COLUMN

We Can't Wait

The youth is wasting oppurtunities by being quiet in politics.

By Sebastian Lopez

The day after 17 people were injured and 4 people died in Gilroy, I went to work at Congressman Swalwell’s office where the fear and disbelief was felt throughout the day. As an intern, my duties included manning the front desk and taking calls from constituents. Countless calls came in from terrified people, horrified that this is what our country has come to and more surprisingly, calls also came in from people defending guns, even after such a tragedy. In front of the front desk was a TV that displayed headlines flooded with news about the shooting and politicians arguing on who to blame. After being in what felt like the center of the action, I went to talk to my friends about what they thought about the issue. But instead of intellectual conversation, I was met with disinterest and inaction. The following week, two more shootings happened, more calls came in, more politicians argued, but still, there was nothing from my peers.

 

Not an insult to my peers, but it is not entirely their fault. Political engagement in the youth is just not as prevalent as it should be, and it has consequences in the long run. According to a study done by the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, only a meager 39% of young people eligible to vote actually voted in their local elections in 2016. Only when more young people started to see and experience the colossal issues in our government after 2016 did that number rise. According to a Pew research study, both Generation Z and Millenials outvoted the number of Boomers and seniors in the 2018 midterm elections. It is even estimated that the number of Generation Z voters could rise to a significant 10% of the polls in 2020.

 

While the future may seem optimistic, what I see on a daily basis bothers me. Especially in a time where the federal government seems to have a huge new scandal everyday, no one in our age group is really paying attention. Student ignorance has even gone to the point where some students today still can’t name the current Vice President of the US. Even if students have not had Government as a class yet, it should not be an excuse for not being aware of the problems going on. But, I don’t think it’s entirely the youth’s fault. A widespread misconception is that people in our age group are not “mature” enough to be involved. This is especially apparent when you consider that the voting age is still 18.  

 

However, I found this to be false. As an intern at Congressman Swalwell’s office at age 16, I found out that I was more capable than I believed anyone my age would be in politics. Even as someone who was invested in current issues beforehand, I was able to learn what real government was like and was able to keep up with the more experienced staffers. I was able to learn about gun control, the military, immigration, and presidential  controversies to the point where I could keep up in a knowledgeable conversation. By age 16, or hopefully even before that, we know right versus wrong, and if younger people were to apply that to politics and real world issues that also greatly affect them, the youth would finally reach the potential that we have always held. •

Photo Ilustration | David Ye

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