With the election cycle here once more, there is much hostility towards the political arena. And the events of 2020 have just added fuel to the fire. Many political beliefs, especially those of young people, have been shaped by these same events but the statistics say that due to the voting habits of the young americans, these issues are likely to get ignored like the rest of the issues we care about. With the number of Americans calling for change this year, it is clear that we, as a nation, are hopeful for change.
The stakes this year are high, with medical, environmental and societal issues all dogpiling on our country. We are at a standstill hoping that this election brings us a leader, dignified and intelligent, to grab the steering wheel and steer us out of this mess. While these candidates may not exactly scream dignity and intelligence, it’s what we have to work with and we’ll have to make do.
While it may seem difficult to choose, we need to see what voting is at its core in order to see the importance of our vote and our voice. The act of voting is one of the pillars of the citizens’ role in american government. Having your voice heard in the government is something that was deprived from so many groups for the longest time, and for those people, this privilege of voting came from much pain and persecution. The least we could do is not take it for granted out of respect for them.
But we don’t. Young people are the largest demographic of people that don’t vote. The numbers are shocking: 90% of young Americans are interested in politics, 80% intended on voting in 2016 but only 43% decided to actually do it. While the midterms brought a sense of urgency to young voters, in the 2016 election, with a 16% spike, young people failed to come through in the primaries.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign ran on the donations of the people. His ideas resonated with young Americans and working class Americans to the extent where we all thought that he was going to be the candidate for the democractic party, but his supporters were mainly young americans. Statistics predicted that young Americans wouldn’t vote and they didn’t. 14 states into super Tuesday, and Sanders had lost. He told reporters he was “disappointed” and acknowledged that his strategy was a risk and that it was a challenge to get young people to vote.
And we wonder why american legislation is so unrepresentative of the population as a whole. It’s because young people are letting old white people dominate the political arena. Whereas time and time again it has been proven that if young people would just vote, it would change America as we know it. If we would just vote, politicians would stop ignoring the issues that we care about. Issues like universal healthcare, more social programs and actually doing something about climate change.
Yet still we don’t. And everyone and everything has taken notice of it. Voting advertisements have been plastered virtually everywhere: Google, Spotify, Foot Locker, Snapchat, Reddit. I can’t open Instagram without a “are you registered to vote” ad popping up to give guidelines and instructions on how to register and vote. These companies are using the events of this year and the political situation to inspire and endorse the act of voting in a way that wasn’t possible before the digital era.
Celebrities chiming in on politics is nothing new; I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the Governor of California. But with the advent of social media, everybody has become an expert on politics. Everyone from Robert DeNiro to Kanye West are giving their opinions the world over, and a lot of the time, it’s factually incorrect. Especially Kanye: he is well on his way to become the modern equivalent of successful 1992 third party candidate Ross Perot. Like Perot, Kanye’s success in this arena would mean stealing votes from legitimate presidential candidates. Voting for the guy who made Graduation sounds like a good idea now, but it won’t when you realize your vote was wasted. Aside from fanatic attempts at the oval office, there are other ways people of influence get involved, whether that be encouraging and informing people about voting or helping voters to register like Frank Ocean.
While these sentiments are great, not all information coming out right now is necessarily true. And it’s not just celebrities, political pundits are doing it too; when the people who get paid to talk about politics get it wrong, you know that there is something wrong. The problem is that it has become cool to be political. Don’t get me wrong, being socially aware is a good thing. It helps you navigate your role and the roles of others in America. But acting a certain way to give off the politically aware image when you aren’t necessarily politically aware is wrong, especially when you have a platform. The internet is an incredibly efficient soapbox, and when people are already paying attention to you, it is entirely too easy to lead the audience towards the conspiracies and lies that you subscribe to. So take everything with a grain of salt. Never believe anything wholeheartedly, whether that comes from the right or the left.
With that being said, our country’s situation is directly connected to us. If you don’t like how our country is being run, get out and vote. If you can’t vote yet, prepare for the midterms or prepare for the next general election. Learn about the policies you care about, whether that is taxes, abortion, climate change, foreign policy, healthcare, corona virus, anything. This isn’t Donald Trump or Joe Biden’s country. They work for us. Let us, the american people, come together and change our country.