This is a personal secret that I’ve never told before. Not to anyone. Not to my friends. Not even to my parents. I have been too embarrassed to reveal it, which is the natural tendency with any confession. However, it’s about time I just came out with it: I am not a registered voter.
I know that’s definitely not the type of “juicy confession” you guys were expecting to hear. But considering I have been writing political columns since my freshman year, I can’t help but be a little embarrassed. The rationale is that I, for all my research into political issues, have never actually acted on my convictions.
To be honest, I don’t know exactly why I have never gotten around to voting (granted I have only been eligible for two years). Certainly procrastination has played a role and the gut-wrenching political skepticism the current presidential administration invokes hasn’t helped either. But this article isn’t about me as much as it’s about what I represent, which is a generation detached from political activism. Besides, before we can introspectively look at the roots of our inaction, don’t we first have to admit that we are politically inactive?
Granted, that last line sounds like it came from a corny 12-step program for people with voting problems, but the fact remains: The sooner we wake up and openly admit our own political flaws (like I just did) the sooner we can develop into a real voting block, something we definitely aren’t right now.
I know that some will take exception with my political characterization of our generation, especially since the 2006 midterm elections marked the highest turnout of youth voters (ages 18 to 29) in over 20 years. Nevertheless, this “record-breaking” turnout was still a pathetic 25 percent (10 million people out of a potential 40 million youth voters), whereas people older than 30 had a turnout of 54 percent.
Also, let’s not forget what it took to get 25 percent of young Americans to vote: Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, political corruption and sex scandals. Given all that I guess it’ll take the apocalypse to get the remaining 75 percent (myself included) off of our asses to do something next election.
Even Stephen Colbert has acknowledged our generation’s political lethargy. During his Sept. 19 comedy show, Colbert highlighted the University of Florida Taser incident (the “Don’t Tase me, bro!” event) as an example of the current youth’s political inaction. Colbert noted that none of the student’s fellow classmates sitting near him during the incident tried to help ease the situation. “That kid in the orange shirt looks bored. He’s probably thinking something like, ‘I wish they’d stop Tasering this guy so I can go home and watch this guy getting tasered on YouTube,’” Colbert joked.
He concluded the segment by saying, “I remember when students used to be a rebellious bunch . but today’s kids are so different. Instead of amassing people to march on Washington, they amass hits on a Web site calling for a march on Washington.”
Kidding aside, Colbert makes some good points. Our generation (myself included) does not know how to become politically active in the real world, even to the point of doing nothing while a classmate is excessively Tasered a few feet away. It’s enough to make one ask, “What will our generation do in a few years when faced with the serious issues of poverty, environmental degradation and political strife both domestically and around the world?”
Nevertheless, I am still optimistic about our generation’s chances (as well as my own) to correct things and get more involved politically. I say this because our generation is very well educated; we are smart enough to know how to address many of today’s major issues. Our problem is that we hide and procrastinate when it comes to getting around to doing them.
Fortunately, there are many students, including here at Poly, who are trying to alleviate that “procrastination obstacle.” For example, my editorial colleague, Erica Janoff, is sponsoring a voter registration event today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the University Union plaza. In addition to registration, there will also be numerous clubs at the event to help inform students on a wide range of social and political issues to raise awareness and get people talking.
It might not sound flashy, but I see now that it’s simple events like these that will eliminate our generation’s political inactivity. I believe this because I will attend and finally register at the event. However, this is only after I saw that our generation has some serious voting issues that it needs to fix. Consequently, I hope this article has made you come to the same realization that more than just 25 percent of our generation needs to be heard.
Patrick Molnar is a business junior and a Mustang Daily liberal columnist.