Combatting Cynicism at the Polls

Thus far, 2016 has been a confusing and frustrating time for American politics. For many young voters, this may be the first election that they are able to vote in. However, that does not mean these young voters are necessarily excited or willing to vote. Discussion about the corruption and bigotry backing particular presidential candidates has dominated this election. Of course, these are important conversations to have, but it is unfortunate when such disenchantment ultimately turns voters away from the polls. Already, I have heard many millennial voters insist they are not voting come November and that they are exhausted of establishment politics. I sympathize with these voices. I am a cynic as well, but in order to make the changes we seek, we must learn to fight back against our own cynicism.

Historically, young people have not been a very active voter demographic. There is a multitude of reasons for this, including voting restrictions that keep young people and marginalized groups away from the polls. But, it has also notoriously been difficult to get young people invested in politics. The younger demographic has never been keen on voting and yet, in some ways, they have the most to lose or gain in the political arena.

About a year ago, when I first turned eighteen, I was overcome with a newfound interest and enthusiasm for politics. The presidential campaign season was only just beginning. I was happy to do research on each candidate as they made themselves known in the race and I was happy to seek out political discussion online. I was also interesting in hearing the opinions of other millennial voters, particularly about issues like college debt, that relate more closely to our own generation. While it was easy enough to find compelling young voices online, it was much more difficult to get those closest to me talking.

One friend told me politics just didn’t interest her, and another informed me she avoided political discussion altogether since she wanted to stay clear of debate. Most jarring to me were the peers I came across that simply, did not believe in voting. “There’s just no point,” I remember one classmate telling me. “Our votes don’t matter. They never will.” I can understand not being keen on discussing politics, but not voting or engaging with politics because you’ve become disillusioned with the current state of the government feels counterintuitive. If we don’t even try to be heard, how can we ever expect to see change?

In these times of political uncertainty, it’s important to know that your vote does matter. Voting is not a fool-proof process, sure. With primaries and the electoral college, voting in the United States often feels convoluted and sometimes, frustrating. But voting, or at least making yourself known in the political sphere is important. Your vote still counts for something, regardless if it’s only one vote within a sea of others. As I mentioned earlier, I am cynical in a lot of ways. I am disappointed with the lack of change I have seen about the issues that matter to me. I am disappointed with the politicians that speak over those most affected by their policies. Still, I am proud to call myself a voter.

Please consider making yourself heard this November.

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