Ryan Blenthen at the Times wrote a column about engaging folks between 18 and 35.

Two briefings produced by Democratic and Republican pollsters and put out by Young Voter Strategies are a great example of political parent-ism: chock-full of statistics, and different rosy interpretations on the same numbers. To be fair, party strategists are the target, not young voters. One can easily imagine how the Democratic and Republican national committees will push gas prices, health care and college affordability, the topics that polled important to this age group.

18to35, another organization focused on younger voters, has put out The 18-30 VIP. (For aged readers 31 and up, VIP stands for Voter Issues Paper.) In an effort to appeal to the demographic, the VIP is promoted with pictures of enthusiastic 18-to-30-year-olds flanked by big-time wrestlers. (Is big-time wrestling still in? Seems so sixth grade to me.)

Regardless of the tortured delivery mechanism, the VIP lists five good questions — on the economy, Iraq and national security, education, health care and Social Security — one can put forth to candidates.

Taken together, what Pew, Young Voter Strategies and 18to35 have found important give a more complete idea of what politicians are faced with when approaching younger voters: many of the same things voters of all ages are worried about.

This information is useful, but there have to be other issues younger voters believe important. Some of this 33-year-old’s top concerns — international relations, media consolidation, First Amendment issues, technological and government interface (like Internet network neutrality) and the creation of a viable third party — have not been mentioned.

He also mentions earlier in the piece that if the younger voters don’t turn out, it isn’t because a lack of effort by the parties. I’m not sure if it is a lack of effort, or the wrong king of effort. The kind of issue based communication, rather than thinking about the kind of communication they’re using.

Instead of focusing on finding an issue to plug into the same old thing communication plan (you know, the kind that tends to drive down voter turn out), why not try something new? Anyway, Ryan asks us youngins to send him an email with his thoughts (rblethen at seattletimes.com), so here is mine:

Mr. Blenthen,

More than anything we want authenticity. We’re the generation of cable television, telemarketing, infomercials, and junk mail. We don’t want to be sold, rather, we want to be engaged.

Politicians will speak to our generation, ironically not with policy or issues, but rather with the way they engage us. For many of Democrats a bit older than me, Howard Dean was a fire brand anti-war candidate. He was the perfect opposition to George W. Bush, for them. But, I supported Dean because (or rather because Joe Trippi) engaged supporters in the campaign. It wasn’t another top down campaign, but rather one that brought people in.

We want politicians that listen and we want politics that isn’t one way or the other. We want solutions that aren’t wrapped in marketing disguised as ideology. To borrow a phrase from cluetrain (http://www.searls.com/cluetrain/), we want politics to be a conversation not a monologue.

Emmett O’Connell