Like you, I am a young voter. We are part of a generation that cyclically faces the stigma of being disinterested, disillusioned and disconnected. Youth are lazy. Youth are apathetic. Young people don’t pay attention to current affairs or politics. Though I’ve always been engaged with the community and world around me, this is the first time in my life that I can really taste the relevance of an election. What in previous years might have been more of an academic flexing of my ideology is now somehow more real. This time, it’s personal.
Our senses have been assaulted by the barrage of election-related messages. It’s been sensory overload with the TV and radio ads, articles, debates, punditry and speechifying. Sure, we have been saturated by sound bites and slogans, but when you peel away the layers of rhetoric — thrust upon us by both sides — you’re left with a handful of very simple truths.
1. Our bank accounts have been hit hard. Massive increases in college tuition fees have really burdened us and our families. College tuition has gone up nationwide thanks to Republican policies that have bankrupted states and forced them to balance budgets on the backs of students. Wisconsin students have faced unprecedented tuition hikes in the past few years, and nationwide public college/university costs have risen from $7,813 to $10,636. Four-year private college/university costs have risen from $19,866 to $26,854. People our age are carrying more debt than the youth of any past generation, and we’re drowning in it.
2. Most of us are concerned about cash. We worry about getting or losing a job, paying bills and having money for emergencies, not to mention the unaffordable (and rising) cost of health care. For the first time in my life, I’ve felt the visceral fear of being uninsured. Unemployment rates for our age group are as much as twice as high as those of older adults. Wages for younger women have declined by 3.1 percent over the past year, while wages among men increased by 4.9 percent. In July, the jobless rate for African-American youth hit a historic high, and the rate for Latino youth was among an all-time worst. We aren’t too young to worry about the economy and our own finances.
3. Every one of us knows people who have been sent to fight in a war they didn’t ask for. We were lied to about weapons of mass destruction — they were never found and the documents they used as evidence were obviously fraudulent. While we were struggling with daily pressing issues like education, housing, healthcare and employment, the Republicans spent a horrifying $120 billion on an unjust war that so far has claimed the lives of roughly 15,000 Iraqi civilians and over a thousand of our soldiers. I, for one, can’t imagine how much more we or the world can stand.
While many candidates have touted the importance of youth participation and aggressively courted our votes, their actions speak louder than words. In a recent act of unmitigated gall, the College Republicans mailed a literature piece to the UW residence halls containing confusing information about campus polling locations. It can only be surmised as an intentional move to suppress the student vote — as if we needed another example of how the Republicans will do whatever it takes to pillage their way to victory.
We won’t let the Republicans have it both ways. Young people overwhelmingly understand that electing Democrats and progressives are the right choice for those of us who have weathered the destructive policies of the Republicans, and who desire so passionately a better world.
Our vote — the so-called young generation — is as critical a factor as the hyped battleground states. You and I hold in our hands the power to alter the course of US domestic and foreign policy with the casting of our ballots tomorrow. And I think we should do it. Not because it’s our democratic right. Not because both parties are begging us to. Not because it’s cool.
We’re voting for our lives. The Republicans must be fired. We need to elect a government of people who give a shit about what we go through. Don’t sit this one out, ok? Vote tomorrow — it’s time to take things personally.
State Director, Young Voter Alliance
Chair, Associated Students of Madison, 1999-2000