Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Dressing Down

That's about all the wannabes are doing to get the youth vote.

By Ashley Fantz

FEBRUARY 14, 2000:  Forget boxers or briefs. It’s the jeans, stupid.

Two weeks ago, Al Gore came to the rescue of his daughter Karenna. Snowed in and unable to make her appearance on MTV's Campaign 2000 Choose or Lose kick off rally in New York, Dad wrestled on a pair of butt-hugging Levis and uncomfortably climbed the stage. He bobbed his strategically mussed hair to Kid Rock and waggled his hips. For a moment, he was not Al Gore: tin can. He was Al Gore: cool man.

If the music weren't jacked so high, the crowd might have heard his aides gasp off stage. As if in slow motion, Gore began to shake his finger to the music.

He suddenly went from, "She gave it up for the nookie, the nookie, so you can take that cookie and stick it up your --" to, "Don't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me..." proving that you can take a candidate out of a suit but you can't take the suit out of a candidate.

More and more Americans are responding to the get-to-know-ya politician, rather than one that seems removed and staunch. At least that's what voters 30 and up say they want.

What's missing from CNN soundbites this year are younger people. Even the Daily Show -- which touts a hipper-than-thou image -- didn't interview anyone in New Hampshire who looked younger than 30. And if a person in their 20s can't get a bone from a comedy channel's news team, then don't expect Ted Koppel interviewing anyone who can still remember what grade they received in History of Western Civilization 345.

Where are the various youth-oriented activist groups that showed up in New Hampshire? Where for that matter were the Young Republicans and Young Democrats?

If candidates are paying any attention at all to people in their late teens and early 20s, it's been in vague references to the environment and technology. The implied strategy of engaging a younger crowd doesn't entail talking about issues. Rather, it means how well candidates play their cool cards. Most who have to work with an empty hand have manufactured their hipness.

Back to Al.

In addition to his Bill Cosby-esque dancing on MTV, Gore has promoted his environmental agenda alongside Pearl Jam and REM. Before a visit to Beijing, he showed off a letter from Alanis Morrisette, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Michael Stipe urging him to ask the Chinese government to like tone down the human rights violations, man. Not least of all was the candidate's stunning demonstration of Vegas genius last April when the Veep laid down his coolest Gen X card of all: the Tibet Freedom Ace. He hung out with the Dalai Lama after both had addressed a major rock concert audience in Washington.

Gore's sparring partner, Bill Bradley has held tight his cool card for years, plugging his time with the NBA. Despite the fact that he'd not been on a court sweating it out for more than 30 years, he donned a jersey over his stiff white shirt during several visits to high schools and junior highs across the country using a basketball as a visual aide to illustrate how he could spin into the White House and slam dunk one for Democracy. Just Do It, Bill. Like you say: It Could Happen.

George "Dubya" Bush has also amended his wardrobe of suits to include performance fleece. The Texas billionaire told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd that he considered himself "culturally adrift," and loved Cats. He hasn't seen a movie since Saving Private Ryan. But he loves him some Dixie Chicks. On his official Web site,Bush has a link titled "Youth" with a red, white and blue banner declaring, "Running for President is a lot like playing baseball," with the November election compared to the World Series and the Federal Election Commission likened to an umpire. A photograph of teenage Republicans shyly holding Bush signs follows this bedtime story of baseball and politics.

A kinder, gentler nation we have become. As a young voter, I can only wish that Tibet will catch on someday.


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