At this point in your young adulthood, you have probably encountered the belligerent conservative regurgitating his parents’ views, or the rebellious activist who rejects any and all social institutions, aside from the privately funded university she attends, and may or may not shave her underarms.
Their alarming passion motivates you to register to vote at the Welcome Week sponsored event. Register as Independent, only to be warned that you will not be able to vote in the primaries, at least in New York. “What are the primaries?” you ask yourself as you wander to the closest free food available.
When asked if she felt prepared to vote, Caitlin Ryan, a CAS sophomore said, “Uh, no.” When asked if she was going to vote anyway, she said she would.
Our parents, our hometown and our preferred sources of media heavily influence our political consciousness. Adults in our lives always stressed the importance of voting once we were 18-years-old. They emphasized that voting is one of our duties as Americans. For those of us who are not white males, we were especially encouraged to exercise this right as homage of some sort to our less fortunate predecessors. Advocates for particular causes try to collect money and signatures from us on our way to class. Partisan media and esoteric rhetoric penetrates our social media, for example annoying political pictures on your Facebook newsfeed.
As we travel along the path to become functional adults, the perpetually charged political atmosphere becomes more and more relevant to our own lives. We are therefore beginning to solidify our personal views regarding the nation’s prominent issues. Most college students have a rough idea of which party they want to support. There are issues that immediately apply to us: federal aid and loans, equal pay, LGBTQ rights, universal healthcare, Planned Parenthood, etc. It is simpler to take a definitive stance when we are directly affected.
But then there are a host of issues to which many of us remain ignorant. These vary from person to person. Does this mean we should completely refrain from voting because we’re not well-versed in every issue? I think not. Voting is a continuous learning process, and it requires us to be proactive. I enrolled in a Middle Eastern politics course to broaden my knowledge about the highly contentious subject. This does not necessarily mean we must all run out and take crash courses on every hot political issue. It does mean, however, that we should work to identify the issues that matter to us, and research different positions on them. Theoretically, democracy gives us the power to change that which we wish to change. So let’s use this power.
As the election approaches, take some time to get informed about the issues and about how the political system works. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Explore third-party candidates. Use Google. Use your professors. Talk to some College Democrats, College Republicans or College Libertarians, and have them explain things to you in layperson’s terms. Keep learning. Keep voting.
Danielle Zuckerman is a contributing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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