Of all of the inalienable rights we as American’s have, there isn’t one quite like voting. From my perspective, voting is a civic duty, much like serving on a jury or making unheard demands for the workers across the street to finish building the Taco Casa.
While voting is really important to me, I am seeing a lot of criticism when it comes to the practice. Firstly, Voter I.D. Laws (which will NOT be discussed today), and the apathy young people have when it comes to voting… at least, in some aspects.
Millenials have been getting a bad rap for the last several years. Older people refer to them as “trendsters”, assume they do nothing but play video games and suck dry the people around them, assume that they want everything handed to them without actually working for it, and even blame them for the popularity of Justin Bieber.
But, what I think is most appalling is that older generations just flat out assume younger people don’t care about voting. Don’t believe me? Read here, here, here, and here. (FYI: the last link has some really entertaining answers as to why “young people don’t vote.”)
Now, I’m not going to sit here and try to set the record straight, because there are reputable studies that paint the picture both ways. So, it’s really difficult to give an answer one way or another. However, I will say this. There is a lot of apathy and disenchantment on social media when it comes to politics.
As I stated before, it was a particular Facebook conversation that inspired this entry. There is a link to an article in New Yorker, written by Andy Borowitz, about Obama saying something to the effect of “American’s can keep their damn insurance” in the wake of the Healthcare.gov roll-out fiasco. While it boggles my mind that people think Obama really said this (but that’s an entirely different rant), I think the most important comment on the article is what you are about to see here, spoken by Jay:
I would like to place special emphasis on what Jay said in the middle of the comment (edited for vocabulary and phonics):
“… Did I vote for him? No. I don’t vote — period — because the Government is way too corrupt…”
While I commented by saying that the only way to weed out corruption is to vote it out (hence, the definition of democracy), it’s the fact that there are a staggering amount of young people who view the process this way that gives credibility to the statement that young people don’t vote. Jay is also not the only person to shoulder this belief. I’ve been coming across this philosophy from my peers since the old MySpace days.
However, I do see it as a symptom of a larger problem.
American youth is disenchanted with American politics. The last sixty years or so have been marred with sensationalism in the media, crooked politicians not hiding their crookedness, scandals, economic unbalance, wars, famine, and so on and so forth, to the point where the American people are quicker to blame their political leaders then themselves. You know, the men and women who put these men and women into power in the first place. As I explained here, the American people are to blame for American misfortune, and yet, the American people refuse to put the blame on themselves. However, I digress.
My generation has been brought up around all of the chaos that has painted the American way of life since the Cold War and as we came of age, a lot of those problems are coming to a head. We also get conflicting ideas of what’s right from our parents’ generation (who tended to be more conservative, especially in the fiscal sense) and our grandparents’ generation (who tended to be more socially liberal), and even some of us were lucky enough to get words from our great-grandparents’ generation (who survived the post-WWI economic collapse and had their day filled with propagandist material and racist cartoons).
So, are the members of Gen-Y and the Millenials confused? Yes, but not for reasons you might think. The amount of conflict and sensationalism in our lives works really well with this generation’s need for drama, so instead of not trusting anyone (which would be the most reasonable response to this kind of over-stimulation), we latch onto one side and follow it like fools. It happens on all sides of the political spectrum. There are people in my age bracket who wholeheartedly support every single Democratic idea, while there are others who wholeheartedly support every single Republican idea. There are people in my age bracket who wholeheartedly support every Tea Party idea, or Green party idea, or Libertarian idea, or hell, every Communist idea. My generation is made up of hippies and racists, those motivated by greed and status and those motivated by prosperity by distribution, those that love America and those that hate America, etc. etc. etc. While every generation is like this, no generation before us has had this kind of love affair with drama.
Here is a theory I’ve been working on that relates to this topic. Keep in mind, it’s not completely fleshed out yet and I’m not even sure if I am fully behind it. I just figured I could use it to help paint a picture of the conflicts that arise when it comes to the youth of America and their relationship with politics.
In the eyes of Gen-Y and Millenials, there is no line where high school stops and the school of hard knocks begins. They are one in the same.
How does this impact voting? As I said before, there is both evidence to support and to deny that young people don’t vote. But, because social media is such an important facet of our lives, and when it comes to overblown “high school” drama, people tend to get butt-hurt very easily, and because people tend to get butt-hurt very easily, they become hyper-vigilant in their views.
The idea of debate is lost on youth today — it’s become synonymous with hate. To tell someone that their political views are wrong is the same thing as using a racial slur. Since the youth of today thrives on drama and live in a time where everyone and their second-cousin’s sister’s brother’s best friend are connected, the dramatic way in which we, essentially, fight with each other has become a marketing tactic for politicians to get their “unique” messages out to the youth of America.
Here’s an example:
My ex-girlfriend lived across the way from some friends of hers, all of whom despised President Obama. When I asked them why, their answer for me was “because when he got elected, every black kid in school looked at it as a racial victory and told all of the white kids that we’re ‘their bitches now.'” My ex-girlfriend’s friends were not the first people to tell me that, nor were they the last. It became a nationwide thing. While Obama’s election to the Oval Office was, in many ways, a civil rights victory, it was the division in American youth that gave politicians the idea to use their fascination with drama to rein them in.
Using the example from the previous paragraph, in which a handful of black students hazed students of other ethnicity (most certainly, white students), that would most certainly give the hazed (white) students some animosity toward the President. Follow that up with the Birther clusterfuck (which cannot be explained in any other way than racism), then the GOP and the Tea Party have kicked over the first domino in making a bunch of high school students future Republicans. But, the youth of today also tends to be in support of gay marriage, in support of a woman’s right to choose to abort (even though the number is dropping somewhat), and aware that the wars started by former President George W. Bush carried a lot of controversy and are socially condemned as illegal acts of terrorism. So, why should they support Republicans and Tea Party candidates? But wait, why should they support the incumbent President, who’s election made them targets of other students? Politics has become paradoxical to today’s youth, I think, and because of that, as well as their inability to distance themselves from high school bureaucracy when they enter the real world, they revert back to those high school days, justifying every group in politics as just another clique (jocks, nerds, freaks, etc.) and then aligning themselves with the clique they always wanted to be in previously. That would explain their hyper-vigilance when it comes to what they believe is right, despite the fact many of them have never even so much as looked at polling results and charts.
Life is also difficult for Gen-Y and the Millenials. We became adults at a time when college tuition has skyrocketed, jobs are scarce, and the education system sits in the toilet, snugged firmly between the cleaning gel pad and the remnants of dinners past*. Since a lot of the youth never worked in high school, a lot of them took a year off to work before going to college. Over that course of time, they realized that working at Safeway would not net them anything more than minimum wage and fingers that had been cut by the shopping carts they brought inside, so they looked for another job, which yielded, essentially, the same results. So, they looked for another job, then another, then another, all of which never paid more than the minimum (or maybe, 50 cents more than the minimum) and only worked them part-time. That’s not enough to even remotely live on. Not to mention, that over the course of time these young people had been trying to make money for college, they kept putting it off. A semester. A year. Two years. At one time, people became disgruntled with their lives when they got old. Now, you see twenty-somethings disgruntled about their lives and wishing against all odds for a mulligan. It’s this animosity toward the system and those wishes for a do-over that enable the American youth to really channel that love for drama.
*This piece has been long, so I figured I’d spice it up for you with a disgusting image. Enjoy.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Anyway, since we’re closing in on 2,000 words here, let me summarize. The evidence as far as youth voting habits are concerned is inconclusive. It’s supported on both sides of the debate. However, since the youth today are more vulnerable than previous generations, because of the last six decades of American politics coming to a head, they find themselves trapped in a never-ending cycle of distrust, hyper-vigilance, and animosity (as per my potentially crack-pot theory, anyway). This makes them easy target of politicians on all sides of the political climate looking to secure youth votes. This “fighting” over American youth has assisted in the disenchantment they have with politics, along with all of the media sensationalism and controversy that swirls every single politician in the country. They feel lied to by their parents and teachers, betrayed by the people governing them, and essentially, their lives are so shitty by their definition that all they want to do is be left alone with their iPads and reruns of Teen Mom.
Honestly, who could blame them?
If you’ve made it this far, then I assume you’ve gone over the crazy theory I devised on why American youth is apathetic to American politics. As I said above, I’m not exactly sure if I fully-support my own theory, but I am interested to know if you are. Drop a line in the comments box in regard to what you think. I always write back.