Youth Power a New Age of Progressive Green Politics
High school and college students coalesced behind the Green Party of New Jersey’s recent ticket of Madelyn Hoffman and Heather Warburton for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, constituting well over seventy-five percent of the campaign’s staff and volunteer team. The youthful nature of this coalition remained true to the heart of the Hoffman/Warburton campaign, which purposefully embodied the urgency of young environmental fighters all over the globe. Queer youth composed a significant bloc of these, representing the inspirationally progressive founding principles of Green policy. As they worked in a variety of roles in the months leading up to election day, these young volunteers proved indispensable to the success of the Green statewide campaign.
Recognizing the enormous lack of progressive ideology in the Garden State’s current expenditures, the campaign’s interns worked to propose a new budget. Youth conducted meticulous research in order to create an informed, comprehensive budget proposal. “The budget developed by our student interns was designed to show what a budget built around eco-socialist principles would look like,” said Madelyn Hoffman. “It was to reflect the values and principles of a real Green New Deal, one built around both environmental and economic sustainability. This meant paying attention to and confronting issues of climate change, as well as making sure that all workers would be paid a living wage.” Centering their research around these values, the interns modeled spending which would leave sufficient space for needed public support: Medicare for all, sufficient unemployment benefits, tuition free college, rent cancellation, effective funding for public education, among many other Green expenses. “We were so close to completing this work when election day was upon us,” continued the candidate, “but will continue to tweak the budget until we complete the task and release it. We need an alternative to the plan offered by both Democrats and Republicans.” Though the election cycle has seen its day, the campaign’s Green budget seeks to provide inspiration for future progressive legislation within and out of the state.
Young people attended and brought a new ardor to campaign-attended events. In Jersey City, the campaign partnered with Sunrise Hunterdon, a hub of the Sunrise Movement climate change advocacy group composed wholly of youth, to stage a protest on the steps of Senator Robert Menendez’s offices. The event was designed to bring attention to the Senator’s failure to support ambitious climate legislation, a central objection held by New Jersey Greens to the current political situation.
Only blocks away, youth attended Jersey City’s pride festival to express support for Hudson County’s vibrant queer community and inspire confidence in a truly LGBT-friendly ticket. In Newark, youth stood beside Madelyn Hoffman as the candidate fervidly denounced the United States’ imperialist oppression of Cuba’s inhabitants. In Hadelon, young people marched in the Labor Day procession to call for concrete labor justice, including the reinstatement of the nation’s rent moratorium.
High school and college students represented the entirety of the campaign’s Press and Debates team, working relentlessly to draft, revise, and publish op-ed pieces. Subjects ranged expansively from: the future of affordable healthcare, southern New Jersey’s inadequate transportation infrastructure, and providing justice to communities ravaged by industry in Colombia. Such pieces served as an imperative foundation for the campaign’s outreach strategy. When put into the hands of local publications, these issues connected voters to the core beliefs of the campaign and informed New Jersey’s progressive bloc of a wiser, future-oriented candidate.
Youth thoroughly canvassed New Jersey’s residential areas, furthering their tireless work to bring more votes to the Green cause. Joining hands with the candidates and other volunteers, they marched the streets to give the state’s voters their takes on the campaign’s core values, including the dire need for affordable healthcare, housing, and forward-looking green legislation. Leaflets abounded in the hands and on the doorsteps of Passaic, Dover, Brunswick, Paramus, Middletown, and countless other cities and townships. One supporter noted that they were overjoyed to see a state-wide campaign reaching their doorstep in an area habitually neglected by career politicians. Dedicated, young volunteers powered this outdoor movement, taking valued time out of their busy school and work schedules to support Madelyn and Heather.
Embracing their inherent social media prowess, young people created graphics and videos for each of the campaign’s platforms. In a day and age where social media is able to greatly amplify a candidate’s following, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok served as vital means of lighthousing new progressives into the Green ticket’s message. On TikTok, a brand new platform for political messaging, the campaign reached thousands of views per video, one video in particular receiving nearly thirty thousand views. On Instagram, graphics informed followers about issues pertaining to the state and the electoral process, including the unrealisable $490,000 fundraising minimum which excluded the majority of candidates on the gubernatorial ballot from both debates. “Because we were entrusted with so much power in content creation,” said media coordinator Matthew Skolar, “Madelyn’s online presence captured the positive and progressive energy associated with strong Green campaigns.” Young staff members were able to harness their knowledge of new technology and utilize it effectively to bring more supporters to and inform more supporters of the Green Party.
The result of this youth coalition, when paired with the rest of the campaign’s devoted staff and volunteers, was a successful election for the New Jersey Green Party across the board. For the first time ever, New Jersey’s Green ticket surpassed that of the Libertarian Party in its gubernatorial race, placing third overall, first amongst the three candidates outside the duopoly. The Hoffman campaign took first among these in thirteen out of twenty-one counties across the Garden State. Was it a coincidence that the most youth-driven of any of these campaigns was able to achieve such success? It would seem not. The present and future of Green politics lies in the devoted hands of our youngest generations, and New Jersey is only its dawn.
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