What is the difference between ignorance and apathy? I don’t know, and I don’t care.
All jokes aside, political participation in our country has been slipping away for decades. Presidential election turnout has fallen below 60% of eligible voters, and only 36.4 % cast their ballot in the 2014 Congressional election, the lowest in over 70 years. Even with the electoral college functioning at its best, there fails to be representation among even those who do vote.
It could be argued that a single vote cannot make a difference, yet, whether or not a person can is irrefutable. One vote may not do much against a thousand votes opposing it, but one voice can affect an entire community of people if it is speaking with reason, passion, and clarity.
If this is the case, just imagine the impact Vanguard students could make when committed to being informed and active.
It is much simpler to be apathetic about political issues. It is so easy to slip into the mindset that “someone else will do it,” or “I’m not a political person,” or even “no one will listen to me.” It appears that the modern day university has become a place where students generally do not have the time or effort to be informed. Avidly connected with social media, many young adults fail to find an outlet of viable information. Unfortunately, our Facebook feed, twitter trends, and snapchat stories do not suffice as a coherent, objective news source.
So how do Vanguard students feel about the upcoming elections? The first presidential primaries are occurring in the coming weeks, and there are mixed emotions on Vanguard’s campus. Some students shared that in the hectic college lifestyle, being aware of the 2016 presidential elections is not exactly a priority. “I’m not too aware of what’s going on because of life and school,” junior Matthew Richards shares, “It’s been hard for me to keep focus on it.” Similarly, senior Caitlin Leamon admits she knows “very little,” and adds “I know mostly Bernie Sanders. And some about Trump, but not in a positive light.”
Political engagement is often taught by family and social groups; these common forms of socialization influence if and to what degree youth will become involved. When asked to describe how the upcoming election made him feel, freshman Scott Maxwell said, “Nervous. I haven’t looked into it, but I know a little bit.” Even those who could play a decisive role in another’s political assimilation do not always do so. Sophomore Aubree Vanderhoeven’s mother is Canadian and not involved with U.S. politics. Therefore her daughter has understandably never been taught about what it means to be a engaged American. “Would I know if I were registered to vote?” Aubree inquired. “My parents never taught me.” In addition, she says, “I have a friend group that doesn’t really talk about politics.”
I am not bringing up these scenarios to oust or shame anyone involved. I respect the honesty these people have about their political awareness. I believe it is extremely important we all take this into consideration when we evaluate ourselves. However, I bring up these examples with a purpose in mind. Any one person who makes the effort to just broach the topic of politics with their friends, fellow students, or roommates can be making a difference. If the day ends and you did not help inform or motivate someone, let it be at no fault of your own.
This is not to suggest that Vanguard possesses no one avidly seeking political awareness. There are many on this campus who have devoted time and effort to being informed on current events and the nation’s upcoming election. It would be misleading to say no students reflected their want to stay informed. Freshman Psychology major Sylvanas Gounder shared his feelings about the election: “There’s not a lot of good candidates. The Republican side is a lot of bashing on each other rather than real issues.”
A lot of people feel like there are not any of good candidates, or that Trump and Clinton have such a lead their vote will never make a difference. Trump is not the only Republican candidate and Hillary Clinton is not the only Democrat. These are not the only parties you can vote for in this country (but that is a discussion for another day). Take the time to research, check sources, find information about each candidate, and I assure you there are more than 4 names on the ballot.
If you would like to vote in the California primary election, you will have to register by May 23rd. Voting will take place on June 7th. Any additional questions can be answered on the California Secretary of State website.
If you have questions about politics or have no idea on how to get involved, Vanguard University has its own political awareness club, the VU Forum, to help you get started. If you want to register to vote but do not know how, registry online is available, and the VU Forum will be hosting a voter registration drive out in front of the cafeteria in just a few weeks.
As President John F. Kennedy famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Luckily, when it comes to voting, doing something for your country is also doing a great deal for you. I urge you, vote, but vote informed. Do your research, find your match, and get out there. You could make a much greater difference than you know, Vanguard. If you let ideas such as “the government doesn’t work anyway” or “I don’t have the time” stop you, you are doing an injustice to yourself, and our nation. Do not let majorities, election techniques, or apathy weigh you down.
Forget the electoral college, it is time we start being the university electorate.