From news stations to newspapers, the upcoming election is a leading topic across all media. However, for us college students, the political discussion we more frequently take part in is found on the web. Our friends post their opinions about the candidates. Political parody accounts make memes of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Politicians use their own social media accounts to try and connect with us. And we share it all, helping ignite the Internet’s political fire.
Older generations look down at us for being politically apathetic, but clearly, this isn’t the truth. But if our generation is so actively participating in this election, why aren’t we willing to vote once November comes?
Last month, ABC and The Washington Post published a poll that concluded only 41 percent of millennials, voters between the ages of 18 and 29, say they will “definitely” vote. That means more than half of our generation is, to some extent, indecisive or already know they will not be heading to the polls in a few weeks.
According to the Pew Research Center, the generation of millennials is now as large as the baby boomers. We are not only the future of this country, but we are a huge percentage of its present, too. And yet, less than half of us are prepared to contribute to this nation’s future.
This reluctance to actually go to the polls has nothing to do with apathy. In fact, our generation is engaged in politics and this upcoming election. Bernie Sanders is the prime example of this. The Vermont senator was fairly unknown until college-aged students began rapidly advocating for him.
In fact, part of our problem might be the exact opposite of apathy. According to an article by CNBC, millennials are too caught up in finding the “perfect” candidate. We’ve all seen it on social media. We all have a few of those friends who refuse to vote because they don’t want to waste a vote on Trump or Clinton. This stubbornness is born out of listening and paying attention to both candidates.
In addition, many people, regardless of age, feel disconnected to politics simply because they find it too difficult to understand. In turn, many become ignorant to important issues. There is too much on the table, from immigration, to taxation, to foreign policy, and all of these platters are too complex. Bland, surface-level topics, like celebrity gossip, are much easier to stomach.
But when a historical election is drawing nearer, Americans need to start expanding their palate.
Millennials need to take personal responsibility in their approach to politics. There is no endless encyclopedia or professor that will help us do the right thing next month. That is a decision each of us has to make as individuals, and it’s not a decision we can give up.
First of all, stay educated on the issues the candidates are discussing. Don’t wait for someone to come and teach you everything because that won’t happen. If you have a smartphone, then you have all the resources you need in your pocket. Turn to academic websites or reputable media publications for all your information. Do your research on immigration. Learn about foreign policy. Read up on environmental concerns. Becoming more educated on these problems allows you to make educated choices about your political stances and voting; we need to stay educated.
Then, make sure you don’t base your opinions on any of the presidential candidates on your friends’ opinions or on random posts from random websites. Go to websites such as ontheissues.org and learn what each candidate really thinks about the issues that matter to you. It’s important to always remember that even if it doesn’t seem like it’s affecting us right now, decisions on topics such as the economy, healthcare, civil rights and more will play a role in both our and our nation’s future.
And even if you’re not a fan of Trump or Clinton, take some time to learn about other candidates that are running. Make sure you pick a candidate that fits reasonable, not necessarily “perfect,” standards that you set. Choosing a third party candidate is nowhere near as bad as choosing to stay silent in the democratic process.
In the future, if you still feel like you have a lot to learn about politics, take advantage of the resources we have here at Rider. Take an intro to American politics class. Go to events sponsored by the Rebovich Institute. Go to our expansive library and take out a book on politics. If you think you have a lot to learn but you’re not making use of the great opportunities we have, then you’re only letting yourself fall deeper into your ignorance.
After all of this, it doesn’t matter who you choose to vote for. It doesn’t matter who you advocate for in witty Facebook or Twitter posts. And what you think is irrelevant. What matters is that you cast your ballot and you make sure you’re one of the many millennial voices that deserve to be heard on election day.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.
Printed in the 10/12/16 issue.