Written for October 2008 special presidential election issue of Massapequa High School’s award-winning newspaper, The Chief. Position at time: Editor-in-Chief
Last month the Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson strayed from the usual playfully snarky demeanor of his opening monologues to focus on a more relevant and critical topic to America—the right to vote, and the staggering amount of who do not take advantage of the right (Ferguson states that in 2004, only 64% percent of eligible voters bothered voting). More importantly, he scolds those citizens who disregard the right which so many have fought for, boldly proclaiming “If you don’t vote, you’re a moron.”
As a recently sworn in citizen of the United States, Ferguson, a Scotland native, greatly values his newly given right, while many other natural citizens seem to not. Over thirty years since the voting age was lowered to 18, the 18-24 age range consistently has the lowest voter turnout.
The upcoming election has been dubbed various names: historic, life-changing, and insane for starters. Aside from this election putting either an African American or a woman in the top two most powerful spots in Washington, this election is revolutionary because of the increased number of impassioned voters in the usually blasé age bracket.
College campuses are swarming with political rallies and organizations dedicated to discussing and supporting the 2008 decision. High school students are incredibly educated and emotional over the election, an unexpected fact given that a very small percentage of seniors would be eligible to vote, as a current high school senior would typically not turn 18 until at least December 2008, one mere month short.
So why does the youth seem to be especially involved in this election? The most important issues affect us immensely: the war that has caused more controversy than created has success, and the economy that is spiraling to levels not seen since the Great Depression with little hope to be seen in the near future.
The youth has strong opinions about these topics and they need to have their voices heard. No one wants to see his brother, sister, close friend and the nice guy from chem lab, let alone himself, die fighting in a war that has been argued countless times to be doing more harm than good. And how on earth are we possibly going to pay for the skyrocketing prices of college tuition in this economic mess?
Barack Obama is often noted in the media for striking a chord with young people, and it’s true, he has. Obama’s, rallies are filled with fresh, young faces who respond to his promises of bringing “change” to Washington. The presidential hopeful is well aware of his strong support base in the younger generation, giving them a shout-out in the October 7 debate, applauding the youth for being especially concerned with the environment and encourages the older generation to follow their example.
But where there are young supporters of Barack Obama, there are assuredly their republican counterparts. Support of John McCain is certainly not absent from the college campuses, as he also represents a force not necessarily on the inside of Washington who could bring something new to the political table—a “maverick,” at risk of sounding unoriginal.
Communication is also a factor in the youth’s interest in this election. With the World Wide Web readily at the fingertips of any college student with a laptop, ideas can be read, discussed, refuted at any time.
The politicians have not let this cyber window of opportunity close either— Obama and McCain have their own Facebook profiles, and MySpace has an entire section of their social networking website dedicated to the election, not to mention the dozens of websites dedicated to encourage young people to register to vote (such as declareyourself.com, think.mtv.com, rockthevote.com). These media outlets keep the candidates at younger generation’s fingertips where they can to access their choice conveniently and as often as they like. These websites are specifically designed to attract young voters—how many grannies do you see on MySpace daily?
The issues are much more intense than they have been in the past, and the decisions made by the next president of the United States will affect the youth for the rest of their lives. With such a life changing decision, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of young people are taking advantage of their right to vote and getting educated and emotionally invested in today’s politics. Have you?