Young Democrats encourage students to stay informed

Lily Canfield, Maya Sinha, and myself are the presidents of the Young Democrats club
here on campus. It’s a really great time. Fun discussion. Let us know if you’re interested! But, in
light of this current election, probably the strangest and most divisive in the history of our
country’s elections, it’s hard to talk about politics without stepping on a lot of toes, across all
party lines. For the most part, it seems that you either hate her, you hate him, or you just really
hate them both (or maybe you like Gary Johnson?). The only thing that can really be seen as a
common thread between both parties at the moment is hatred. Bummer. So I’d like to take this
opportunity to talk about something besides this hate that seems to be permeating politics.
One of the pillars of groups like Young Democrats is the idea that it’s never too early to
be informed. I think it’s easy, at least for me, to forget that what the two parties are debating
actually will affect us and our families and our peers. The election season, specifically this
election season, all too quickly descends from true politics with policies and ideas that have real
effects on people and families across America and the world, to some sort of game where you
would do anything for a victory for your “team,” including taking down other Americans just to
get votes from insular, exclusive groups. Staying informed about what is really going on, instead
of just what is said on the screen, is one way to avoid losing sight of the personal side of
politics, and it helps you form your own opinions. You get to decide for yourself what you think
the best course of action is rather than listen to someone explain it to you in the way that best
makes their case (which, in regard to both parties, usually tends to mean bending and twisting
the truth).

I’ve heard a lot of people ask, “why should I care? I’m not old enough to vote.” Despite
that being very true, it’s hard to remain removed from the national conversation, even if you
can’t directly contribute to its outcome. From Facebook rants and an onslaught of memes to
discussions in class or at the dinner table, this election is really just unavoidable. You can run
but you can’t hide you guys.

I remember being in third grade in 2008 when Obama was running against John McCain,
and kids were talking about how, if Obama were to be elected, he was going to “ban hotdogs.”
Never before has there been a group of children as truly devastated as Ms. Friedrich’s class
when we found out that never again would we eat hotdogs. As it turns out, Barack Obama did
not ban hotdogs. We can still buy them in Turner. But the point is, even in the third grade,
people couldn’t help but talk about it. And no wonder, because it’s a big flipping deal! The
consequences of who is elected come November affect all of us. If hotdogs had been banned,
we all would have been affected. So even though yes, most of us are too young to vote, we are
not too young to talk. And if we are going to be talking, we might as well be talking deliberately
and speaking truthfully.

But then the question that this inevitably leads to is, why engage in divisive conversation
if conversation is all it is? Talk, if not paired with action, is just talk. And talk alone does nothing.
This is something that I’ve really struggled with myself. Apart from the obvious antidote, which
is turning that talk into action (which everyone should do by the way, visit Hillary Clinton’s
website for more ways to get involved, or Donald’s website I guess…if you’re into that kind of
thing), there’s not much of a way to get around the uselessness of just simple “talk.” But, so
much of this election, both on the national stage and in our own schools and homes, relies on
what can be boiled down to what is essentially just talk. I mean, watch the debates. That’s all it
is. And so, if we want this talk to matter, we have to not just talk, but listen. If conversations are
just a one-way street, neither person will learn anything. And by conversations, I don’t mean
one person saying what they want while the other person waits patiently to finally say what
they want. By conversations, I mean listening while another person talks and respecting what
they have to say, and truly taking it into account, even if it’s different from what you have to
say. Not to sound self-righteous, but I think most of us can agree that this is something America
could use a little more of these days.

Something that groups like both Young Conservatives and Young Democrats should be
focusing on is learning how to have these real conversations. I think that there’s a certain
responsibility that comes with operating clubs like these on campus. We need to make sure
that what we talk about as a group does not turn into bashing the people that think differently
than us. So, it’s important to know how to talk and engage in conversation, which also means
learning how to listen. In an ideal world, American politics would be this: people with different
opinions and beliefs coming together to deliberate on the best possible course of action that
would benefit the American people as effectively as possible, even if that means sacrificing
personal beliefs for the betterment of the whole. But for this to happen, we have got to listen
to each other, that can start at even the smallest, most basic level with groups like Young
Democrats and Young Conservatives.