Voting among college students is at an all-time low. Reports show that only 19.9 percent of 18-24-year-olds cast a ballot in 2014. The upcoming presidential election has many students and adults alike wondering whether they should vote at all. You may be thinking, the country has reached a new low. But before you decide to sit this one out, it’s important to look back and see what transpired in American politics at the time of the Founding Fathers. We could all learn a few lessons from history.
The hit Broadway musical, “Hamilton,” sheds light on the political climate in the early years of the founding of America. And it was not all that different from what’s going on today. The political themes in the show resonate so strongly with the audience because they’re current. Alexander Hamilton didn’t agree at all with Thomas Jefferson’s politics and yet he chose to support him as a candidate rather than his sometime friend, Aaron Burr. Why? Because he felt Jefferson was a public servant with moral fiber and Burr lacked integrity. Hamilton felt that Burr’s great ambition was unchecked by principle and questioned his character. Sound familiar?
Hamilton himself was an immigrant from the West Indies with a questionable pedigree who rose to serve presidents and became treasury secretary of the United States. The play celebrates ethnic diversity and the accomplishments of immigrants against the backdrop of slavery, just as America today wrestles with widely divergent views on immigration. If you think the outrageousness of today’s campaign is unmatched, think again. Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel and Hamilton was struck by Burr’s bullet, dying the next day. Burr was wanted for murder in New York and New Jersey so he fled to Washington where he presided over the impeachment trial of a Supreme Court Justice. The plot also includes scandals, mudslinging and candidates revising long-held positions to reflect those that were popular with the public.
Clearly, American democracy has survived questionable candidates and wild events before. This is not the first nor the last time and history teaches us that the system will correct and sustain itself.
College students can’t afford to be apathetic. You may be disillusioned or frustrated, but it is critical that you exercise your right to vote and here are the top 6 reasons why:
1. We take the right to vote for granted today, but battles have been fought so that women and the 18-21 year old group can have the right to vote. Don’t take that lightly. Make your voice heard when so many others before you could not.
2. When students vote, they take the time to inform themselves about the issues that affect their lives and they take responsibility for their own future as citizens of the U.S.
3. No one else will vote with your issues in mind. Other voters focus on healthcare and foreign policy but issues like student debt, educational standards and admissions policies are on your mind and you should vote for candidates that address your needs.
4. Strength in numbers –millennials are 44 million strong and if you all get out the vote, the candidates will have to pay attention to issues that are important to you. With such a large group, you have the power to affect change.
5. You’re getting out into the real world and your life will be impacted by big issues. Owning a home, paying for healthcare, launching a business, getting involved in a serious relationship and starting a family are all in your not-too-distant future. You can vote for policies today that will influence your life in the years to come. Why leave that to someone else?
6. College students are a more diverse group than any constituents—61% white, 17% Hispanic, 15% black, 4% Asian. Who else will vote to represent the needs of such a diverse constituency?
So get involved, engaged and start shaking things up. Your commitment can inspire national change.