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EDITORIAL: 'Young and naive' is no insult

York Dispatch

"Young and naive."

When 18-year-old climate advocate Rose Strauss questioned Scott Wagner about donations his campaign has received from the fossil-fuels industry, he told her she was "young and naive."

Scott Wagner is congratulated during an election party at Wyndham Garden York after it was announced that he won the Republican primary contest to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Bill Kalina photo

The exchange came during a town hall meeting the Republican gubernatorial candidate held July 18 in Montgomery County.

In a video, Wagner's comment drew laughs and applause from his audience, as did his follow-up quip.

"I appreciate you being here, but are we here to elect a governor or are we here to elect a scientist?" Wagner said.

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Wagner has had some trouble with science in the past. Last year, he tossed out the thought that climate change was caused by body heat or by the Earth moving closer to the sun. 

And his campaign has received $163,750 from the oil and gas industry — the fifth highest-donating industry to the campaign — according to Vote Smart, a nonprofit political watchdog organization. His opponent, Gov. Tom Wolf, has received $98,000 from the same industry, which makes it the 23rd highest-donating industry to his campaign, according to the organization.

So yes, maybe it is a little "young and naive" to ask Scott Wagner to address climate change. 

But even if Wagner doesn't know much about science, he does seem to do well with numbers. And in 2018, those numbers are skewing toward those "young and naive" voters.

In Pennsylvania, there are 2,127,575 registered voters between the ages of 18 and 34, outnumbering voters age 65 and older by 4.4 percent. And among those young voters, Democrats outnumber Republicans by 47.6 percent.

Those young, left-leaning voters are already veteran activists, with many of them having organized and participated in the many protests and demonstrations that have taken place throughout the country over the past 18 months, from the March for Women to the Climate March to the March for Our Lives. 

Maybe it is naive to think that ordinary people in large numbers can change the world. Maybe it is naive to believe that politicians will listen to individual voices if enough of them say the same thing. Maybe it is naive to ask elected representatives and executives to understand the science behind their policies.

Yes, Rose Strauss, an 18-year-old climate advocate, is young, and she is naive, naive enough to do research on politicians and expect them to be able to answer her questions instead of brushing her off.

But we as a society need those young, uncompromised voices speaking up to hold our leaders accountable for their actions. 

"Young and naive" is no insult. "Young and naive," along with smart and driven, is the future.