How important is it that young people go to the polls and vote? If you’re an Obama supporter as I am it’s crucial. Look at the numbers. An estimated 23 million Americans under the age of thirty voted in the 2008 election. That was 3.4 million more than voted in the 2004 election. Of those youth voters in 2008, seventy percent had attended college. Fully two-thirds of those in the 18- to 29-year-old demographic cast ballots for Obama.
Recently, I’ve heard some pretty outrageous claims dropping out of the mouths of otherwise intelligent people. But one of the most shocking has been young people in their twenties telling me that they’re planning to sit out this election because “there’s no difference between these guys.” Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan? Are they kidding?
Excuse the dismissive language. But is it actually possible that some people can’t see the difference? Our political system is in total meltdown failure when many educated, young people such as those I’ve spoken to can’t tell the difference between the policy prescriptions of the two presidential candidates, their parties, and their parties’ platforms. Is it laziness? Ignorance? Inattentiveness? Lack of critical-thinking skills? Or is it the result of brains so clogged by gaming or weed that there’s no corner in there for real-world concerns?
In order to set the record straight, here’s a letter to those twenty-somethings who are strutting around with blinders on.
You may not have bothered to inform yourself about the issues that are dominating the upcoming elections. Perhaps you don’t know what’s going on out there because you’ve turned down the volume on the TV. Did you lose your Internet connection or fail to pay the bill? Or is it that you pulled the covers up over your head and indulged in an extended nap for the four years since the last presidential election?
If you’re awake and aware now, pay attention. Here are some things that are really going to affect you. Believe me. It’s really going to make a difference to you if we have a Democratic or Republican administration and a balanced Congress or one dominated by the Tea Party.
Frankly, if you sit out this election and just won’t bother to vote, do us all a favor and hold back on the bitching, because there will be no one to blame but yourself.
Think about reproductive issues.
Nobody’s monitoring you but, hey, we know a little bit about your sex life. So listen up, because Republican attitudes and policy commitments are really going to hit you where it hurts. Guys, your girlfriend’s right to choose is no big deal, right? You thought she could get access to any sort of birth control you and she believe to be appropriate.
Sorry, but Republicans don’t agree. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are targeting you and your partners. They’ve set their sights on overturning Roe v. Wade if they can just appoint one or two more right-leaning Supreme Court justices in the next four years. And they’ve got a pretty good chance because the actuarial tables are in their favor if they win. In fact, four out of the nine justices are in their mid to late seventies.
Maybe you’re lucky and you’re not living in one of the states where the Republican-dominated legislature is pushing to defund and shut down access to Planned Parenthood, but in many states across the country, affordable gynecological care provided by Planned Parenthood might soon be history.
Ladies, how about the cost of your birth control pills? Are you ready to have to make the decision about whether you can afford birth control at all? The Republicans are committed to repeal of the Affordable Care Act that requires new insurance plans to cover the entire cost of your birth control. Frankly, they’re thinking that maybe if birth control is too expensive you’ll think twice about that hooking-up thing. And in case you missed it, the Republicans are making it harder, if not impossible, in some states for any woman of any age, married or unmarried, to choose whether it’s the right time in her life to have a child or to have more children.
Now think about jobs.
Maybe you decided after high school that college wasn’t for you, or that it was too expensive, or that you didn’t want to be working just to pay back student loans for the next few decades. Maybe you thought that working a secure, living-wage job with good benefits in American industry was the right move for you.
Obama/Biden and the Democrats think you should have a chance to do just that and that good government can help. Romney/Ryan and the Republicans probably want you to have that chance as well but don’t believe that government has any role in making that happen for you. They’d rather let the market determine if you’ll find and keep that job or not. If the market says it’s cheaper and suits a corporation’s bottom line to outsource what might have been your good job to China or India, well that’s just the way the free market works.
Did you hear, though, that Obama/Biden took bold and politically unpopular steps to bail out the auto industry? Unlike Romney and Ryan, they believed that government had a role in saving one of America’s most important industries. That commitment saved 1.414 million American jobs in the auto industry, in suppliers to the industry, in parts manufacturers, in mining, construction, and metal and metal-products industries not just in Michigan and Ohio but all across the country. In fact, you might be one of the lucky 1.414 million.
Finally, think about your health.
I know you’re feeling pretty invulnerable to health concerns at your age. But maybe you’re one of the 57.2 million Americans under the age of sixty-five with a pre-existing condition. Obama and the Democrats may have just saved your life when they passed the Affordable Care Act, which forbids insurance companies from denying you coverage because of your pre-existing condition.
Maybe you’ve recently developed a health problem so severe that you’ll need multiple operations. You’d be one of the 105 million Americans who will no longer face lifetime caps on health care benefits and who will now be able to have those operations. And Romney/Ryan? They’re committed to repealing the Affordable Care Act that will allow you to have those life-saving procedures and not be dropped from your insurance coverage.
And there’s even more you might want to consider.
Is there really no difference between the Republican and Democratic approaches to climate change? To who will be getting tax increases—the wealthy or the middle class? To the wisdom of resuming nuclear-weapon production? To diplomacy or military intervention? To regulating a financial industry that almost collapsed the world’s economy? To the safety of your food, air, and water?
Think about it.