Let me be blunt: there are few things that terrify me quite like the prospect of a Romney/Ryan administration come November.
I am fully confident that this will not happen—perhaps it’s my own disillusionment with how strong the Republican party’s base may be, or simply it’s that imagining anything else will make me act upon my long-time fantasy to seek political asylum in another country (any takers, Europe?)—however, there are still moments of panic when I actually consider the possibility of President Romney and the subsequent implications for me, both as a college student and as a woman, make me shudder.
As a Political Science and Women and Gender studies student I see that the political climate in our country is far from conducive to an intelligent discussion of the ways in which gender impacts politics, and vice versa.
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Through the blundered and “misunderstood” political statements of such conservative candidates as Todd Akin—legitimate rape does not result in pregnancy as women’s bodies have a innate defense against that—to the apparent backlash against reproductive justice through several states’ legislation, discussions relating to “women’s issues” reflect the worst of our political system.
The fact that we have in our country politicians who still openly oppose fundamental human rights such as the freedom to marry and the freedom to make reproductive choices reflects, quite frankly, poorly on us as Americans and the ideas that we tout—liberty and freedom for all! Democracy is best!—only further delegitimizes us as a country worldwide.
Granted, each country has its own crop of Tea Partiers—those who seek solution in the extremes—but as a society that looks to stay relevant in the growing community of states that support democracy and individual liberty, we cannot let conservatism and religious fundamentalism dictate our policies, or our politicians.
Our country has made significant milestones in the past 60 years, from the passage of the Civil Rights Act to its attempts at equalizing the job playing field for women, people of color, and other minority groups. However, these advancements were made following the hard work and lifetime dedication of social activists, educators, and, yes, even college students.
In fact, college students have historically made up the backbone of many social justice issues, from ending the Vietnam War to the mainstream women’s liberation movement and civil rights movement.
However, in our generation, college students are viewed as money suckers and time wasters, especially by those who espouse that college students represent the worst of humanity. Rampant consumerism, social networking, and the Jersey Shore are all used as evidence of the disengagement of twenty somethings from the political process, despite the fact that we still remain active participants of our communities.
Our activism is different than that of our parents and grandparents. Picket lines are now replaced by online petitions and door-to-door distribution of pamphlets with tweeting, blogging, and sharing links with friends via Facebook.
These new forms of technological activism have been critiqued and criticized in activist circles, and rightly so. As with any expansion and exploration of a new medium to distribute information and social engagement, the Internet has had its failures with activism (Kony 2012) and its successes (the Obama 2008 presidential campaign). It is a baby still, and there remains massive room for improvement; however, it should not be dismissed as an irrelevant site of civic engagement, nor as simply a fad. These forms of communication are here to stay; it is now our job to use it to the best of our abilities.
As college students, we face ridicule and dismissal based on our age, our “naivety,” and a multitude of other reasons. However, we remain a powerful force in the political system, as was demonstrated with the rise of voter ID laws that looked to restrict college students’ voting rights.
These legislative attempts to limit the power of college students is clearly motivated by fear from the conservative right, those who have the most to gain if these bills are passed. Just as college students have been the driving force for many social justice issues, so to do they also typically vote left. In other, generalizing words, college students are more liberal and vote for liberals.
This spells bad news bears for those who run under a platform that espouses a return to traditional values—values that are quickly becoming obsolete in a society where the majority of young people support gay marriage, tax reform, and attention to gender issues. What Mitt Romney and his doe-eyed running mate, indeed nearly the entire Republican Party, have failed to do is connect to young voters, precisely because of their unwavering allegiance to the side of the issues that harm young people—reductions to federal funding for higher education, opposition to access to reproductive health care, demands to deport “illegal” immigrants, even those who have been here since childhood, and the list goes on.
In the end, the values that Romney and the Republican Party hold will negatively impact their ability to communicate with and motivate college students to vote Republican in the upcoming election.
Because the Romney campaign recognizes the importance of the college vote, it will attempt to cater to college students.
Therein lays the power of the college student. By voicing opinions and voting likewise, college students will be able to articulate exactly how they feel and will have the ability to alter the course of American politics. If, in November, we stay at home and in the dorms, it is us, not our parents, who will bear the brunt of backwards politics and economic policies proposed by the Romney/Ryan campaign.
Hannah Walker can be contacted at