In 2008, young Americans voted in record numbers across the nation. Republicans and Democrats alike reached out to an untapped resource, and we responded by volunteering on the weekends, making phone calls after class and rallying for change. Young voters were especially implemental in President Barack Obama’s victory, with voters ages 18 to 25 favoring the Democratic candidate 68 to 30 percent, according to polling done right after the election. The optimistic atmosphere dripping of change and hope resonated with a younger generation, and after we clocked in hundreds of volunteer hours, we traveled to Washington, D.C., by the thousands and watched a president we elected get sworn into office on a bitter-cold January morning.
Two years later, those feelings seem to have almost disappeared. Media outlets and the talking heads have chalked it up to a bad economy, two wars and a moderate political agenda pursued by the White House. While all of these things may be true and may be debated, I still see and feel the hope that was there two years ago.
As young people, we still have the worries we did in 2008. We worry about paying back our student loans, finding a job after we graduate, affording health care and paying our rent on time each month. These concerns did not magically disappear after Obama was inaugurated. And although some of us believe the Obama administration passed the best and most progressive legislation that it could with the Congress that was in place, there is still more work to do.
This is where I still see the hope. We are hopeful for job growth. We are hopeful for the new health care plan. We are hopeful for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, job security, education reform, clean energy and a growing economy.
The dangers of a Republican-controlled legislature are monumental for young voters. We barely survived eight years of failed economic and social policies. Now, Congressional Republicans refuse to compromise on any mildly progressive legislation by shutting down all discussion and debate, thus undermining the very fabric of our democracy. Conservative leaders have no actual policies of their own; they exist only on negation. This November is not the time to retreat into apathy but it is a crucial moment to continue to fight for change and the promise of a better tomorrow.
In 2008 the youth vote rocked a nation. We were no longer the ignored political minority, but a targeted interest group demanding attention from politicians on both sides of the isle. Those of us who voted for the first time remember the feeling of voting for a politician who paid attention to them, and those not old enough remember the excitement of Election Day and thinking ahead to future elections with anticipation.
The issues faced today in the Temple community, Pennsylvania and the nation are too important for us to sit this election out. Those elected as our new state representatives and governor will have a direct impact on Temple’s state funding as well as control of re-districting. And whomever we send to Washington as our new senator must represent all of Pennsylvania, including the state’s youth.
On Nov. 2, I urge Temple students to prove the country wrong. Prove to the political pundits and mainstream media that we did not give up on hope. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican or somewhere in between, have your voice heard and your vote counted! As “Project Runway’s” Tim Gunn would say, “Make it work.”
Temple College Democrats