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I could begin and end addressing this article simply by rebutting the title if I really felt like it. Plus, it’s a Monday, and part of me just wants to Indiana Jones this piece of Millennial excuse enabling shit. Eschew a drawn out breakdown of every ridiculous piece of reasoning the author presents for why young people (specifically young liberals) don’t vote — “It’s like, the system man, it’s so, you know, system-y” — and drop this steaming pile of rationalizations in one shot with an exasperated shrug. And really, I could.
Young People Will Barely Vote in November — but Not Because We’re Apathetic
No. It’s apathy. Can we be done now? Because you’re clearly wrong. Ah fuck it, let’s dive in anyway.
There are American expats who are going to vote. There are cancer patients who are going to vote. There are barely continent old women who were literally born without the right to vote (and, granted, may be filling out their ballots at the direction of their dead husband’s ghost that they’re imagining out of loneliness) who are going to vote in this election. Yet, somehow, young people that aren’t willing to spare an hour away from their MacBooks, on which they will almost certainly still post half-informed political rants to Facebook despite not voting, and make every acquaintance they have deeply regret once thinking, “Oh, yeah, I think they’re in my Sociology class, sure, whatever,” before accepting said insufferable human being’s friend request in college, isn’t apathy. Thank you for undertaking this noble attempt at validating these miserable people. The next time I walk past a homeless guy jerking off at a bus stop, I’m going to give him a pat on the back and say, “Keep up the good work, buddy. This is totally legit, people just don’t understand.” It’s the same thing.
Admittedly, though, I am actually willing to buy that the reason a young person might not vote could be something other than apathy, but only if the sole other excuse is extreme narcissism, explained pretty much perfectly by Jonathan on an episode of 30 Rock: “My generation never votes. It interferes with talking about ourselves all the time.”
Here are the highlights of the article trying to explain why lazy assholes aren’t lazy assholes.
The shallow, conventional explanation to this decline in voter participation relies on the outdated notion that Millennials are indifferent to political life, unprecedented in their apathy and Facebook-induced self-obsession.
Have you ever heard the saying, “When studying shallow people, the shallowest answer tends to be the most correct?” No? Well, that’s because I just made it up. It feels right, though, doesn’t it?
But there are stacks of empirical data that show Millennials to be exceptionally politically engaged and civically conscious. And it’s common knowledge that these voters were essential to the political rise of President Barack Obama.
Funny story — and by “funny” I mean “tragically lacking in awareness of self or one’s surroundings” — the link to the New York Times article the author shares doesn’t actually offer any empirical data about Millennials being more politically engaged or civically conscious whatsoever. It sort of just talks about how awesome Millennials are. There’s like an 80% chance the author assumed these were the same things.
“We’re awesome. Being politically engaged and civically conscious is awesome. OMG! Therefore WE must be politically engaged and civically conscious!” That is some quality transitive bullshit.
Granted, the Pew research link inside the New York Times article, to a study comparing Millennials to previous generations, stated that, “after decades of low voter participation by the young, the turnout gap in 2008 between voters under and over the age of 30 was the smallest it had been since 18- to 20-year-olds were given the right to vote in 1972.” SO ENGAGED! And, of course, that turnout probably didn’t correlate at all to the fact that no candidate in history pandered to these special little flowers like Barack Obama did in 2008 (which was undoubtedly a well played move). MySpace was popular once too, ya know. But, according to Pew, like a Justin Timberlake helmed attempt to revive the internet’s version of a Chernobyl playground, the second Obama campaign didn’t quite inspire the same level of participation. “But the political enthusiasms of Millennials have since cooled for Obama and his message of change, for the Democratic Party and, quite possibly, for politics itself.” This is the political equivalent of a conversation about a 23-year-old naturally turning to a different topic and said 23-year-old immediately becoming disinterested and pulling out their cellphone to check Snapchat.
Voting ain’t easy: Anything that makes it difficult to vote affects young voters disproportionately.
*Screams* *Slams head into drywall*
But young voters aren’t apathetic? Writing the above sentence and then sticking to the theme of this article is like denying climate change while sunbathing on an island of polar bear corpses at the North Pole. At this point, you might be doing this just to be a dick.
and there are plenty of obstacles that make voting unnecessarily inconvenient. Registration and voting hassles — perhaps you just moved to a new state, or can’t afford to take time off from a low-paying, hourly job that you squeeze in between classes — are more likely to affect a young person than someone who has a steady job and a stable life.
You know how I registered to vote here in Austin, Texas? A dude stopped me outside of the Austin City Limits Music Festival and asked me if I was registered. I said no, and then filled out the necessary paperwork, all with a BAC north of the legal driving limit, and then, five minutes later, strolled into the music festival, all lubed up and ready to vote. If I can register to vote drunk at a park, then the legitimate excuses for why someone couldn’t register to vote are running pretty thin. People are bending over backwards to get young people to keep voting. I kind of mean that literally, too. The guy who registered me was so excited that I’m pretty sure if I had told him I would do it only on the condition that he actually bent over backwards, he would’ve given me at least a few extremely painful, contorted seconds just to get the job done. Real missed opportunity on my part.
Furthermore, every campus across this country has 1) people wandering around for MONTHS with registration forms, and 2) polling stations. If people with full time jobs and children to raise can find time to vote, what’s some totally independent kid’s excuse? You know you’re still allowed to play on your iPhone while you wait in line, right?
In other news, eating is hard for Millenials, because cooking involves doing stuff.
Why vote if the game is rigged? Alongside the logistical challenges of getting to a voting booth
Those logistical challenges being the ability to move oneself and set aside time — two things that inexplicably tend to pose a much greater challenge to voting than, say, buying weed or traveling to a friend’s apartment to sit around and do nothing for five hours.
Also, didn’t we just talk about electing Obama? But fuck it, right? Let’s just ignore that and claim the system is rigged because, I don’t know, it might not not be! Think about that for a minute. Spooky stuff.
is a pervasive skepticism that it’s even worth voting at all.
The aforementioned Harvard poll showed that faith in political institutions and processes are extraordinarily low: Only 14% of young people believe Congress does the right thing most of the time.
Considering that only 13.5% of all Americans currently approve of the job this Congress is doing, that also seems like a terrible excuse.
Another interesting statistic: 100% of the authors of this .Mic article are terrible with statistics.
Justified as their frustration may be, the tragic irony is that youth disillusionment with Congress and institutional politics is likely to reinforce the status quo that makes them cynical.
A large turnout of young voters wouldn’t turn the world on its head, but it would tilt the board for many issues that matter to them most, whether it be student debt, civil liberties or women’s rights.
Collectively, the younger generation of this country is a force to be reckoned with. But if we take that for granted, then we ourselves will be taken for granted, too.
Eventually, at the very end, this article gives a half-hearted plea for young people to go out and vote. That’s good and all, but it doesn’t really matter when the vast majority of the words were used to falsely justify the apathy of young voters.
“I should vote, but now at least I know it’s totally legit if I don’t!”
They don’t vote because they’re lazy. That is the overwhelming reason. Yes, there are people who don’t vote for the mostly easily refutable reasons above, and that is their right. But any suggestion that apathy isn’t the main driving force is denial, and any attempt to justify that apathy by calling it something else from someone of the Millennial generation is narcissism. I have not voted before, and it was out of pure apathy. A quick poll of the Millennials in this office (which is everyone), yielded the same answer. Apathy. I regret it, but at least I acknowledge it.
Another thing this article at best glosses over is the importance of participating in local politics. According to the author, young people are only “electrified” by big personalities and big elections. Presumably this is because many young people are idiots, considering those big elections are the ones they make the least of a difference in. Here in Texas I could barely give a shit about a presidential election, no matter who is running. A Republican vote is a drop in the bucket, and a Democratic vote is burnt. The local and state issues, however, I can make a much more tangible difference in. That is what electrifies me, because those are the issues that most affect my day to day life. (Goddamn you, no plastic bags in Austin grocery stores law!) That tends to be the case almost everywhere.
Just go vote. Or don’t. It’s not a grand statement if you do it, and it’s certainly not if you don’t. Forget Vote or Die. Forget Rock the Vote. How’s this? “Vote or Shut Up, And If It’s On Facebook, Shut Up Regardless.”.