Youth in Revolt: Why we aren’t voting

It has something to do with the fact that we’re too bewildered by the deluge of escaped sanatorium inmates lining the pulpits and ballots this season. How can we consider encouraging this madness and participating in a process that may just end some of these characters in our legislature?

But, it’s more than that. We don’t get a lot of credit, and it’s true – if you don’t vote, you don’t get to bitch about the outcome (not that that stops us) – but maybe there are more reasons that we don’t go to the polls before spending the day Tweeting about the results.

Here are the top five reasons Gen Y won’t vote in 2010:

5) We moved away from home. So many of us registered in our home states at 18, but then left for college. Now we might be living somewhere else, or maybe we’ve lived in more than two other places besides the one we originally registered in. This generation goes out-of-state for school more than any before us, and we because we’re unattached financially, we don’t necessarily have a problem moving for school or a job. But, by now, we see it as a hassle to change our voter registration every time we move, and we feel too far removed from our home state to really care what’s going on there.

4) Christine O’Donnell and The Crazies. These people are getting out of hand. Yes, we hate professional politicians, with their lying and cheating and back room dealing, but this is getting ridiculous! There’s a reason candidates are supposed to get vetted before running for anything. Christine O’Donnell is crazy, yes, but her nuttiness is overrated and over-publicized by an equally nutty media. Mostly, though, I think she’s just a ditz. She’s the newer, younger Palin Barbie. Add her to Dan Quayle Jr. (what’s his name, again?) who said, after the man had been in office a year and a half, “Obama is the worst president this country has ever seen,” and New York’s obscenely homophobic gubernatorial candidate, Carl Paladino, not to mention all the other crazies flying under the radar, and the combination itself is enough to make a sane person think they should get into politics just to shut these people up!

3) We’re out of the loop. We don’t watch TV. We watch Hulu or use the DVR, fast-forwarding through the commercials. But some of those missed commercials are campaign-related, especially this time of year. We also don’t subscribe to newspapers, where local coverage would not only keep us better informed of the elections happening in our districts, but papers also go in-depth explaining state-wide ballot questions in an easy-to-understand way (most of the time). WTF is Question 3 and why should I care? Well, we really don’t know.

2) Midterms are not a bandwagon to jump on. Because mid-term elections are regional, meaning they’re state-wide, not national elections, there’s no real overarching cause to support. The national media covers the election, but why should I care what Joe Biden is doing in Delaware? I don’t live in Delaware, I don’t ever plan on living in Delaware, and I really don’t care what happens in Delaware. To quote the immortal Ferris Bueller, “They could be fascist anarchists…” and I still wouldn’t care.

1) Disillusionment. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we elected Obama. You’re welcome! But until we feel courted again, brought back into the fold, and pandered to by the parties telling us they’re going to act on OUR issues, we’re not going to vote for them. We feel ignored, pushed aside and a little rebellious. Populist, anti-establishment anger isn’t reserved for members of AARP and the Tea Party. Where’s the love?

Seriously, though… Go vote.

Photo by laverrue

Alex Pearlman I love the John Adams miniseries, the Disney version of Peter Pan, and 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.' My heroes include Aaron Sorkin, Audrey Hepburn, Gloria Steinem, Woody Allen and Allen Ginsberg. I don't like the two-party system, I do like crossword puzzles. I like red wine, I don't like fascists. I like big ideas, I don't like apathy. I like Wikileaks, I don't like censorship. I believe journalism needs a full-blown revolution to survive. Also, I'm the Editor in Chief of The Next Great Generation. Twitter: @lexikon1

View all posts by Alex Pearlman

15 Responses to “Youth in Revolt: Why we aren’t voting”

  1. Caitlin Tremblay

    I honestly couldn’t agree with this more…especially #1. I’ve been telling any “adult” who’s asked me the same thing…We want to be paid attention to again….and we’re not right now. The youth vote is tricky. You have to court us but not make us feel like you think we’re stupid. I think Obama did that pretty immaculately in his presidential campaign and he really can’t wait another 4 years to start again. We remember when we’re ignored. He’s accomplished 70 percent of what he said he would (his own estimation in Rolling Stone) nows the time to come back to us.

  2. Lisa

    Ah, #5 rings a bell. In the past 5 years, I’ve lived in three different states and three different countries. I wish I could say I knew what was going on politically in all six places… but I don’t. Not to mention what a time-consuming pain it is to switch registration, apply for absentee ballots, blah blah blah… No, it’s certainly not an excuse, but combined with your other 4 reasons, it helps to explain why Gen Y isn’t voting.

    And now I feel guilty about being a statistic so… time to register. Again.

  3. Kayla

    We’re not slackers — most of us are just confused.

    I mean, it’s overwhelming. Trying to figure out politics feels a lot like trying to untangle 20 different necklaces that have all slithered into one impossible mess. Giving up and tearing your hair out generally becomes the alternative of choice. Plus, “Oh, the media is just SO impossibly biased, so there’s no point even trying…” is, unfortunately, a widely accepted excuse for ignorance.

    We ‘the kids,’ don’t want to feel like we’re being sold something, used, or both. Give us the straight story. Also, if we go out on a limb and admit (hypothetically!) something like, “Uhhh, who’s this Nancy Pelosi woman?” try to keep the sarcastic eye rolls and snide remarks to a minimum — we would ask more questions if we didn’t feel like we were going to get burned at the stake. We’re leaning, so give us a break.

    So, let’s review: Source must be accessible, straight-shootin’, non-judgmental. Informative without being a pretentious jerkoff. Must hold our attention, and not drone on and on. Make it relevant to *us*. Preferably with a sense of humor and good fashion sense.

    … and I think we’ve found our girl! Alex, keep up the great work!!!!

  4. Alex Pesek

    So I’m 19, a college student and I consider myself to be fairly informed.

    This article is pretty much symptomatic of the pseudojournalist trend that runs through “generation Y” that you seem to be so proud of. That is, everyone is a writer but no one has to read.

    Here’s the thing: how is your shallow, naive understanding of politics, mixed with your outright apathy, laziness and feigned democratic participation actually a sign that you’re “youth in revolt”? There is nothing you do that warrants such self-entitled importance.

    To your point that you’re away from home: deal with it. Do you really need someone holding your hand that much that you can’t fill in an absentee ballot? If you care about democracy, you’ll vote.

    To your point that “crazies” are running in this election: even if you call out a ‘crazy media,’ you’re just as much buying into that media by claiming that an election isn’t worth your time just because someone with an extreme opinion is running. Christine O’Donnell is just as crazy as Nancy Pelosi, yet you pray at the alter of the Obama that you voted for. Their opinions are just as a part of democracy as yours.

    To your point that you’re out of the loop: you call yourself a journalist. please tell me this is a satirical comment please please please. you are out of the loop by choice, not by circumstance. I can’t listen to this garbage.

    To your point that midterm elections are too specific: I guess elections are difficult to vote on if there is no shallow, vaguely supported national “cause” to vote on. how about inform yourself on what affects your community?

    To your point on disillusionment: really? how can we believe you’re disillusioned when you’re consciously not making efforts to inform yourself.

    I am too angry to go on. Actually participate in democracy (and by that I don’t even mean vote. I mean try to engage in legitimate discourse), then maybe people will give you the license to talk about government.

    • Alex Pearlman

      WOW! Jeez, did YOU get the wrong idea! Take a breath, please, and chill out for a second.
      This is not about me. I have voted in every single election I was able to (by absentee) since I was 18. I will vote in this one, I don’t consider myself out of the loop, I think Nancy Pelosi should STFU, and I don’t worship at the altar of Obama… I’m pretty pissed at that guy.

      This is not about me and my obsession with reading about politics, it’s not about you and your apparent anger issues, it’s about the guy sleeping in the back of your university English class who won’t vote, who isn’t informed, and who only voted for Obama because it was “cool.”

      Get out and spread the word. These are stupid reasons to not vote, but they’re the reasons our generation isn’t voting — hence the article. Stupid or not, our voices deserve to be heard as much as O’Donnell’s.

  5. Jeff Shattuck

    Wow, this is pathetic.

    You moved? Yup, that’s a good reason to not vote. Do it by mail!

    Christine O? Sure, why not, she’s nuts, I’m staying home.

    Out of the loop? So, you’re saying FB, Twitter et al don’t keep you in the loop? You want THE ADS?

    Not nationwide? We’re still a republic as far as I know and what states think matters.

    You’re disillusioned? Cry me a river.

    Sorry to be so harsh, but you are a fair weather citizen. And for what it’s worth, I don’t think the big O has worked out so well. He got your vote, yes, but what’s he doing with it?

    • Alex Pearlman

      Jeff, thanks for your comment, as usual… see my response above.

      However, I will say that while we’re taught the meaning of “republic” in eighth grade, I don’t know many people my age who think this way. They might take an interest in national politics, but only in an election year… and yes, THOSE PEOPLE are fair weather citizens. Who can we blame for this? I’m not sure. But it is ridiculous.

      And to answer your last question — a whole lot of nothing, unless you count bending over backwards to appease a hostile right flank.

    • Alex Pearlman

      Except for the thing about Delaware… That was me. I really don’t care what Joe Biden does down there… Call me an idiot, but I just can’t seem to get interested in the VP’s campaign stops.

      • Valeria Villarroel

        But what about all his amazing verbal gaffes? That’s reason enough alone sometimes to be quite honest. Love Joe. He’s like the crazy grandfather who goes to buy lingerie for his wife, and makes an off-hand remark about breast size to the girl helping him make his purchase.

  6. Kevin

    Pretty good list. I think I have to agree with #1 “Disillusionment” most. No matter who is in office, I see very little changes. And there are only a handful of individual rights/amendments that if challenged would force me to the voting polls

  7. GenY, get off your a** and vote, you jackwagon!

    [...] This is not the first time I’ve read about GenY pouting about being ignored and protesting by not voting. The five reasons listed sound more like excuses than reasons. Did you all not overcome these obstacles for the 2008 election? Did you do it for yourself or for Barack Obama? [...]

  8. Jessi Stafford

    Short and sweet. I used to vote, I was and am informed about what’s going on, which is perhaps why I probably won’t vote this year unless there’s a platform which will dismantle all the giant corporations I hate (Monsanto to name just one) without giving them kickbacks and having their interest at heart. I probably won’t vote because our politicians transition between being corporate heads to government department heads and back again so the conflict of interest in politics is astounding and nothing will ever be accomplished without deception unless the very infrastructure of having political parties changes. And I probably won’t vote because the “lesser of two evils” excuse no longer works for me – I choose to support no evil. Obama broke my heart by backing down on all the issues I supported and with it my last spirit for hope and change – so unless I can be guaranteed that everything I want the parties to fix will be done in a non-pandering-to-party-lines-filibuster-bullshit way, there’s no point. And yeah, I will still bitch about politics – but probably take to lobbying and grassroots efforts instead.

  9. Angela Stefano

    Sorry to everyone bitching about how having “crazy” people running isn’t a good excuse not to vote — but I’ve got to agree fully with Alex here. What does it say about our political system if people like Christine O’Donnell and (my personal, hometown favorite) Carl Paladino can actually get this far in the system? OK, it actually probably says that our political system is open to anyone — which I suppose is the point of a democracy…but REALLY?! Are those the best options we have?

    Which then leads us to disillusionment — also a completely valid, true reason. What sort of world are we living in that (I’ll leave O’Donnell alone right now because I haven’t been following her enough) a horribly homophobic, porn-forwarding, racist person like Paladino actually has a following? Do we really live in a place with people like that? And I think this is completely spot on — I know I try to pay attention as little as possible to politics because of all of this. What’s the point? I vote, yes, but am I really all that interested in politics? To be quite frank, a lot of it sickens me. And I can understand why people would not want to participate in that (or participate only to make sure the crazies don’t get elected — voting FOR someone can also be voting AGAINST someone else, you know?).

    I’m sorry, but if it takes people like these two or someone like Obama to get this country riled up about voting (in both a bad and good way), that’s sad. We should take pride in the people who are running for office and be interested in our system for GOOD reasons.


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