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Students need to get more involved in political process

Published: November 15, 2013
Section: Opinions


Pundits all around Washington and in the media credited youth for turning out in the 2012 election and propelling President Barack Obama in his victory over Republican and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. But if you ask me, a loyal but thoughtful Democrat in college, Obama’s “Get out and vote!” message was received with a, “Meh. I suppose—hey, what’s on Tumblr?” from our electoral cohort. And that’s a huge problem. Granted, Obama still won the youth vote compared to Romney, but many have viewed that vote without full support policy-wise.

Youth are increasingly not finding resonance in Democratic financial accountability and fairness platforms. These include progressive income taxation structures and the communal, social justice basis of public welfare to help those in the most need. Even though these policies are advocated by the Democratic Party, who protect us from cut-throat conservative economic proposals like the privatization of Social Security and the removal of education grants as part of budgetary allocations. So there is a disconnect present in our society: Today’s youth are diverging politically on issues and not identifying with the legitimate political parties—and that needs to change.

What does all this mean from a long-term political standpoint? Is the Democratic Party soon to be disbanded because they promote laziness and economic inefficiency with dense, unsustainable bureaucratic systems? Is the Republican Party going to be a thing found in history books because they advocate divisive, interventionist wars in an increasingly globalized society with an apparent distaste to some degree for anyone that isn’t a white, wealthy, religious, heterosexual male?

I certainly hope not—and that goes for both parties.

While the youth can (in a sense) “stick it to the man” by promoting renegade, anti-establishment candidates for office, the reality is that there are few times (if any) in American political history where a politician built a successful electoral coalition with youth at the foundation. Youth simply have no sway as their own bloc, and the only way to change it is to follow a great mantra I heard early on in my Looney Tunes watching years (hat tip to Yosemite Sam, circa 1950): “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Now let’s take good ol’ Yosemite Sam’s quote and dissect it for a bit. You, a young person, no matter how well-intentioned or brilliant you may be, will not win on your own. Youth do not generally work the ropes of campaign finance law, or organize at a level so as to most effectively flex their political muscle. They absorb, maybe discuss, maybe vote, and go on with their life, and then repeat as often as their political conscious permits them. But there is a solution to strengthening the youth presence in American politics, and it is diving head on into the forces that are so often seen as destructive in society. I think more youth need to run toward the political fire of party organizations than run away from them. That’s how we win.

Don’t believe me? Think that politics can’t be for you because you aren’t graying or because you aren’t famous or rich? Think again. Both political parties operate like a sports team in one particular sense—they are always looking for the future. Showing interest in the inner workings of party functions at whatever level you prefer is a great way of getting involved, regardless of your political affiliation in relation to everyone else. You will connect with decision makers, and in time you will be seated at the decision-making table. Don’t like a candidate because he/she doesn’t align with your views? Let it be known, and you can lead the charge within the party to change. You may be asked to serve on a party committee of some level, where you will get the chance to speak on behalf of your fellow party members. This is a great start for those interested in public service—because after all, you are serving the public. So don’t think of politics as this scary way to destroy America—think of it as a vehicle to solve our problems. Pick a side, get involved, but most importantly, serve your country.