What were you doing at the age of 22? I was convincing myself that I still needed to be in college for another semester, thanks to my life-long debilitating fear of failure. You know what Mayor Pete Buttigieg, current Democratic candidate for president, was doing? He was participating in a political tour event for then-presidential candidate Congressman Dick Gephardt. Buttigieg asked Gephardt an intelligent question about how he planned to appeal to young voters. Sure, the question may have been a bit of a softball, but the video brings up an even more important question for me. Does Pete Buttigieg even age, like AT ALL? Okay, that’s not the only question. It also brings up the issue of attracting more young people to politics.
How do I look…in this voting booth?
Of course it’s superficial of me to care about what a presidential candidate looks like, either now or back in his Harvard days. But as I continue to find new wrinkles (between my shoulders and collarbone???? How in the–) Mayor Buttigieg seems to have defied Father Time. His face is a tad thinner, but overall, he doesn’t look much different a decade and a half later. But what’s really nice to see is that he is a person who has not just had a life-long interest in politics, but that he went further with it. Evidenced by his mayorship, he got involved. I’m hoping the national attention will help in attracting more young people like him to politics.
I hear many older folks lamenting that “kids these days” just don’t care about shaping their future. They point to statistics that show the lackluster voting percentages among people under 30. They aren’t wrong to be concerned, but I think there’s more going on here that we need to face as a society.
Have the kids always been this way?
Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way – how many people who are currently part of an older generation, can honestly say they cared about politics in their early twenties? There is census data that says that in 1972 almost half of people aged 18-24 voted in their presidential election. Just 24 years later, that percentage dropped to 32.4. That’s not an insignificant amount, to be sure. But that number in 1972 was still only HALF of eligible voters. Seems like this is a worsening trend, but also one that has been a problem for quite awhile.
Furthermore, how many of those voters in 1972 can honestly say they listened to all of the issues and voted as they truly believed? Or did they just vote for whoever their father/mother/influential adult was voting for? If I’m being honest, when I was that age, that’s exactly what I did, and I’m willing to bet I’m far from the only one with that experience.
They’ll get involved when you do
It is so easy, thanks to the internet, to broadcast disapproval of young people. (That applies to any group, but I want to focus on that demographic for now.) Every day, there’s a new article about how millennials are ruining the entire world. Besides that, young people are constantly told things like “the world will die in 20 years,” “There won’t be any Social Security for young folks,” “Everyone in Washington is corrupt!” Is it any wonder that young people choose to disengage? Is it any wonder that it’s easier for them to bury themselves in their smart phones rather than face global catastrophe, judgmental older generations, and crushing student debt they may never pay off?
Yes, young people need to get involved in politics, but older people need to get involved in younger people. To get back to Mayor Buttigieg, whether you approve of his platform or not, his age brings a lot of promise to the political arena. He is evidence that it is possible to get young voters, not just to the polls, but into office, making change and protecting their own futures. And I don’t mean blasting your adult kids with your political opinions, no matter which side each of you falls on. In fact, that’s probably the worst thing any of us could do. Try talking to them about how important voting and political activism is in general. If you’re honest and straightforward with them, they’ll get the message.
And once everyone is on board with attracting young people to politics, I’m still going to need to know if Mayor Buttigieg uses a special skin care line or something.