Politicians Foolish to Ignore Young Voters’ Electoral Power

by Daniel Cooper
Columnist

“They have lost the ability to govern. What happens is, I think the figures in Plymouth is, they have about 1,100, 1,200 registered voters. They go into these general elections and they’ll have 900 same-day registrations, which are the kids coming out of the school and basically doing what I did when I was a kid and foolish, voting as a liberal. You know, that’s what kids do, they have no life experience, they just vote their feelings. And they’re taking away the town’s ability to govern themselves, and it’s not fair.”

This was said by Republican William O’Brien, speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, at a church event.

So there you have it. According to New Hampshire’s Republican leadership, we’re students, we’re inexperienced, we’re liberal and we’re foolish. And moreover, we’re removing small cities’ ability to govern themselves with our “foolish liberalism.”

His justification for this statement was that students are disproportionately liberal because they have “no life experience” and that they just “vote their feelings.” So on the day of the election, liberal students come in with their liberal vote and swing the elections to the left, which leaves the “true citizens” who are conservative out in the cold.

What I take issue with is the speaker’s apparent disregard for a young individual’s ability to make sound decisions. This is a perspective that plagues our nation and prevents the next generation from taking the reins of leadership until it’s so deep in its predecessor’s establishment that it’s nigh impossible to make any real change of its own.

Look at it this way: At the age of 22, I have the potential to live in this city, state and country for another 60-plus years. That alone is motivation to make it a better place for myself and others.

And, maybe the fact that we don’t have as much “life experience” as you, Rep. O’Brien, gives us the freedom to think outside the confines of our established government when addressing problem issues for our country, and possibly the insight and innovative thinking to actually fix something.

In response to the accusation of being foolish, I think it foolish of any politician to ignore the power of young voters, especially in towns like these.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40.2 percent of students were members of the labor force in October 2008, and 38.5 percent were members of the labor force in 2009, a decline attributed to the falling economy.

As a full-time student who is part-time employed off campus and part-time employed on campus through the federal work-study program, I find myself in the situation in which other working students find themselves.

That is, we pay taxes in the city, county and state in which we work, yet we are expected to lie down and not vote for our representatives because we “have no life experience.”

This sounds oddly reminiscent of a story I heard back in 1776 when some guy named King George III taxed some American colonists without their representation. If I remember correctly, this led to a little skirmish between the two and the foundation of a fairly prominent country.

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has shown that a bachelor’s degree leads to a person’s increased likelihood of holding liberal views on controversial social issues than those who have attained only a high school diploma or less.

“Thirty-nine percent of people whose highest level of education was a bachelor’s degree supported same-sex marriage, compared with 25 percent with a high school diploma,” The Chronicle of Higher Education tells us in its summation of the institution’s survey. “The trend continued with advanced degrees: About 46 percent of people with master’s degrees supported same-sex marriage, as did 43 percent of people with Ph.D.’s.”

I will leave you with a quote from the ever-eloquent John Stuart Mill, as he says it better than I ever could.

“I never meant to say that conservatives are generally stupid,” Mill said. “I meant to say that stupid people are generally conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.”

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One Response to Politicians Foolish to Ignore Young Voters’ Electoral Power

  1. Elizabeth Addison says:

    Bravo, Daniel. When I got my bachelor’s from Transy in 1968, I went right to work for Eugene McCarthy and his antiwar platform. Now I still support peace and many other liberal causes, including same-sex marriage–perhaps because “liberty and justice for all” is at the base of these causes. We need the idealism of young people who have the energy to help these ideals come to be.

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