This midterm election season, there was a fervor among political campaigns to get young people out to vote; posters were put up, flyers were given out, and canvassers invaded campuses. One message that was frequently touted out this season was that young people need to have their voices heard. On the surface, it seems like a positive message; everyone wants to be heard, but is that what really happens in our system? Not by a long shot.
Canvassers want young people to “have their voice heard” in the same way a snake oil salesperson wants their customers to be free of maladies; they see young people as a means to their end. If politicians care as much as they say they do about college students and young people, then why do they discuss their issues only when it’s time to pander for their votes? Why do a majority of politicians vote for policies detrimental to young people, like voting to continue deficit spending (which is the government spending money that it doesn’t have yet but expects future generations to pay off)? Why haven’t they rescheduled the most widely used so-called “illicit drug” by college students, cannabis, to not be as illegal as heroin, and why is student debt at an all-time high despite college affordability being a frequent campaign issue since 2008?
None of these issues have been solved or even seriously discussed outside of campaigning season. This is because the people who run for and occupy public office for the most part see young adults and college students as a voting block they pander to when campaigning, and then ignore when in office in favor of representing lobbyists working the Military-Industrial complex and Wall Street.
A decade ago, during the 2008 election, Barack Obama enamored young people with his message of hope and change to great success; Obama won the votes of 66 percent of the 18-29 year old population, in no little part due to the concerns he expressed about college affordability on the campaign trail. Despite having someone in the White House who two thirds of young people felt would represent their interests, their problems became worse. At the end of 2008, before Obama took office, student loan debt was $640 billion, and by 2015 it had ballooned to over a trillion dollars. In the meantime, Obama spent his entire two terms waging war in seven different countries (none of which ever posed a direct threat to the American people); the first two-term president in the country’s history to do so. Does waging continuous warfare against faraway developing countries represent what the young adults who voted for him wanted, or does it represent what the military-industrial complex and its army of lobbyists wanted?
The Republican participation in this political game can be personified by Obama’s late presidency foil, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who rose to prominence with the help of the Tea Party movement, but frequently betrayed his fiscally conservative base by reliably voting in favor of raising the debt ceiling and increasing spending. Choosing between Republicans and Democrats has the same results as playing a rigged coin toss: Heads, they win, or tails, you lose. “Politics today is pro-wrestling,” former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura once said. “The dems and repubs in front of you and in front of the public are going to tell how they hate each other and how they’re different, but as soon as the cameras go off, in the back room, they’re all going out to dinner together and they’re all buddies cutting deals.”
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same action over and over again, expecting a different result each time. Republicans and Democrats have been taking turns promising change for the better for the past decade, yet what has changed for the better? Instead of voting every two years for someone coming from two organizations with solid track records of equivocating and lying to help solve their problems, young people would do better to rely on themselves and those they trust for help. Politicians have had decades to improve the lives of this current generation and the fruit of their labor is evident: the power and treasure of those living in the imperial city of Washington D.C. is increasing while the rest of the country’s standard of living decreases. It’s time for the young to stop supporting this system and turn their backs on politicians and to try something new: Self-determination. In a twist of President Kennedy’s famous words, ask not what country can do for you, but what you can do for yourself.
Vincent Moore can be contacted at