A new generation of voters is coming of age in America and politicians ignore it at their peril. Generation Y (young people born between 1977 and 1995) is expected to be as large as the Baby Boomer generation, and when all are of voting age, could be as politically significant. Thus, to write them off politically is to risk someone else mobilizing a sleeping giant.
But Generation Y consistently votes at a much lower rate than older Americans and is generally ignored by politicians. In fact, only 37 percent of Americans 18-25 years old voted in the 2000 election. However, even with minimal turnout young Americans can have a great impact on American politics. In fact, elections have been won or lost because of who young people do or do not support. In the 1992 election Bill Clinton received 50 percent of Generation Y’s votes, giving him his largest victory in any age group. This fact may very well have put him in the White House.
Even at a depressed voting rate, Generation Y will constitute between 7 and 8 percent of the electorate in 2004 and will rival in size other “swing” groups. Ignoring young voices could be the downfall of candidates and might ultimately determine the final outcome of the election.
But it is easy as a young voter today to be apathetic about the political process. Students have little time to dedicate to their political education and those who do participate in what activities they can soon find that candidates pay little attention to their concerns. Such films as Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” also leave young people, both liberals and conservatives alike, with at least a feeling of disquiet and dissatisfaction with the democratic process.
But to withhold your vote is to give politicians permission to ignore the concerns of the future electorate of the nation. Showing up to the polls and making a difference in the outcome of political races gives Generation Y leverage for the future. By voting now you cast a vote for the future. And though you may not see immediate change in the laws and policies that make it difficult to pay for college, attain well-paying entry-level positions upon graduation and receive quality health care, by casting your vote you are working towards making things better. If you want these things some day, then in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”
The young voters of America have the numbers to be a powerful force for change. By casting your vote you express hope for the future, and according to Samuel Smiles, “hope is the companion of power, and the mother of success.” The accomplishment of great things begins with a little hope and a small thing like dropping a piece of paper in a box can change the world.