On November 4, 2014, I went to a local university to speak to an organization my youngest brother was involved in. It was election night and while it was a mid-term election that not too many people were focused on, I found myself exhilarated by the opportunity to spend the evening talking to young people about the law and politics. No one showed for the event.
Not a problem. I took the opportunity to talk to some of the students walking around the student center, hoping to take a small sip from the fountain of youth and re-live my own college days for a moment. My go-to question: Did you vote? It wasn’t really a question, but more of a statement or a conversation starter. Obviously, they would have voted and more obvious than that, they’d have an opinion about the current political climate. I was wrong. The students hadn’t shown up to hear me speak, nor did they show up to vote at their on-campus polling place.
One-by-one, they informed me that, not only did they not vote, but they hadn’t cared to vote. What did it matter anyway? Their votes didn’t count for much and who cared what happened anyway. Classic cases of college apathy, still I was surprised by the casual dismissal in their voices and how quickly they became disinterested in me once I’d posed the question.
Their responses may have been surprising to hear in person, but were hardly unique. Today, articles, news stories, and political pundits often discuss poor turn out in marginalized communities. While Millennials aren’t traditionally thought of as being included within that population, the reality is that Millennials and young people are discriminated against every day– a topic I’ll dive into more deeply in a follow-up post. The long and short of it – Millennials don’tvote and they aren’t expected to vote.
In fact, it seems Millennials themselves are expecting poor voter turn out, generally, and within the generation for the 2016 Presidential Election. Why? Apparently because both candidates are bad options and, yet again, it doesn’t matter which one wins. While I wholeheartedly disagree, I don’t write this to suggest that one candidate is better than the other. I write it to encourage Millennials to reconsider the impact of their vote.
Voting isn’t just about one candidate winning or losing. Rather, this election provides an opportunity for the Millennials to stand out in a presidential election year and be largely responsible for determining the trajectory of America’s future in standing together behind one candidate, showing the world that young people have a voice, can operate as a collective to advance their common interests, and demand new policies that cater to their specific needs. Otherwise, we’re simply relying on our parents and our parents’ parents to choose for us. And haven’t we all grown a little tired of that dynamic by now.
This election, reconsider leaving the decision of who will be your next president to whomever cares enough to show up to the polls other than you. After-all, if its anyone’s time right now, its ours — more to the point — its yours! Own it.