You may not want to, but you need to: Why we vote
In the upcoming election, Millennials and Gen Z will make up more than one-third of the eligible voting demographic. In theory, this would make young people a major deciding factor in the 2020 presidential election.
That is, if they vote.
It could be said that 2016 was one hell of an election year. As a consequence, political energies seem to run endlessly on high. The political climate implies that young people love political activism.
Our desire for individualism is partly to blame. We are inherently motivated to maintain a sense of individualism, especially generation Z.
A bigger issue is that voting can be extremely intimidating, on multiple fronts. And honestly, most high school classes don’t go out of their way to teach voting laws in a way young people can easily understand. The government is an extremely complex institution.
When it comes to voting, a hurdle young people face is education and understanding. We deal with an oversaturation of media on a daily basis. Because of this, it can be hard to know where to start. Politics, specifically, never seem to sleep.
Politics has turned into a topic people avoid because it often can’t be discussed calmly. While your intentions may be to educate yourself on the other side of the issue, your approach can be taken as argumentative. In a world that seems so angry and politically charged, it can be hard to have an open and honest discussion about ideology.
When the topic is brought up, it can easily end in a fight with someone you care about, and that can hurt. Don’t let this discourage you from continuing your education, growing your understanding, and talking to people about politics.
With the state of politics as it is now, it can be hard to feel excited about a candidate.
There’s a pretty significant “but,” here, however.
You may not feel inclined to cast your vote in elections, but you need to do so anyways. And here’s why:
(1) It’s not just about the president.
It’s important to understand your vote is multifaceted. The presidential election obviously takes priority in our minds (thank you mainstream media!), but the general election pertains to lower levels of government too.
State and local elections are extremely important, and although the candidates running for president may not be your favorites, those running for lower-level positions in your community may just be. Moreover, and most importantly, your vote has a bigger impact in a smaller pool.
All of America isn’t voting for your district’s representatives. Only your community is. Larger elections may turn you off because your vote feels insignificant in such a large pond. But remember you actually will be heard on the local level.
There is one election day, but there are many elections happening. To withhold creating positive change on a local level, simply because you feel disheartened about the federal government, would be a disservice to your community.
(2) Reclaim your individualism: You don’t need to love every candidate you vote for.
This one is difficult to accept. In a perfect world, politicians would lead perfect lives and create policies that positively impact all members of society.
We hear you, and we agree with you. In a perfect world, this would be the case.
The world is far from perfect though. Politicians are people, and people are flawed. If you are waiting for someone who perfectly aligns with your morals and political views, you will wait forever.
So, instead, you have to decide what standards and characteristics take priority for you when considering candidates at all levels. Do you care more about whom that person is in general, their morals, values and personality? Do you care more about specific policies he or she will support that will affect your daily life? Does party affiliation dictate your vote, regardless of the candidate in question?
In whatever case, know what’s most important to you then run with it, because you can’t have all of it.
Of course, we all care in some way or form about each of these elements. It may seem wrong at first to ignore certain factors and take others more seriously. Deciding which standard(s) are most important to you, though, will allow you to feel less overwhelmed when choosing a candidate.
It is okay if you vote for someone you don’t fully agree with. It is okay if he or she is in a political party you don’t typically identify with. It is okay if you dislike a candidate as a person, but support his or her policies.
Presidential candidates run every four years. You are not going to love your options each time. Their failure to meet each of your standards is not a reason to give up on voting entirely.
(3) Change the system: There are more than two parties.
The United States government is especially two-sided — one red and one blue. This is one of our biggest frustrations when it comes to politics. Just as some of you may feel, we reject the idea that we have to fully commit to one side or the other because our beliefs and views are not black-and-white, therefore not entirely red or blue.
We have good news and bad news.
The good news: You are allowed to vote for a third party — whose beliefs are normally somewhere in the middle or off to another side.
The bad news: Historically, third parties almost never win because the majoritarian aspect of our society has yet to crumble.
We challenge you to vote for a third party anyways, assuming it suits your conscience, of course. If there is not a red or blue candidate who’s earned your support, use your vote to send that message. Yes, a third party candidate probably won’t win this election.
But voting for a one says to “the man” that you’re fed up with the current state of American politics. Not voting at all, on the other hand, says nothing.
In fact, third party candidates who receive 5% of the vote actually qualify for government funding. A small percentage of voters could create a big impact.
And who knows. Maybe if enough of us who feel we don’t fully belong to either side choose to cast our votes, we could see a third-party-candidate win. That would really shake them.
At the end of the day, it’s difficult to have total faith in a candidate if you’re not fully educated on their policies. In order to make the research process a little easier, we have compiled a few resources that will help guide you.
For a detailed timeline of important actions the presidential candidates have made in their political careers, refer to Avant-Youth’s Presidential Candidates in Review.
For a comparison of Biden and Trump’s political opinions and goals, the National Education Association has an interactive list of issues such as health care, education, social justice, etc. Each topic has a drop-down arrow that reveals both candidates’ comments and opinions side-by-side.
For information about state candidates in Georgia, BallotReady.org has compiled a list of candidates by office and district. By clicking on a candidate’s name, you will be directed to a detailed list of that candidate’s background and opinions on important issues.
Finally, remember that while political conversations can be tense, they are one of the best ways to understand your personal views and values. Educating each other with opposing viewpoints and perspectives truly benefits all sides.
It may not be the most welcoming conversation topic, but if you are truly open-minded and willing to listen, debates and discussions with your peers and people you care about will do nothing but good.
Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. More importantly, don’t be afraid to have it changed.