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A Generation Decides: The Millennial Hunt For Meaning in Politics

When I look out my window, I see Walsh. I see the blue strobe lights on Saturday nights and sophomore girls piling into Ubers. In one particular window, I see what appear to be Post-It notes arranged into large letters that read “Trump 4 Prez.” While I hope my Trump-endorsing neighbors are joking, I can’t help but feel frustrated that it’s even a question.

For many of us freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, this is the first election we’ll be able to vote in. Voting is a rite of passage, the proverbial first privilege we get as adults. Having missed the 2012 election by just two weeks, I’ll be casting my first vote this November. Well, maybe.

For starters, I’m not very interested in politics. One of my least favorite things is listening to my peers argue about politics, especially during this election season. I find that these conversations often lead to intense frustration from both sides and rarely offer any valuable insight. So, being the conflict-avoidant person that I am, I rely on outside sources for my political education, which, too, proves ineffective.

Though college campuses are stereotypically politically charged centers, many students, including myself, gather their political knowledge primarily through social media. These quick bits of media commentary serve as sources for political opinions, which can be problematic. National coverage of the election, by nature, focuses on the negatives and fails to give candidates equal coverage. Consequently, it becomes easy for us to be apathetic when the media surrounding this election is so negative. I haven’t done extensive research, but what I hear on the news and read in the headlines is mostly gossip. I’d say the political coverage I’m exposed to is 95 percent Trump-related, and, with no intention of voting for him, I’m not learning anything valuable.

How are those who are politically challenged (like me) supposed to find the means to educate themselves and choose the best candidate? When I watch the debates or endorsement videos, I get lost in the ambiguous promises to create jobs, lower college tuition, defeat ISIS, and, perhaps the most ambiguous of all, “make America great again.” Especially during the primaries, these statements aren’t thoroughly backed with a plan, they’re just empty promises to gain initial support, which is both confusing and disheartening and makes ignoring the election far easier than engaging in it.

While presidential candidates are always mocked in the media, this time around, it’s especially bad. The 2016 presidential race is essentially a reality show. SNL is making a comedic comeback, as the political sketches basically write themselves. Tina Fey’s recent impersonation of Sarah Palin’s Trump endorsement was sadly identical, as much of the dialogue remained unchanged. Listening to Sarah Palin promise that Donald Trump is going to “kick ISIS’ ass” hardly offers comfort. In fact, it makes me greatly fear for the national security of this country if we’re relying on a former reality TV star to defend us from international terrorists. Palin’s original performance was begging for a satirical rewrite—”We’re not gonna chill, it’s time to drill, baby, drill!”

While I don’t know enough about politics, nor do I have the desire, to comment on the actual platforms of this year’s candidates, I can say that there isn’t one candidate that I don’t have a major problem with. I’m sure I’ll find myself frantically scanning platforms in the month preceding the election, desperately trying to find the lesser of two evils, which is a pretty depressing strategy when choosing a president.

Throughout my education I’ve learned it’s my duty and greatest privilege as an American to vote. I’m a firm believer, however, that someone shouldn’t vote without having done due diligence in choosing her candidate. So, I find myself in a catch-22, as I’m unsure how to gather solid information in this joke of a political race, but need to educate myself before November.

And I suspect I’m not the only college student that feels this way. In September, USA Today reported that national polls were anticipating a low voter turnout for 18- to 24-year-olds in the 2016 presidential election. As this age group already has a lower voter turn out, this is troubling. Even though I know I need to vote, I’m honestly not sure I’ll make it to the polls. Between submitting an absentee ballot and being lost somewhere between the Trumpeters and “feelin’ the Bern,” I have a lot to accomplish before November. But until then, I’ll sit and silently judge my neighbors. #Trump4Prez.

Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor

January 31, 2016