The political rants of a Libertarian and Catholic college student from South Carolina.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

the myth of the youth vote

One of several things that have irritated me in the wake of this past presidential election, probably second only in aggravation factor to the constant attribution of Bush's victory to those ambiguous "moral values", is the discussion of how "the youth" failed to come out in support of Kerry. As a 20-year-old who did not vote for Kerry (although I did seriously consider it), I'm somewhat offended by this.

First of all, I don't understand why all of the pundits are so immediate in their assumptions that "the youth" is of uniform political leanings. On Election Day, I had my three-hour, once-a-week, bain of my existence Mock Trial class. The class was composed mostly of political science majors, all of whom were active in and well-educated about politics. Class began at 5:30, so most of us had voted already. And there were a number of students who had turned out in Bush/Cheney pins and stickers. These were by no means uneducated young people, or even people who would immediately strike one as being particularly conservative. They had all made educated decisions on whom to cast their votes for...and they chose Bush.

I attend what I would classify as a fairly typical American college. Although it is located in the South, we have a large number of out-of-state students and plenty of people, both students and professors, who would describe themselves as "liberal". The political makeup of my friends is about equal parts Republican and Democrat, with a not insignificant number of third party members. Very few of them are politically apathetic.

This so-called "youth vote" that failed to materialize for Kerry wasn't just a bunch of college kids who were too lazy or stupid to get out there and "rock the vote". We considered Kerry. We watched the debates. Some of us even watched the respective candidates' convention speeches. And we decided against voting for Kerry.

Something I've observed at college, which has been basically ignored by the national media, is that more and more young people like myself are being increasingly disenchanted with the two major political parties. I had a conversation last semester with a friend, also a poli sci major, about the failure of the two-party system in this country. More than I hate the Republicans or the Democrats (and these days I pretty much hate both of them), I hate the two-party system. There was a great spoof on it in America: The Book, which all of you should go out and read right this minute if you haven't already, basically talking about how irrational it is to believe that everyone's political beliefs fall neatly into one of two categories. It said something like, "In favor of low taxes? Congratulations, you are also anti-abortion." I should point out here that it doesn't help matters that these two categories are becoming increasingly narrow. We're one of the few first-world countries that do this.

One thing I would really like to see my generation do is get rid of the two-party system. I would start with getting rid of the single-member district (so-called "winner-take-all" elections) method of elections and replace it with proportional representation, at least with the House of Representatives. It was nice to see the initiative on the ballot this past year in a few states, even though it was generally unsuccessful.


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