Thank you to both of you for joining us, especially during this really crazy time with just under 90 days until the election. I don't want to waste any time here so let's talk about this really powerful ad that we just saw. It marks March For Our Lives' first foray into presidential politics. Can you tell us a little bit about it, what states it's running in?
MS. CONFER: Jackie, thank you for having us. Excited to be here with my colleague, David, as well. This is our first ad, and we know that we really need to make it very clear for especially first-time voters who are heavily Generation Z what is at stake. They know what the stakes are far too well, and are making real choices based on issues and policies, not candidates. And so our goal with this ad, that is going to be running in nine states--Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Arizona, Michigan, Colorado, and Wisconsin--we know that we need to connect to the intersectional issues that young people care about, from racial inequities to gun violence to climate change.
We have tons of young voters out there who are fired up on so many issues, and they want to hold their elected officials accountable. So, making that connection between issues and voting and protests is more important than ever with Generation Z.
MS. ALEMANY: Yeah, and I reported last week that the ad played on Fox and Friends on Thursday morning. Was that sending any specific message to someone in particular?
MS. CONFER: I think people need to recognize that if you are voted into power, you work for the people. And so, every elected official is there at the will of the people. That's why we live and work in a democracy. And so, I hope that there was some self-reflection that happened for people in D.C.
MS. ALEMANY: And I also want to note there is no clear call to action in the ad. What exactly are you asking young voters to do, David?
MR. HOGG: I think the main thing that we are asking young voters to do is realize that there are many tools in our, I guess you could say, our kind of toolbox for creating change. Protesting is one of them. Voting is one of them. Writing, you know, letters or, you know, emailing our Congressmen or Representatives is another.
And basically connecting all these issues that young people are rallying around right now, be it climate change, racial injustice, or gun violence, and making them realize that gun violence, yes, like there is a major part of it that has to do with the need to strengthen the laws in the United States, but we also need to discuss the large amount of systemic racism and the historic amount of injustice that is--of which gun violence is a symptom in our country. And realize that although even if we address every way that a person possibly, you know, gets a gun, we also need to address why they are pulling the trigger in the first place, and that means addressing things like militarism, racism, and poverty as well.
And I think that's part of what the point of it is, is to make us realize those connections and realize that, you know, there is no mistake that even with the more recent passing of, you know, Congressman John Lewis, and the work that he did, even at the March For Our Lives in Atlanta, he talked about how he has always worked--he has worked against the NRA, and on top of that how--I think we have seen that in all of the communities that he fought for and the communities that are also less impacted by gun violence are also the ones that are most impacted by COVID. It's because they are the ones that face the most obstacles, as a whole, that have been held against them as marginalized communities in this country.
This isn't just a conversation around laws. It's a conversation around the injustice that drives gun violence as well.
MS. ALEMANY: And on the topic of Congressman John Lewis, who obviously fought his entire life for the right to vote, for the Voting Rights Act, I think some might say that you might have missed out on an opportunity by not explicitly calling for young voters to vote. Why didn't you?
MS. CONFER: This would be an entire way of bringing young people to the fold. We want to make sure they are met where they need to be met. And we've heard repeatedly from young voters that they want to hear their issues voiced in a very clear way and not downplay the power of First Amendment, and protests, and direct actions and making their voices heard publicly.
To David's point, we are going to be pivoting to the voting message and reminding people that you can choose the people who are ideally just into positions of power that you can hold accountable. We are not looking for somebody who is going to save us all. We are looking for a public servant who can actually work with communities and be held accountable by the voters that put them into office.
So, we are going to be pivoting to a voting message. This is just the beginning of our strategy going into the fall. But first and foremost, we want to make sure we are very clear on what's at stake, because this is a fight for our lives and people are voting for their lives.
MS. ALEMANY: And I want to pivot to some of our viewer questions. We had a handful of people submit questions. So first we are going to take a question from Sue Greenhause from Pennsylvania, and she is asking what the best way to bring young voters to turn out in November is. Is it ads? Facebook? Emails? Texts? David, as the Gen Z'er here, what is the best way to reach you guys?
MR. HOGG: I think more than anything it's other young people that are already going out to vote, like myself, and talking--every young person talking to other young people about voting. I think that there is one thing that certainly, in my opinion, doesn't work. It's older people telling younger people that they need to vote, although, you know, of course I agree with that. I think it's a lot better if young people talk amongst themselves about it, and don't see it as like, oh, this is something that your parent is telling you that you have to do, but rather something that is rebellious and almost like, no, this is a form of like the teen, you know, angry young person angst that so many of us feel, and this is a way of like us--one of the many ways that we can work to create change and go out there and vote.
I think another thing is, you know, it's not just like sending a message to them. I think part of it is those young people that are out there marching right now and have been as well, for those that are interested in talking about it, and talking about voting--honestly, it's just younger people talking to other younger people about it and realizing that it's not just--this is a lot more than just a presidential election. This is an election that more than likely will determine the future of, you know, the Supreme Court for Gen Z and every gen--you know, for another generation, at least, that comes after us too, possibly. And, on top of that, there's a ton of down-ballot races that really matter.
So I think it's other young people really talking to each other about it, not as something that we have to do but as something like that we can do to, frankly, make those in power scared of young people, as they should be, because they are actively destroying our future, as they are right now.
MS. ALEMANY: Right, yeah, and I'm sure amid this global pandemic your get-out-the-vote plans have taken a bit of a twist. How has this affected your efforts? You know, so many past events around campaigns and getting out the vote have revolved around in-person events, rallies, concerts, et cetera.
MR. HOGG: Yeah, I think I want Alexis to talk more about this as well, but we have some really big events that are coming up around, although we realize they can't be in person, we want to be safe, of course. It hasn't stopped us from doing smaller actions. Like recently, after we filed a complaint against the NRA in 2018, and recently an investigation finally kind of came to an end with the New York attorney general basically calling to dissolve the National Rifle Association, March For Our Lives, in Virginia, threw an "NRA is Over" party in front of the NRA, where we went with a bunch of boxes and stuff, socially distanced of course. And we brought a U-Haul to help them move out. We brought boxes with "thoughts and prayers" on them and different things like that.
So that's one way that we see kind of, you know, using a smaller amount of people or even art to create highly sharable content on social media for young people to see in a safe manner, along with a lot of other things I'm sure Alexis would love to talk about.
MS. CONFER: We've had to innovate during this time, and I think everyone is trying to grapple with the effects that COVID has had on their families. And I think that we are lucky that we are able to have the ability to pivot quickly online. This whole movement, March For Our Lives, was built off online mobilization, and so like many we are innovating with how we reach our chapter networks, which we have 300 chapters nationwide, and how we can bring them into trainings online, and have conversations about things that matter to them, or conversations around art, like our Power Up training series, Remix. We have tons of opportunities for young people to come together online to plan and talk about what matters to them during this next phase of America.
We also do have some large-scale events that some have kicked off already. So, we have been doing this event series called Into Action Live, which is partnered with Sankofa and many other incredible organizations to bring together culture- and change-makers to talk about what's at stake right now in the world and our country, and what kind of change you want to see.
And so actually tomorrow, on International Youth Day, we are going to be having several conversations that people can tune into, and at the end of the month we are kicking off a nine-state event series, "Vote For Our Lives: Our Power in the States," and they will be highlighting systemic inequities in nine states and why groups on the ground are doing incredible work, and how we can actually mobilize young voters around the work that's going on on the ground, using art as a conversation topic. So, there will be amazing art installations across these nine states, and more to come on that. But it's an opportunity for us to really highlight the local work on the ground, also with some of our national partners like Sunrise Movement, and United We Dream, and Indigenous Youth Council.
There is really a collaborative spirit bringing youth together across the board in our interactions, and we hope that we can continue to build upon the digital assets while we try to figure out if and when it's safe to go back more visibly offline.
MS. ALEMANY: Yeah, and I do hope you guys and your families have remained healthy during this whole ordeal, and I hope everyone watching this live show right now is wearing a mask in public and staying safe.
David, I do want to get back to the NRA news eventually, but first we need to go back to another viewer question really quickly. This one is from Dianne Yamada in New York, and she writes in that her 20-something-year-old son feels like his vote doesn't count because of the electoral college. How can she persuade him to vote?
MR. HOGG: I think part of it is realizing that, again, it's not solely a presidential election that we're having here right now. And there are a lot of local races that matter, as well. You know, even if you feel like your vote doesn't necessarily count as much as you would like it to because currently we have the electoral college and we don't really have a--sorry, I was going to go off on a tangent there. But either way, I think we can work to elect a Congress and Senate that also holds the next president accountable, even if you are, say, on the same side but you want something progressive or something like that.
On top of that, you know, there's actually a lot of work being done on the ground in some states I think around some things like, I think it was called the Electoral College Compact which basically would be a more constitutional way of going about creating a popular vote system. But to do that we need people to go out there and keep voting, and know that even though right now the electoral college system may not be the best, there are still a lot of other things on the ballot that matter too. And, you know, voting for presidential elections matters as well.
MS. ALEMANY: Yeah, and I have to note there has been this narrative throughout the entire primary that support for Joe Biden among young voters has been pretty milquetoast, that most of that support has gone to Senator Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Does Joe Biden have young voters? Are they a shoo-in?
MR. HOGG: Yeah, I can't speak for all young people, just as I can't really generalize for my entire generation. But I guess what you could say is that young people want to elect someone that isn't--you know, we want to have a chance of at least trying to have any semblance of a future on our planet and address the major issues, like climate change, gun violence, and other things. I think there are a lot of young people that realize that, frankly, Donald Trump is not doing that basically at all right now, and the alternative is basically an end to our generation and possibly an end to the human race. I mean, we're getting to that point with climate change, and, you know, all these other major issues that are happening.
But I do think that there's still more work that can be done to bring people into the--bring young people specifically into the fold more. But yeah.
MS. ALEMANY: And Alexis, I want to dig a little deeper into that, because, you know, you guys obviously have prioritized policy over people and made the choice in that ad, as we just saw, to not explicitly endorse any candidates, and not endorse Joe Biden over President Trump.
But a Harvard poll came out, from the Harvard IOP, showing that voters aged 18 to 25 are really motivated to oust Trump and that Biden leads among them 51 percent to 28 percent. Are you worried that you're missing a really motivating factor in potentially not maximizing your impact?
MR. HOGG: I think--
MS. CONFER: Jackie, I'm worried--go ahead.
MR. HOGG: I'll let you take.
MS. CONFER: I'll be worried every day until the election. You know, I mean, I think that for anybody who has worked on a campaign before, you can take nothing for granted, and we know that we need to be inclusive of bringing people into the fold between now and the election on so many issues.
And so, I think to your question of will young people go out and vote, I think there is a willingness and a hunger to do it. I do think that especially Generation Z, which is fueled by activism and reading every single theory out there and taking it to the streets and making their voices heard, unlike any generation I've ever seen personally, this is an educated base of people who want to go out and change their communities and educate in the formal sense, traditional sense, nontraditional sense, you name it. They are making sure that they know everything that's going on in the world around them.
And so, I think bringing young people to the table in a meaningful way that doesn't feel like a token, that doesn't feel like an afterthought. They are not future leaders. They are current leaders. And bringing these current leaders into space in a meaningful way in the next less than 90 days is going to be very important.
To David's point, people are fearing for their lives. I think that we've seen, during COVID, that it's only exacerbated the huge inequities in our country, that no one can say just have happened by, you know, chance. These are institutionalized inequities that were built to hold down black and brown communities and make a situation where we have huge gaps in education, huge gaps in the way people can even go to vote.
And so I am more terrified about complete voter suppression, holding back the young voices come this election, and actually suppressing their voices through vote by mail, you name it, the things we have seen being levied against voters, and democracy should be our most basic right, voting and democracy.
MS. ALEMANY: Alexis, I'm wondering, is that your diplomatic way of saying that you don't think the Biden campaign is doing enough to engage young voters?
MS. CONFER: No. We don't endorse, in general, and Joe Biden, as vice president, went further on guns than many elected officials do. We think that the vice president, if he becomes the president, can go even further. I think that we continue to see the Biden campaign listening more and more to youth voices. There has been a lot of calling in young people in recent months, and we hope to see more of that.
So we are optimistic and I think our coalition, with many other organizations across the board who speak directly to young people too, recognize that we're going to have also direct messaging to our bases to say we have your back, your voice matters, and voting for an elected official is important, but there is lots of other work to do as well, in addition to voting.
So, I'm always a diplomat, but I think that we have seen some major strides in the Biden campaign in recent months.
MS. ALEMANY: And in the wake of George Floyd's murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, we've seen these protests erupt throughout the country with Black Lives Matter being front and center. I'm wondering, David, how you see the intersection of March For Our Lives and BLM.
MR. HOGG: Well, it's actually something--I'm glad that you asked that because it's something that I think isn't touched on nearly enough, which is the connections between racial injustice and gun violence. I think March For Our Lives, and a lot of the gun violence prevention space as a whole too, but I think one of the things that March For Our Lives specifically, as a youth-focused organization, like Gen Z-focused forward, is that police violence, and specifically police gun violence, is also gun violence and it still needs to be addressed in the first place.
And on top of that, that, you know, we see ourselves in hopefully a supportive role, not one where we are part of what many young people have called like the nonprofit industrial complex, which is, you know, the system that just reinforces our structures but doesn't actually end up changing anything, at least in many young people's opinions. And instead, I think what March For Our Lives tries to do is ask people how we can be supportive of the work that they are doing on the ground around these things and trying to simply do that, whatever it is. You know, even if it's something as simple as, you know, you need people to help you get a chair for--not right now, but prior to the pandemic like a town hall or something. Like simply just asking how we can help, because obviously March For Our Lives is not a Minneapolis-focused-only organization, the same way it is not only a Parkland-focused organization. But we need to ask those people that are most affected by these issues how we can help.
And I think a big thing around that, too, is, you know, talking to other young people that are in BLM, asking them if they would be interested in coming to March and working with us in how to continuously build a better organization, and counter the narrative that gun violence is something that only matters when it happens in a community that looks like Parkland, when, in reality, it matters in any community, no matter what it looks like.
So yeah, I think that's kind of been the interaction and realizing that, yeah, voting matters, but protesting, making the people in power uncomfortable is also a really important way, and actually an essential way, in my opinion, of creating change. Because when politicians are comfortable they typically don't do anything.
MS. ALEMANY: And we have another viewer question. I want to thank all of our viewers for the really thoughtful questions that you have provided for us today. We've got Jane Baker from Massachusetts, and she is asking what do you see as the biggest barrier to translating youth activism into actual votes? Youth turnout has historically been low.
MR. HOGG: Yeah. That's a really great question. Thanks for that, Jane.
I would say there are a couple of major obstacles. I think one of the first ones is that, you know, I think we may have even seen this in the 1960s, when there was a record voter turnout with young people again, where people turned out and kind of eventually, in my view--although I wasn't alive at the time so I can only speak so much on it--they turned out and then Watergate happened and a bunch of other stuff happened, and they kind of lost faith in the system, understandably, because it's like you turned out once and there is not much that changed.
So I think a big object for us making change is realizing it's not going to be Joe Biden or any single politician that's going to help us address all of these issues. It's going to have to be years of voting consistently and turning out at high levels to make sure that the priority of every policy that the United States government and state and local governments has is the future of our country, and especially the young people that are going to be most affected by those policies.
Secondly, I think a major obstacle that isn't talked about too is youth voter suppression is a huge problem. Even in Florida, I believe in Parkland in 2018, I don't know--I think it was about 15 percent of young people that voted by mail in Parkland had their votes thrown out. And one of those reasons, for example, in Florida is that they know that there are a lot of older people that vote by mail, or that vote by mail, for example, and they tend to vote a more certain way, right? So, they want to make sure that they are able to continue to vote.
So one of the things that I believe that they did was they made this law that says that if your signature that you registered to vote with--so, for example, I first registered to vote in Florida when I was getting my driver's license, as part of like motor voter or whatever, and when I signed my signature I thought I was signing a receipt. It's a terrible, basically illegible signature. But if my signature on my absentee ballot doesn't match that signature that I registered to vote with, that ballot does not get counted and it gets thrown out. And they know that that is something that disproportionately affects younger people. At least in my case we may tend to vote more progressive or vote against the people that are in power.
And so yeah, we need to talk about youth voter suppression and the barriers that there already are for young people voting, especially when they live on college campuses or when they have to vote by mail.
MS. ALEMANY: Yeah, there are so many friction points that I think people don't even think about, so those are a lot of good points, David.
I want to get, though, to the news from last week. New York Attorney General Tish James announced that she was suing the NRA, called for its dissolution, and also called for the removal of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, saying he has engaged in decades' worth of fraudulent activity.
I know from my reporting, and talking with you guys, that there was a lot of behind-the-scenes work done there, in helping bring about this suit, potentially. Can you tell us more about that?
MR. HOGG: Alexis, do you want to--
MS. CONFER: I want to say, I wanted David to talk about the incredible work that they did a year and a half ago, before I was even with the organization. But we have known for a long time that the NRA is corrupt. We have known that they don't represent even their membership in a meaningful way. Most NRA members actually believe in some sort of responsible gun protocols. The NRA has lined its pockets for decades and decades and decades, and I am incredibly proud, as a New Yorker, to see an elected official stand up to them in a meaningful way. I'm sure that AG Tish James will be hit with much backlash from the NRA, as we have all seen working in gun violence prevention, but this is just the beginning of tackling the gun lobby, and many organization, you know, March For Our Lives, with many other organizations, organizations on the ground for years, have been trying to call this nonprofit to task. Because there are certain inherent things that nonprofits must adhere to, and this complete gross abuse of power, from private jets to private vacations, to lining your pockets with your dues-paying members' money is completely inappropriate. And it is appropriate that legal action has been [unclear].
So, we see this as a step of many. We have Attorney General Tish James's back on this. It should be noted that she is the first female AG of color in New York State, and so a huge win overall, amazing kudos to the AG and we have her back. But this is just the beginning of what will potentially be a long battle with the NRA.
MS. ALEMANY: Yeah. Oh, go ahead, David.
MR. HOGG: I was just going to say, we especially want to--it's not like we--I'm never the biggest fan of a lot of elected officials, but it does make me happy and give me more faith in the system when I see someone like Attorney General Tish James taking such a lead on that. It takes courage to stand up to an organization that does not believe--that believes it is above the law.
And, you know, on top of that, I am also--I think it's just really funny, because if you read through like kind of the, I guess you could say like the proceedings from the case, and different things that the attorney general talked about, one thing that we found out, for example, was that when Dana Loesch, their spokesperson, came down to Florida to debate the children that had just survived a school shooting, about why an AR-15 needs more protection than the lives of our children, which she ultimately completely failed to do and got, I would say, in my opinion, obliterated on the debate stage by a bunch of teens, they actually paid over $100,000 to fly her and like two other people on a private jet to go to that town hall. And that's just one example of their mass corruption.
On top of that, after the march, we also found out that one of their main lobbyists in Florida got a massive pay increase because they realized that we were here to stay. And even when we were in front of the NRA the other day, they parked a car in front of the sign because they were so afraid of us. You know, like they know that we are here and we are going to stay, and frankly, March For Our Lives and young people, especially, are going to outlive the NRA.
MS. ALEMANY: Don't have too much time left but I want to get to this important question really quickly and maybe leave things on a little bit more of a hopeful note. But for young people who are stuck at home inside the pandemic, all of their fall plans cancelled, who might not be enthused by any of the candidates that they are seeing right now, what do you recommend to them to get involved and to stay hopeful going into November?
MR. HOGG: Honestly, although I am always a fan of hope, I would be lying if I said I was always hopeful. I think it's just finding whatever your best motivation is, even if it's anger at the people in power, you know, righteous anger at the people in power for not protecting our generation, and, you know, just doing so many things that are in the self-interests of the people that are in power rather than in the actual interests of the people that they should be protecting, first and foremost, which is the future of our country, young people. Whatever that motivation is, you should go out and use it to vote, and know that it's not--if you think this election isn't going to fix everything, you are right. You are 100 percent right. But it's definitely a good way to make a step towards making things a hell of a lot better than they are right now.
And it's not just going to be this election or the next one. It's going to be consistently voting, year after year after year, not for Democrats or Republicans, but for morally just leaders that actually care about the future of our country and care about my classmates that were killed at my high school.
And don't just say they are going to do something like, you know, President Trump said he was going to do, and then do absolutely nothing when they got a call from an organization like the NRA that gave him $30 million to buy his silence in an action, as hundreds of thousands of Americans died over his term, but actually take the action and have the courage to do something, to stand up to gun violence and protect our generation.
But we have to not only go out and protest but we have to vote those people into power. And eventually our generation, if we don't learn from the mistakes that we're currently seeing from the quote/unquote "leaders" that I wouldn't even consider leaders, that are in power right now, we are destined to repeat them. But we have got to start rebuilding and build back better this country now, or else it might be too late for the next generation. And if we don't go out and vote, Gen Z could end up being the last generation.
MS. ALEMANY: Do you plan on running for office, David?
MR. HOGG: I think, honestly, I don't know. It's something that I'm always conflicted about, because I think about, you know, pushing the system from the outside and making people uncomfortable. But then I look at someone like John Lewis, who was so amazing. He talked to us in the weeks after the shooting, and helped offer us advice. And I think it's important to have the right people on the outside and the inside, but also, I mean, frankly, I think we have got enough suspendered, great white men in office right now, and it might be time for a little more diversity. So, I don't know.
MS. ALEMANY: Well, guys, unfortunately we are out of time. Thank you for such a great discussion. I really appreciate it. Alexis Confer, David Hogg, thanks again for joining.
We also have some fantastic programming come up with the Post Live events this week. We’ve got 23andMe CEO, Ann Wojcicki joining us, former CDC director Tom Frieden, and Spelman College president Mary Schmidt Campbell. You can get more information on those events at WashingtonPostLive.com.
Thank you again for joining us. I really appreciate it. Hopefully, I'll see you guys again. I am Jackie Alemany.
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