Posted by: Staff | 02.04.2008

Youth Demand Change in Upcoming Election

JARED BELLOT ’08

Maria Montessori once said, “If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men.” Surly her words have held true in the past; the youth of the 60’s played a major role in enacting social change as can be seen through the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of feminism, while the children of the 70’s made their voices heard through the hippie movement and the rise of the gay rights activism. However, more recently, the young people of America have failed to make their mark on the country. Young voter turnout has been less desirable in recent elections, despite past efforts to raise participation and arouse some sort of general interest in the political process. No matter how many times we have been threatened to “vote or die”, the youth of America have maintained a steadily declining role in the political process since the close of the Vietnam War.

Today, these young voters, who for years have been virtually non-existent on the political landscape, have burst onto the scene and established themselves as an incredibly powerful force in politics. In the 2004 elections, youth voter participation (ages 18 to 24) was up to 47%, from just 36% in the 2000 elections, and things are only looking up, many arguing that this new generation will exceed the power and influence of the young protesters of the Vietnam era. A recent article in the Boston Globe attributes this increase in participation to the September 11th terrorist attacks and the current crisis is Iraq.

The way in which the country and the current administration have dealt with these national issues has outraged a number of American youth, and they have decided the time has come to remind the country that they too are affected by the choices made by their elders. After all, it is our generation who will inherit the consequences of the War on Terror, and it is our generation who must cope with the effect of global warming on our planet. These youths are fed up with the same old partisan battles that have been raging in the halls of congress for decades. They are tired of seeing democrats and republicans who always separate based on party lines, and refuse to reach across the aisle to get the job done, and they now understand that they can make a difference. The youth have seen with their own eyes what can happen when one chooses not to speak up. They were awoken from the slumber of political comforts and privileges granted to them by their elders, and confronted with a harsh reality. Today, these youth desperately want change, and they want it now.

It is this call for change by the youth that has had the biggest effect on the current race. When Senator Obama announced that his campaign would focus on a new type of politics, a politics of hope, young people from around the nation, republican and democrat, rallied around this first term senator from Illinois. Despite Obama’s “issue” of inexperience brought up by other candidates, Obama’s call for change struck a chord in first time voters. They joined his campaign, and for the first time in far too long, re-took their place in politics, in effect forcing the other politicians to listen to this call for change. Senator Clinton of New York, a staunch advocate of the need for experience in for the presidency, is now also speaking of the ways in which she would be able to bring change to the country. This block of youth voters has become larger than it ever has been in recent years, and candidates vying for the presidency are forced to take them in account when planning out their campaigns. This becomes evident as politicians turn to the internet more than ever before. Candidates have their own websites, Myspace pages and Facebook groups. YouTube has become an invaluable tool, and a bitter enemy as everything a candidate says is recorded and can be played back instantly anywhere across the nation, at any time of the day. While door-to-door campaigning is still a powerful tool, it seems as though this generation has turned to the internet to get their candidate-of-choice’s message across (yet another sign of the changing times).

The need to cater to this large voting block has opened up a completely new window, and has changed the presidential field entirely. No longer can a candidate ignore the youth or this call for change, for the people who are demanding this matter in the upcoming primaries and caucuses, and when November shows up and the time to elect a new president arrives. And I think that it can be agreed that no matter what political party he or she comes from, the 43rd president of the United States will be forced to listen to the demands of a new generation of Americans: a generation which has been waiting listlessly in the shadows of their parents, frustrated with the lack of progress.

Milligan, Susan. “Youth Voters a Force in ’08 Race.” Boston.Com. 13 May 2007. The Boston Globe. .

Image from: NY Times

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