Ryan Chartrand

The nation stands on the precipice of change. When generations look back at history (assuming global warming doesn’t exterminate life in the next 100 years), future professors will point to this time and say, “That was the turning point.”

As I’m sure you are aware, the California presidential primaries for both the Democratic and Republican parties are being held on Tuesday, along with 23 other states. Super Tuesday may turn out to be decisive victories for any of the remaining candidates, but that’s not what will fascinate political science experts 50 years from now.

The ones who make the change will be Americans like myself and a majority of you – people who never had a reason to be involved, standing en masse to show that the current political system is unworkable.

For the past four years, I have been the very definition of political apathy. Hating to sound stupid, I paid only enough attention to carry on a reasonable and intelligent conversation. Well, as reasonable and intelligent as possible when discussing politics.

In fact, I was the worst form of apathy because I was informed and still had absolutely no motivation to be involved. Let’s just say I was not too impressed with my choices. Whatever ideology and policy differences candidates may have had, they were still products of the political system.

This time seems different. For the first time in a long time, there is a candidate that stands for more than just skin-deep changes; he stands for actual change. That’s why voters like me, young independents who have never voted, are showing up in unprecedented numbers to support Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

You can accuse me of being caught up in the rhetoric of his campaign, and you would probably be right. I will admit that when I listen to Obama, it’s hard not to get emotionally caught up and to feel optimistic.

But that is the beauty of the situation. When was the last time you can honestly say you were inspired by a politician? Obama stirs up that reaction and creates hope. I would vote for him on that quality alone.

The thing I most admire Obama for, though, is his stance on lobbyists. The decline of productivity in Washington and the rise of political action committees go hand in hand. His promises of ethics reform to refocus policy makers on issues that matter is refreshing.

Beyond that, he would be a tremendous PR boost for the American image worldwide. Finally, we can show the rest of the world we dislike Bush as much as they do, and would go a long way to repair relationships globally.

I realize there are a lot of ifs in the equation. Obama still must get the Democratic nomination and then go on to win the presidency to begin fulfilling his promises. But if he gets that opportunity, it will be due to the support from our voter base.

While I was at home over winter break, I attended a lot of gatherings with family and friends. Naturally, the conversation frequently turned to politics.

When I showed my enthusiasm for Obama, the reaction I got most often did not exactly shock me but certainly saddened me. Time after time, adults (despite my age, I’m still not one of them) who I’d known growing up and who I consider extremely intelligent and very tolerant told me that there was a certain portion of the population who would never vote for a black man and that Obama would never get elected.

This obstacle, this reluctance to change is something that can only be tackled by us. Only the youth can show the rest of the country that thinking in terms of color is truly a thing of the past. Do we have race relations down pat? Obviously not, but one thing that our generation does better than any of our predecessors is take a person for who they are and judge an individual based on their character.

The latest field polls in California show that Obama is closing in on Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), with 18 percent of likely Democratic voters still undecided. Because of California’s election rules, independent voters have the opportunity to make the difference in a close contest.

The Republican primary is closed to registered Republicans, which means independent voters who want to vote in the primary can only vote in the Democrat’s race. And because the Democratic Party awards the delegates proportionally, each vote truly matters.

No matter who wins, it is our generation’s chance to capitalize on our vast potential as a voter base to make politicians listen to our voice so that historians can point and say, “This is when it all changed.”

Kory Harbeck is a journalism senior and a Mustang Daily reporter.

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