For many millennials, myself included, this presidential election is one of the first we can finally embrace our civic duty and vote. And yet, for many young people, 2016 is not filled with optimism for the future of our country, but rather, fear of erasing the progress society has made in the last eight years. Since President Obama took office, he has has reformed Wall Street, ensured a greener future for the United States, and embraced marriage equality.
On November 8th, young people are faced with a choice. On the surface, the choice is between someone who, for all intents and purposes, is the face of the political elite and the status quo, and the supposedly only candidate with the ability to switch things up in Washington. While a superficial look at the election draws parallels to 2008, this year is direr.
For the first time in modern history, the United States has a candidate who has openly disregarded the first amendment by promoting violence against political opponents. The same candidate has also sought to undermine religious freedom in the United States by proposing a ban on Muslims immigrating to the country. Donald Trump has promised to appoint Justices who will overturn marriage equality and destroy the monumental progress we made on June 26th, 2015. In comparison, Hillary Clinton has promised to be a President for every American, regardless of their support for her. She has been an avid supporter of welcoming refugees, and a longtime proponent of LGBT rights.
This election is about more than the next four years and preserving the progress of the last four. This year, we are deciding the direction of this country for at least a generation. Currently, three of the eight Justices on the Supreme Court are older than 77. To put that into perspective, the average retirement for Supreme Court Justices since 1971 has been 78.7 years old. Combined with the currently vacant seat, this means the next President will likely appoint four Justices to the Supreme Court. Since 2010, landmark cases such as Citizens United and Obergefell v. Hodges have been decided in 5-4 decisions.
In 1954 under the Warren court, Brown v. Board of Education desegregated public schools throughout the United States. President Eisenhower enforced the ruling despite never offering public support to neither Brown, nor to the civil rights movement underway. However, the Justice Department under his watch filed an amicus brief on the case on Brown’s behalf asking the court to rule in favor of school desegregation. President Eisenhower’s appointment of Chief Justice Earl Warren was strategic: he sought steer the court towards desegregation and lay the foundation for the vast expansion of civil rights in the 1950’s and the 1960’s.
For many college students and recent graduates, the most important issues the Supreme Court could decide upon are women’s health rights, LGBT equality, and Citizens United. In fact, almost 70% of people aged 18-29 support the availability and legality of a woman’s right to choose.
In the final presidential debate of the year, Hillary Clinton said “We need a Supreme Court that will stand up on behalf of women’s rights, on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community, that will stand up and say no to Citizens United, a decision that has undermined the election system in our country because of the way it permits dark, unaccountable money to come into our electoral system.”
As her statement implies, Secretary Clinton offers a stark difference in values than Donald Trump who has repeatedly upheld the late Justice Antonin Scalia as the "ultimate example" of what he is looking for. Scalia, who passed away early this year, left behind a legacy of denying LGBT rights, undermining campaign-finance regulation, and limiting the rights of minorities and women. Under no circumstances is he a justice millennials want to exemplify. By appointing someone to the Court with similar values as Scalia, Mr. Trump alienates over half the population and relegates anyone who isn’t a heteronormative, white male as a second-class citizen.
In the last eight years, the United States has upheld its reputation as one of the most diverse, accepting, and open societies the world has ever seen. As a generation who supports gay marriage, women’s health care rights, immigration, and tackling economic inequality, the only choice for president on November 8th is Secretary Hillary Clinton. No other candidate offers the impressive level of achievement and guarantee to uphold America’s awesome progressiveness.