Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

From the Archives: Young Americans fail to make a political impact

This column initially appeared in the Sept. 19, 2002 edition of The Whitman Pioneer. The opinion was written by The Pioneer’s opinions editor and appears as it was initially ran; the only edits are to spelling.

Beginning my third year at this school, I’ve certainly seen my share of listserv wars, pseudo-protests, ASWC resolutions, and myriad clubs all designed to “stimulate social change.” Hogwash. College students across the country, including Whitman College students, are doing a fantastic job of telling the American people, and gov­ernment, that they don’t care about American politics.

The 2002 election is arguably the most important election for liberals in recent memory. George W. Bush is a president with an overwhelming public approval rating, using it to begin a war with Iraq that will be anything but short, and his ideal Supreme Court jus­tices include Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Note: the only rea­son Shrub’s Supreme Court nominees haven’t been given hearings and con­firmed is the one vote majority Democ­rats have in the United States Senate. And that one vote is in serious jeopardy as GOP Senate candidates are making rapid gains across the country. And voters under 25 are voting at an all-time low.

Those of us under 21 have only had the right to vote for 30 years. Our parents fought hard for that vote. They were being forced to fight an immoral war without the opportunity to speak out against it without being beaten up. Young voters now are spoiled. Young men probably didn’t have an ounce of fear when signing up with the Selective Service. Yet now our country is again engaged in a war, and is pursu­ing others. And we’re throwing the right our parents gave us away. History does have a way of repeating itself.

According to the U.S. Census, reg­istered voters under 25 represent about 15 percent of the electorate. That’s quite a bit, considering that the vast majority of citizens under 25 haven’t even regis­tered. As the lowest performing voting block, we represent only about 3 percent of the electorate. And that’s in presiden­tial years, less than half of that number vote in primaries or non-presidential years (like 2002). Translation: We don’t matter, and it’s our fault. It is log­ically inconsistent to expect to be rep­resented in a government you are too apathetic to participate in.

Many Whitman students say that they are turned off by middle of the road politicians from either party. They want real liberals, not wishy-washy Democrats as a lesser evil. To be blunt: that’s your fault too. The only way to get liberal candidates into the two party system is to vote them into the general election through primaries. And only about 15 percent of the electorate vote in primaries. Shameful.

The effects of not mattering are ter­rible. People under the age of 25 are much less likely to have health insur­ance than any other age group. There hasn’t been one piece of legislation to help us pay for college. The drug war is actively aimed against young peo­ple. Given that Whitman (on the whole) has an incredibly spoiled stu­dent body, I don’t expect these things mean much to Whitties. Mommy and Daddy pay for most of school, health insurance isn’t an issue, and we are get­ting an education. But think about how many other young people need your vote to have a chance at what you have. Social justice isn’t a term you can throw around to sound cool at a liberal arts college. People our age are suffering, and voters our age aren’t taking any action to help them.

I think that Whitman has a lot of good intentions and good talk, but it gets an F-minus for action. I’m all about protesting, and I’m all clubs aimed at creating social change. But it’s time to realize that just complain­ing and giving out free pizza doesn’t do anything. Get active! Vote! Volunteer for a campaign! There’s an incredibly important Senate race in Oregon right now, volunteers are always needed. Just do something!

Editor’s note: This column is especially timely as we approach what is bound to be a tenuous election season. Whitman boasts an incredibly high registered voter rate, but registration doesn’t always equate to turnout. With primary season already underway, it is important to remember where your ballot is – the deadline to request an absentee or mail-in ballot differs state-by-state.

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    Disillusioned AlumFeb 3, 2024 at 11:13 pm

    A thinly veiled bid to get Whitties to support Genocide Joe electorally? He’s dug his own grave.