I’ve debated it.
You can’t deny it, you’ve thought about it.
If you’re 33 or younger, it's the topic you currently try to avoid at most dinners. And if you’re 34 plus, it’s the first one you dive into. Try to avoid it, you may. But inevitably it will come up. And in these 2016 Presidential Elections, there just happens to be a lot to talk about.
When has an election ever been more awkward, more erratic or simply more amusing (in a Ringling’s Bros. Circus kind of way)? There’s the Republican candidates, which includes a soft-spoken neurologist who would like to be identified with a violent past and yet can barely mutter "Can someone attack me please?" during a 90 minute debate, a Canadian whose less-than-tactful ads undermine his mechanically-sincere deliveries, an reality TV celebrity whose bark is bigger than any wall he could build, a recent momma’s boy drop-out and a broken-record rookie (oh, and Kaisch.) All the while the Democratic Party has just two white haired contenders in the ring, neck and neck. Though if they were in a legit boxing match, there is no question of who would win, despite the fact that the FBI is on her tail and is on the brink of being issued a subpoena from the U.S. State Department. No doubt unforetold caricatures celebrities alone, such as The Donald himself, have thrown the 2016 Primaries into uncharted laughable territory that an SNL couldn’t take credit for. (Note: Even Tina Fey’s recent sketch of Sarah Palin’s endorsement for Trump was so painfully verbatim, it required no more than two embellished lines. And maybe a translator, for viewers. Apparently Palin “speak Pig Latin.” Which is a relief to know, since I was concerned she was actually attempting English for a minute there.)
With all this exhaustive talk of dollars, contributions, emails, and random individuals who've never stepped foot into government and have randomly decided this year is their year to be president, has a campaign ever been more confusing? Or exhausting? The Democratic candidates have thinned out, but the Republicans remain enough of a circus show to inspire a Simpson’s short. At the rate this Presidential race is quickly turning into animal party, it’s no wonder so many young people are disengaged and would rather not vote.
I’ve touched on the topic before: Voting. It’s a topic Bernie Sanders refers to as “going to the moon”, in relation to how young people feel about politics. (When Sanders refers to young people, he’s referring to Millennials. This may be a given, but it’s another reason young people continue to love him. Because he actually refers to us as people, as opposed to the demographic sector of votes that we’re often downsized to.) “It’s just not going to happen.” Well Sanders may be right. Partly. (If we’re speaking technically here.) Technically speaking, it’s not going to happen for 50% of us. It’s a downward spiral trend and doesn’t seem to be dying anytime soon. In 2008 51% of us voted. In 2012 when even more Millennials (excuse me), young people were of age to vote, only 45% of millennials voted. To further complicate the conundrum, the Independent party has risen drastically in recent years, at a record-breaking 43%. Clearly a great number of young people feel strongly opposed to the two parties that have long resided in American Politics. And maybe that is why so many of us choose not to vote. Or, we’re simply not interested.
Why, you ask? Why do people text while driving 70 miles per hour or Instagram less-than-appealing weightloss before and after photos of themselves in their underwear? Because, they don’t really give a Funyun.
Bette put, as The Boston Globe would suggest, we don't believe in the system. As Joanna Weiss explored, there could be many reasons why young people of today seem to be the first generation so disengaged from the opportunity to vote:
How did we get from fighting for the vote to dismissing it as meaningless? Blame the recession, which has kept so many young people from jobs, homes, and stability. Blame our current politicians, peddling gridlock and attacks. Blame the culture at large, the pox-on-all-houses rhetoric that has helped Donald Trump’s cartoon nihilism take hold.
Blame who you will. These are all valid points. Yet in “dismissing it [the right to vote] as meaningless” it can offer the illusion of disassociating oneself with the final selection of the next President, or the institution as a whole. This vote has been long viewed as a right. A right fought for, to take part in directing where a Nation may turn next. Because a choice to not vote carries more weight than just for the individual, though many of us may view it as an individual’s right to not to vote. In voting most of us see only the immediate impact for ourselves. Perhaps we are cultured to not care, particularly when we feel it doesn’t concern us. Or maybe we’re too conformed to our self-servicing apps and too confined to our self-focused social platforms to really give it a second thought. However you view it, the number of registered voters who choose not to vote, particularly in swing states, can make all the difference when push comes to shove. So essentially by not voting, you are voting.
While the selection of candidates running can seem overwhelmingly unreasonable, not voting can feel quite reasonable. Even though a film just reminded us last year we’re turning onto the near century anniversary of a woman's right to vote. And even though, this past December, after years of protesting women in Saudi Arabia were able to vote for the first time.
We just may be the first age group with such a significant percentage of individuals who feel so strongly inclined to ignore the right to have immediate influence, rather than use it. And ignored or not, like it or not, the choice not to choose will have equal impact. Either way come November 8 someone will be selected, changes will be made and it will affect our future. Yours, mine and the 43% of Independents on the rise.