Editorial: The growing importance of America’s youth vote
It almost goes without saying that today’s young adults are entering a world of confusing change and seemingly near-constant political turmoil.
President Donald Trump and his administration seem to be guided by a philosophy that can be whittled down to tax cuts for the rich, stocking the federal court system with conservative judges and reversing as many Obama-era policies as possible.
A tidal wave of firearms — legal and illegal alike — have created a society where deadly mass shootings are not only abided, they are expected.
The yawning disparity between the wealthiest of America’s wealthy and the rest of the population — exacerbated shamelessly by Trump and congressional Republicans through their most recent tax cut and other policies — makes advancing from the ranks of the poor and working classes an increasingly if not impossibly heavy lift.
Fortunately, today’s youngest adults are, by all appearances, up to the challenge of stemming or even reversing some of these unfortunate trends.
The survivors of the horrific Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are but the most visible example of an emerging generation that is willing to stand up to entrenched interests, challenge outmoded thinking and target downright dangerous policies to make the case for positive change.
All over the nation, high school- and college-age men and women are taking to the streets to raise their voices against unfair immigration policies, gender and racial discrimination, the persistent scourge of gun violence, and the hate-filled views of white nationalists and other racist groups.
And as they become more politically aware, they are becoming more politically active. That’s good. Politics needs their infusion of optimism, energy and forward thinking as much as they need politics, ultimately, to change many of today’s societal maladies.
Perhaps nowhere are young voters poised to make their voices heard at the ballot box more loudly than in Pennsylvania.
As the Dispatch’s Logan Hullinger reported over the weekend, for the first time ever, young voters outnumber their older counterparts in the Keystone State. There are more than 2.1 million registered voters between 18 and 34 and just a little over 2 million 65 and older.
Closer to home, voters under 34 lag voters over 65 in York County by fewer than 1,000: 69,349 to 68,682.
That more young people are registering to vote is important; after all, they’re likely to endure the impact of state and federal legislation far longer than voters of preceding generations.
And like giving blood or patronizing the public library, voting is a habit that seems to take root most strongly when established at a young age. Today’s recent high school and college graduates, having registered to vote, are about to embark on a lifetime of public engagement and political involvement. There isn’t a ballot to spare.
Of course, registering is one thing, turning up on Election Day is something wholly different. Older voters continue to excel at dependably casting ballots. For their voices to have weight, young voters must follow through at polling stations.
Not that there isn’t a 600-pound incentive to get to the polls sitting smack in the middle of the political landscape. The presidents of both the York County Young Republicans and York County Young Democrats told Hullinger the single biggest driver of young voter enrollment is Trump.
CJ Weigle says the president energizes young Republicans and gets them interested in political issues. Shane Coolbaugh cites a lack of successful pushback against the policies of a chaotic administration for firing up young Democrats.
All of the above, likely. And all the more reason that young voters of all political stripes commit to casting ballots this fall.
As nascent voters flex their growing political muscle, the political powers-that-be will recognize that their views need to be respected and responded to. In that way, the emerging generation is poised — in York County, throughout Pennsylvania and across the nation — to be an engine for real, lasting and much-needed political change.
So, young voters, welcome to the world of electoral politics. Make your views known, make your voices heard and make your votes count.