Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Michael Blake, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, spoke on the necessity of more youth activism in politics and addressed issues from the 2016 presidential election at a speech on Thursday.

April 13, 2018

At Cornell, Vice Chair of DNC Calls for Youth Participation and Activism in Politics

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Michael Blake (D-NY), a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and a New York State Assemblyman, dissected the politics of the 2016 presidential election and addressed the need for increased youth involvement in politics on Thursday.

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he said that “in the end, we will not be remembered by the words of our enemies, but by the silence of our friends.”

“If you care about immigration, you care about jobs, you care about criminal justice reform, you care about gender equity, you can’t be on the sidelines right now,” Blake said in an interview with The Sun.

Blake expanded on the need for action to combat racial injustice.

“Especially if you’re a young person of color, how can you watch black and brown people getting killed and do nothing? If you care about the direction of us as a people, you have to be in the game,” he went on to say.

Blake argues that a central issue is that many millenials are confusing activism and outrage with progress and action. According to him, “marching and tweeting is not enough,” and millennials need to transfer their energy for activism into showing up at voting booths.

“Don’t substitute activity with progress. We need progress right now … we need you to get engaged.” Blake said during the lecture. “When you vote, you get people to pay attention.”

When asked about how to bring voters — who had voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 but voted for Donald Trump in 2016 — back to the Democratic ticket, Blake said that their voices simply need to be listened to.

He said that a major flaw with Hillary Clinton’s campaign was its failure to directly address the people’s needs. According to him, the campaign was too focused on showing why Trump was a bad candidate and not on demonstrating how Clinton would aid struggling middle-class workers.

“People made a conscious decision — that their economic circumstance was more important than the horrendous rhetoric [Trump] was conveying,” he said.

Blake also voiced his disagreement on how many people made broad generalizations following the election, calling all Trump voters racists and bigots.

“You can’t say an Obama-Obama-Trump voter is racist. That’s a cop-out … [in] a lot of these counties, folks are struggling economically,” he explained. “They’ve been told for decades these jobs are coming back, and they are not getting helped in a real way to help them move forward.”

Instead of making broad promises and statements like Clinton, Blake said that politicians should try to understand the situation many of these families were in, who have been asking for help for years and felt those needs addressed by Trump.

“We’re focused on building bridges, and having conversations … We can’t keep having these conversations separately.”

Sarah Skinner ’21 contributed reporting to this article.