My aunt shared a post on Facebook a while back, which in and of itself isn’t that interesting. The post was a video showing college students unable to answer basic questions about the American government such as, “Who is the current vice president?” And indeed, it was pretty pathetic these 20-year-olds couldn’t drag Joe Biden’s name out of some back corner of their mind.
My aunt’s comment on this video was something along the lines of, “It’s a shame that young people aren’t more informed about our government.” To be fair to my aunt, this is a stereotype many adults hold about Millennials — not only are we lazy, entitled and frivolous, we’re not totally aware of the political climate and goings-on in our country.
But, as I sat in a room packed with college students Monday night to watch the first presidential debate, there was proof that young adults are not only aware of political events, but deeply care about the outcome of these events.
The 2016 presidential race has been polarizing, disturbing and a thousand other adjectives. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Republican nominee Donald Trump and the many prior candidates vying for the nomination continue propelling this attitude over the political atmosphere.
Possibly one of the most vocal groups, especially in the primaries, has been the young voting demographic. While adults may balk, young voters played a key role in the 2008 election as well, propelling President Barack Obama into the White House for the first time, as well as giving him the final push again in 2012. So while adults sit and whine that their kids don’t know a darn thing about politics, without the young voters, we very likely would have had eight years of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, as president.
This time around, one candidate in particular noticed the young voters and catered a large portion of his platform to them. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, has been credited with starting a youth movement through his policies, a movement I would argue has carried over into the current phase of the election.
Sanders calls out Walker, talks student debt in final pre-primary Madison rallyThousands of supporters came out to the Kohls Center April 3 for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’, D-Vermont, third and final Read…
It’s pretty hard to stay quiet as a college student when Sanders stood at the podium offering free college on a silver platter, higher minimum wages and better education. Unfortunately for Sanders, as well as the multitude of young voters supporting him, they didn’t muster quite enough support among other voter groups to clinch the Democratic nomination.
But, not all is lost. Save for the ardent “Bernie or Bust” Sanders supporters, many have, begrudgingly, come to stand behind Clinton. Others have chosen to vote for a third party candidate, in a sort of protest of the two-party system and their candidates.
Whatever box these young voters end up checking in November, their participation in the political process has played a large role in shaping this election. Young voters prompted shifts in the rhetoric of both Trump and Clinton, as well as showing overwhelming support for moving this country in a much different direction than has previously been discussed on a national level.
Not everyone is politically informed, including adults. Therefore, for every college student interviewed in that video, I’m sure they could’ve just as easily found an adult who couldn’t tell you Biden’s name.
This election, young voters shouted their political opinions from the hilltops, and hopefully they continue to do so to propel this country into a new era.
Aly Niehans ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science and international studies.