Will You Vote in the 2008 Presidential Election?

by Lisa Baumgartner, Alex Reid, October 21, 2008

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So what is it about politics that has the youth of today running scared? Could it be they don’t care? Could it be they don’t know enough about the issues or candidates to make an informed decision? Or could it be they’ve been turned off by too many PR stunts and questionable practices within our current administration? Whatever the answer, there is a solution.

Now it would be nice if in high school we were required to take classes which focused on current issues or international affairs; dreaming big here for a moment, maybe even classes on globalization, Islamic fundamentalism, alternate energy, or the environment. However, that is not what we study in high school. We take history, global studies, and even economics if are fortunate enough; classes in which we study past events, past presidential elections, past wars and past revolutions- leaving it up to us to self-educate ourselves on present events, elections, wars and revolutions. And with soccer practice Monday thru Friday from four to six o’clock, then SAT review class, dinner, homework and if were lucky a shower it’s hard to find the extra time to self-educate ourselves on say, the next president of the United States.

The same is true for college students. Spending countless hours in the library, rugby scrimmages, global ambassadors club and writing for the Dragon Chronicle it’s next to impossible to find a free minute to brush up on Barack Obama’s stance on oil drilling in Alaska or McCain’s stance on abortion rights. However, it takes less than a minute to reflect briefly on the importance of the free world, a democratic nation in which opportunities are endless and a place in which we actually have the right and the ability to vote for our own president. Maybe in high school you could get away with not really knowing a candidates position on oil drilling or same sex marriage, but now that you’re in college and have just turned 18 or been 18 since senior year of high school you actually are bestowed the privilege of being able to vote. So the excuse that you don’t care about politics or you don’t have the time doesn’t really stand up.

You see, whether you want to admit it or not, voting is important. In fact voting is vital in the success of this country. Because of our Founding Fathers and the wonderful document that they created--you know that little thing called the Constitution-- (property-owning) white men ages 20 and up were given the right to vote, vote in local elections, state elections and national elections. Unfortunately, African Americans and women were initially excluded from this privileged pool of voters. However, on August 18, 1920 women finally won the right to vote. After 70 years of picketing, protests, hunger strikes and conventions women were finally granted the privilege of voting and even though the 14th Amendment made slaves official citizens and gave black men the right to vote, various Jim Crow laws interfered with this right on the state level such as poll taxes and literacy requirements.

I think the problem might lie in the inability for us to appreciate this power we possess. Your vote in essence is your voice. Our elected officials make decisions that affect your life in innumerable ways. If you want your opinions to count when those decisions are made, then you must elect people who share your beliefs. If you want your voice to be heard, you have to vote. In many cases, your vote is the only chance you get to tell the government what you want it to do. And if you don't like the way the government is spending your tax dollars, or you don't agree with the laws that tell you what you can or cannot do, voting is one of the most important ways you can change things. As I stated earlier, self-educating oneself on current political issues and candidates takes some time but it doesn’t have to take as much time as you might think. Maybe you’ve grown up with parents who watched the eight o’clock news and read the weekday and Sunday newspapers religiously, but making an informed, educated decision come Election Day doesn’t mean you have to watch the news everyday or even pick up a newspaper.

It’s simple. Use your time wisely. You know the countless hours you spend on the internet facebooking, checking the latest sports stats or reading your weekly horoscope on Yahoo!? Well, try just skimming the main cover page of say NYTimes.com, does anything catch your eye? Is there a table or graph that highlights each candidate’s main position on issues that matter to you, maybe there’s a link to another webpage for a more thorough description; be daring, click that link- see what unravels. Or for my friends out there who enjoy watching a little TV in the morning, if you’re getting ready for class from the hours of 11 a.m. to noon try putting The View on. I know it might sound silly but this television show does a respectable job at covering the political bases. Last semester I had classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12:20 p.m. so every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning I turned on The View, if I woke up early I could even catch some of the Ellen DeGeneres Show, anyway, one week last semester in the middle of April, The View had Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama as its main interviewees for the week. In those three cumulative hours of TV viewing I learned more about these candidates that I had ever known before. I’m not saying The View is where you should get all your political news but for a general overview of each candidate’s plans while in office you’ll probably get a sense of which candidate represents you and what you believe in. And if you like what one of the candidates is speaking too maybe it’ll inspire you to do a little more research, like reading that article on NYtimes.com or even tuning in to The Daily Show with John Stewart. To experienced voters out there this information might be somewhat disturbing but I assure you there are many voters’ especially young voters that base their decisions on far less.

There are dozens of entertainment outlets that while providing humdrum celebrity gossip also provide a pretty legitimate overview of the 2008 Presidential candidates; who are Barack Obama and John McCain, for those of you not sure. In addition with "The View," "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart and maybe even NYtimes.com you can try tuning into The Colbert Report which is on right after Jon Stewart or try any late night show like Conan O’Brien or Jay Leno, although their material is satirical and pokes fun at political and famous figures they still do a decent job at delivering the facts. For those of you completely turned off by television try switching your radio dial to NPR (National Public Radio) for updates on the election. All I’m trying to say is that when a person turns 18 they have the opportunity to change history through the simple act of casting a ballot. To actively take part in the 2008 presidential election and learn more about each candidates position on issues that matter to you visit John McCain’s official website at McCain and Barack Obama at Obama.

You have the power. All you have to do is vote!


(1) Youth Vote. http://www.lwvcef.org/youthvote/index.htm

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