force and drawing the attention of lawmakers eager for their votes.

In the past three elections, young people have turned out in big numbers, overwhelmingly in support of Democratic candidates. In 2018, some poll watchers said the turnout was just the Trump effect, not a lasting change. In 2020, it still seemed like it could be a fluke. But now, it’s difficult to ignore.

“That [consistency] really has convinced currently serving elected officials that they are here to stay, they’re going to be voting, and they’re definitely a formidable political power,Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, told The Daily 202.

And younger voters aren’t just headed to the polls on Election Day. They’re seizing on issues in their day-to-day lives, like the Ticketmaster debacle, and demanding answers from legislators.

“That’s really powerful on top of how they’re voting,” Kawashima-Ginsberg said. “They’re also sort of following their votes to say, ‘Now that we voted for you, we’re gonna keep you really accountable. You need to partner with us.’” 

Ticketmaster’s woes

Ticketmaster is no stranger to this particular brand of controversy. In 1994, Pearl Jam tried to take on the ticketing giant after learning service fees were being tacked on to their ticket prices. Frontman Eddie Vedder even asked President Bill Clinton for help, and the Justice Department launched an investigation into monopoly allegations. But the investigation was quickly closed without action.

Fast-forward to 2022: As fans (myself included) waited for hours in various presale queues, getting kicked out of line seemingly at random, Ticketmaster pulled the plug on future sale dates, canceling the public sale where most fans expected to buy their seats.

Ticketmaster blamed the cancellation of “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory,” pointing to Swift’s record-setting sales (more than two million tickets purchased in a single day) as simply too much for the platform to handle. The site also blamed “staggering number of bot attacks” for the crash. 

In his opening remarks, Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said the ticketing problems for Swift’s concerts were a symptom of the “larger problem” of Ticketmaster’s lack of competition. The system also broke down ahead of a Bad Bunny concert in Mexico City, leaving hundreds of ticket holders shut out of the venue.

Beyond providing an opportunity to appeal to young voters, scrutinizing Ticketmaster also allowed lawmakers to focus on anti-trust and monopoly issues — populist themes both parties have been eager to highlight.

In Tuesday’s hearing, several senators accused Live Nation of monopolizing the ticketing industry and failing to innovate because of its lack of competition. “Consolidation of power in the hands of few can create problems for the many,” ranking member Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said.

Live Nation president and CEO Joe Berchtold denied that, blaming the company’s troubles on bots and harmful ticket resale practices but conceding that ticket pricing should be more transparent. 

Will this change anything?

Lee said in his opening remarks that he had “never seen more smiling and happy demonstrators” than he saw outside Tuesday’s hearing. Fans who couldn’t be there in person posted relentlessly about it, urging one another to follow along virtually.

“Real swifties are watching C-SPAN right now,” one tweeted.

“Even getting the public’s attention on this — we thank the fans who maybe are still outside and we hope are watching on C-SPAN,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D- Minn.), who heads the Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust issues. “I thank them for keeping this alive.”

But holding hearings is the easy part and attention now turns to whether Democrats and Republicans will seek to address the issue legislatively — or if a day of nods to Taylor Swift lyrics is where it ends.

Young voters will be watching.


See an important political story that doesn’t quite fit traditional politics coverage? Flag it for us here.

What’s happening now

Pope says homosexuality not a crime

Pope Francis criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality as ‘unjust,’ saying God loves all his children just as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church,” the Associated Press’s Nicole Winfield reports.

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis said during an exclusive interview Tuesday with the AP.

Germany clears way for scores of tanks for Ukraine, U.S. also poised

Germany cleared the way on Wednesday for Europe to send scores of battle tanks to Ukraine, and Washington was poised make a similar announcement — moves hailed by Kyiv as a potential turning point in the war, and condemned by Moscow as escalation,” Reuters’s Andreas Rinke and Tom Balmforth report.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

‘I felt like we were in “Goodfellas’’’

How George Santos wooed investors for alleged Ponzi scheme

“[Christian] Lopez was among several people who in recent days described to The Post how Santos attempted to persuade them to invest with Harbor City. Santos worked as the company’s New York regional director for more than a year before the Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit in April 2021, alleging that the firm defrauded investors of millions of dollars in a ‘classic Ponzi scheme,’” Jonathan O’Connell, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Emma Brown and Samuel Oakford report.

  • “Collectively, the accounts gathered by The Post offer a detailed picture of Santos’s efforts to recruit investors for Harbor City. In two instances, he inflated his own academic or professional credentials, The Post found. In addition, Zoom recordings of workplace meetings show Santos offering anecdotes about his purported interactions with wealthy people — stories disputed by those involved — for potential inclusion in marketing materials or to impress prospective clients.”

A key pandemic food benefit is set to end, putting some seniors at risk

Next month, a pandemic-related benefit increase for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is scheduled to expire, even though advocates say it will put many SNAP recipients — particularly older ones — at a higher risk for food insecurity at a time of increased prices, Tara Bahrampour reports.

… and beyond

2023’s biggest, most unusual race centers on abortion and democracy

“In 10 weeks, Wisconsin will hold an election that carries bigger policy stakes than any other contest in America in 2023,” the New York Times’s Reid J. Epstein reports.

“The April race, for a seat on the state’s evenly divided Supreme Court, will determine the fate of abortion rights, gerrymandered legislative maps and the governor’s appointment powers — and perhaps even the state’s 2024 presidential election if the outcome is again contested.”

Dozens of major shootings sweep the U.S. in January

“The Gun Violence Archive, which has a broader definition of mass shootings that includes any incident in which four or more people, not including the shooter, are wounded or killed, has recorded 39 such incidents this year. That is the highest tally at this point in a year since at least 2014,” the Wall Street Journal’s Alyssa Lukpat and Jon Kamp report.

California enacts new abortion laws, expecting copycats

The first-in-the-nation mandate for student health centers to carry abortion pills is just one of more than a dozen new California policies that aim to make the state the nation’s leading haven for abortion rights. Now, Democrats are holding up California as a model as New York, Washington, Illinois and other blue states prepare to enact similar policies in 2023,” Politico’s Alice Miranda Ollstein reports. 

The Biden agenda

White House zeroes in on its next top economist

“President Biden is close to naming the next head of the National Economic Council, the top economic position in the White House, and Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard has emerged as a top contender, according to three people familiar with the deliberations,” Tyler Pager, Jeff Stein and Rachel Siegel report.

The choice of Brainard, 61, would be welcomed by liberals, given her support for strict regulation for Wall Street and her attention to the effects of climate change on the financial world.

Biden’s human rights pick withdraws

“President Joe Biden’s nominee for a top human rights position is withdrawing from contention in the face of unrelenting opposition from a Senate Republican who questions her support for Israel,” Politico’s Nahal Toosi reports.

  • “The loss of Sarah Margon, whose nomination to serve as assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor was announced in April 2021, could damage an administration push to prioritize human rights in its foreign policy. It also highlights the partisan logjams in the Senate confirmation process, where actions by a single senator have left some foreign policy and national security positions empty for years.”

Where lightning struck the least in 2022, visualized (and why that’s worrisome)

Lightning detection is like measuring a person’s reflexes: the system can appear normal overall, but certain areas may show more signs of struggle than others. That’s what happened in 2022. After back-to-back years of concerning low activity in 2021 and 2020, the total number of lightning strikes was closer to average. Still, pockets of the country showed record low or high activity in ways that left researchers surprised,” Kasha Patel and Hannah Dormido report.

Hot on the left

Possible retirements before 2024 have Senate Democrats on edge

Democrats will be defending a sprawling map of 23 Senate seats in 2024, and three of their incumbents are in states that President Donald Trump won in 2020 — Ohio, West Virginia and Montana. They are also defending seats in the battleground states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada and Michigan,” Liz Goodwin reports.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) plans to run for reelection, he says, but Democrats are holding their breath waiting for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) to decide whether they will stick around for reelection battles in red states where they’ve shown surprising staying power.”

Hot on the right

Frozen: Trump’s primary challengers balk at jumping into the unknown

“Those preparing to challenge Donald Trump in the GOP’s presidential primary are taking their time, privately discussing the prospect of waiting until spring or summer to get in, according to three Republican strategists familiar with different candidates’ deliberations. Part of it is strategic: an effort to make someone else an early Trump foil. Part of it is fear: wariness around their own ability to raise money to sustain a drawn-out campaign,” Politico’s David Siders and Zach Montellaro report.

Today in Washington

At noon, Biden will deliver remarks on “continued support for Ukraine.”

The president will have lunch with Harris at 12:30 p.m.

In closing

And just like that …

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.