A MESSAGE FOR YOUNG VOTERS (AND NON-VOTERS)
A Message to Young Voters (and Non-Voters)
"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently."
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
In this year's presidential race, it seems the American voting public has been infected by a deep and malignant cynicism. Voters are not making their choices based on what the candidate's beliefs are, but instead what the candidate's beliefs are not. Rather than voting their consciences, voters have resorted to settling for the lesser evil in a choice between two corporate-controlled puppets.
As a young person, I had hoped that this cynicism had not yet affected the idealism of my peers. I assumed that, true to the stereotype of youth, my peers would remain skeptical of the adult establishment. I reasoned that young people are naturally questioning and rebellious, much more willing than their parents to abandon the system and try something new. Young Americans, I thought, would not accept the two party duopoly on politics. Young people instinctively realize when they are being lied to, and I assumed that they would see right through two corporate-funded frat boys claiming to represent their interests. Sure, it's traditional to have a rich white man from an established party leading the country, but I thought that young people had no respect for tradition.
Shockingly, the youthful rebellion of many young Americans seems to have failed them. I have stood appalled as time after time my peers have numbly pitched to me the standard lines, fed to them by the media and their parents, attacking Ralph Nader's candidacy. This is despite the fact that Ralph Nader has consistently taken positions supported by the majority of young Americans.
These positions include:
Opposing the Iraq war and occupation
Proposing universal healthcare for all Americans
Opposing the draft
Advocating for the reform of the criminal injustice system and the end of the war on drugs
Opposing the use of high-stakes standardized testing as a measure of student achievement
Maintaining commitment to affirmative action
On the basis of their passion about these issues, young people should no longer be willing to fall in line with the older generations in their continued support of America's corrupt two-party system. This system, gorged with corporate money and played as a game by America's elite, is fundamentally flawed. Voters have allowed elections to become two-way rat races and have ignored the fact that in the end it's still a corporate-controlled candidate who becomes president of the United States. Giant corporations continually work to align the policies of both mainstream candidates with their interests. Without the pressure of a third party, there is nothing holding these politicians accountable to the desires of the American people. If today's youth want the opportunity to vote for a candidate who truly represents their beliefs, they have to start working now to give those candidates the opportunity to run. Unfortunately, young people seem to be making little effort in this election to challenge the established two-party system and the limited choices it creates.
Perhaps young people's disinterest in taking on the two party system is due to a general lack of optimism. Many young people seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that politicians are a class unto themselves, unresponsive to the needs of the greater public. Indeed, there seems to be a rather pervasive lack of optimism among young people. Rather than espousing ambitious goals of world peace or the eradication of AIDS, I find many of my peers sharing their comparatively under-whelming goal of getting Bush out of office. While it is perhaps possible to forgive the older generation for being shortsighted and unambitious in their goals for this election, America's youth must realize that their future depends on their present efforts to make change. "Nader can't win" is an irrelevant argument for young people-- our lives will extend beyond this election, and if we limit our expectations so early, there is no hope for a future that allows us more choices of who will lead our country.
Instead of resigning ourselves to the reality of the current system, young Americans must take the qualities that young people are known for--rebelliousness, skepticism, and optimism-- and apply them to politics. We must abandon our parents' cynicism and unwavering faith in the way things are, and instead create a vision for the way things could be. We must seek to make America a true democracy that represents the people and has the best leader possible, not just the least worst.
D.C. Office Intern