In a recent article in the New York Times, author Damien Cave built a case showing that “Young Voters Say They Feel Abandoned.” While Cave crafted a solid argument and made very valid points about the lack of youth engagement since the 2008 campaign, there is far more to the way we view our role in society and politics than a mere mid-term election.
Two years ago, many rallied wildly behind the idea of a new type of politician, one who was about youth engagement, a new perspective, and a change for our country. Some even defined us as Generation O. Ronnie Cho started by placing yard signs, and quickly found himself a field director for the Obama campaign in Maine.
Thanks to the youthfulness of Obama and his campaign during the 2008 election cycle, many youth, like Cho, who had not yet been involved in the political arena found cause to get involved.
Much of the youth engagement during the lead up to the 2008 Presidential Election has been lost, as Cave mentions. In fact, many expected Obama’s involvement at the national level would re-engage the Millennial Generation and draw even greater involvement.
However, just two years after Obama was elected, the youth vote has taken a dramatic dip. The 2008 mid-term election rallied 23.5 % of young Americans between 18-30, with the presidential election bringing out over 50 %, while the 2010 mid-term election rallied 20.4 %, according to CIRCLE –greater than a 10 percent decline, even after so much change had supposedly taken over our country.
While our participation at the polls may not be as high as some would hope, we are far from lacking engagement in bettering our societies and our world. The Internet has brought an entirely new venue for changing our world and changing our politics.
The origin of the word politics comes from the Greek word [politikós], which defines a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. Our generation is great at this, we just don’t use the poles as our primary place of influence.
Our generation is much more apt to pick up on a viral marketing campaign like that of “Liquid Mountaineering” with nearly 7.5 million views on youtube or a viral boycott like the one to boycott Wal*Mart because of their use of modern day slaves in their business practices. To be socially minded these days has far more implications than voting one day each election cycle.
Millennials are voting each and every day with every dollar we spend. From the movies we see – in support of changing our education system, to the shoes we buy – providing a pair for shoeless children in developing countries – to the stores we choose to shop in and the stores we don’t.
Sure, there are powerful people in Washington who have influence, and lobbyists who often have more. We need those leaders, and we respect them (well, some of them), but we don’t depend solely on them to change our world. We take politics into our own hands – we change our neighborhoods, communities, and our country by voting daily on how we spend our time and money.
We are becoming a much greater percentage of the voting population these days. We have a responsibility to vote not just with our dollars, but with our ballots too! Let’s commit to being educated during the next election cycle. Deal? Deal.