“But there is something else at stake: democracy itself. […] We must vote”.
In a speech given on November 2nd, President Joe Biden spoke regarding the Midterm elections. He mentioned the unsteady state of our democracy and implored citizens regardless of their political standing, to vote. “This is not about me.” he noted, “It’s about all of us. It’s about what makes America ‘America.’ It’s about the durability of our democracy”. At a time in history when democracy seems to be on the ballot, I couldn’t agree more with the president’s remarks.
Being born in 2003 makes me a member of generation Z. Gen Z is the next generation to step into congress, STEM fields, and the labor force in general, meaning that it is our responsibility to change the issues that we see in the United States. At various protests across the states, people have carried signs that read something along the lines of: “you’ve messed with the wrong generation”. This is not only true on the streets, as it has also proven to be true at the polls. According to an article by The Washington Post, young voters turned out in record numbers. In fact, “About 1 in 8 voters overall were under 30” in the recent midterms.
I was lucky enough to be a poll worker for the midterms this year and I saw firsthand, who came to vote. At my polling station alone, 15 members of gen Z were registered to vote the same day. It is important to note that my experience was biased because of the specificity and singularity of the occurrence. However, according to the data given in my political science class, this new wave of increased young voter turnout was consistent across the states .
I was originally asked to volunteer at the polls as a Spanish translator because of my bilingual ability, but I was placed in a majority english-speaking polling location, and did not need to offer my assistance. After returning home on election night, I began to consider demographics and race alongside age. Upon further research, I found that (unsurprisingly), “Gen Z eligible voters, who range in age from 18 to 23, are a more racially and ethnically diverse group than older generations.” This only further illustrates that generation Z is the most diverse and therefore has the most widely spread passion.
Even with all-time highs in voter turnout, only around 60% of eligible voters actually cast their ballot . As we head into unchartered waters as a country, democracy as we know it will be upended, and already has been. Some may argue that this is a good thing. Finally, challenging issues that have been deeply rooted in the history of our country since its beginning like racism, sexism, and gender equality are clearly all important as this country moves forward. Movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, along with passage of major bills like the same sex marriage bill being passed right now. Change has duality though, and these momentous wins have been countered with severe opposition as well, like misinformation, abortion rights being reversed, and the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol.
Facts and data mean nothing unless acted upon. These movements and events all beg the question of “so what?”, asking American citizens to act. In the past, this has come in the form of protests and news publications, but today, social media and gen z have completely changed the face of activism.
Platforms like TikTok and Instagram have enabled groups like GenZForChange to widely share information and drum up activism across the country. It is important to note the prevalence of misinformation in weaving this new fabric of modern America. Misinformation is not a new concept, but its presence in the media grew with the rise of former president Donald Trump and his election deniers. With platforms like twitter, Trump was able to quickly spread completely false and dangerous information regarding topics like the election and the covid-19 pandemic. In a speech President Biden gave on November 2nd, he said that “In this moment, we have to confront those lies with the truth. The very future of our nation depends on it”.
BibliographyAhmed, Hauwa. How the Biden Administration can Tackle America’s Voter Turnout Problem. Center for American Progress, 2021. ProQuest, https://ezproxysuf.flo.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/reports/how-biden-administration-can-tackle-americas/docview/2528064387/se-2. Barroso, Amanda. “Gen Z Eligible Voters Reflect the Growing Racial and Ethnic Diversity of U.S. Electorate.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 23 Sept. 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/09/23/gen-z-eligible-voters-reflect-the-growing-racial-and-ethnic-diversity-of-u-s-electorate/ Chery, Samantha. “Gen Z Announces Itself in Midterms with Democratic Boost, Historic Wins.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 11 Nov. 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/11/11/gen-z-midterms-2022-voting/ “President Biden Warns Democracy Is on the Ballot in Midterm Elections.” C-SPAN, 2 Nov. 2022, https://www.c-span.org/video/?524007-1%2Fpresident-biden-warns-democracy-ballot-midterm-elections  Suffolk University, POLS-H110, Christina Kulich, class data
While I am in agreeance with you that in recent election cycles, youth voter engagement has risen in comparison to past election cycles, the ‘record number’ metric only exists in a vacuum. Voting data from the 2022 midterm election has shown only 27 percent of eligible youth voters in America, between the ages of 18 to 29, cast a ballot, a four percent decline from the 2018 midterm election.
Just as you refuted your observation bias while working at your polling station on election day, I think it’s equally important to acknowledge that we sometimes inaccurately portray statistics within our writing, both consciously and unconsciously. I was also a little unclear on how you linked Gen Z diversity to widespread passion and wish you had expanded a little more on this assertion.
Towards the end of your blog post you stated that the United States democracy has been ‘upended’, I would argue that while progress has been made towards addressing systemic issues plaguing American Democracy, it has primarily been centered around simply raising awareness of issues. We have yet to see solutions implemented to address the systemic issues raised by movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. For example, police budgets still remain inflated and most states have not pursued allocating funds to address the underlying issues that drive people to commit crimes, such as poverty and homelessness.