Verbum Ultimum: Educated Action
On Feb. 9, New Hampshire voters will head to the polls for the first national primary of the 2016 election. Coming days after the Iowa caucus on Feb. 1, the New Hampshire primary draws the nation’s attention to the Granite State.
However, there is one section of the population that often chooses to remain at home on election day — young people. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, young adult voters between the ages of 18 and 24 have lagged behind all other age groups at the polls since 1962. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that fewer than half of all young adults who are eligible to vote will actually go to the polls for a presidential election. As the New Hampshire primary draws closer, we, as college students and young people, must take advantage of our constitutional right and vote.
The outcomes of elections could be very different if young people capitalized on this opportunity to have our voices heard. In a September 2015 interview with USA Today, College Republican National Committee chairman Alex Smith said that if nobody under the age of 30 voted Mitt Romney would have won the 2012 election. He noted, “That is how impactful our generation was in deciding a whole course of a presidential election.”
We have the ability to shift the nation’s political trajectory, whether we like it or not.
At Dartmouth, we have the privilege of getting to know candidates through multiple campaign stops to our campus and the surrounding area. Leading up to February’s primary, several presidential hopefuls have paid visits to Hanover. Last week alone, two Republican candidates and one Democrat made campaign stops on campus. Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Bernie Sanders each held events where they addressed hundreds of students and Upper Valley community members. Last fall, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke to more than 1,000 people in Spaulding Auditorium. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, addressed students in Alumni Hall on a campaign stop this term.
After each of these events, our Facebook newsfeeds often become congested with all kinds of “political selfies.” After all, who would know you hugged Hillary Clinton if you didn’t upload an Instagram, or a Facebook post, or at least add it to your Snapchat story? But when it comes to campaign events on campus, we shouldn’t be “doing it for the selfie.” Instead, we should be doing it to become more informed voters. Candidates’ visits to campus can broaden our perspective and push us to think critically about the issues facing our nation. While there’s no problem with snapping a quick picture, it shouldn’t be our primary reason for attending these events.
That being said, we shouldn’t decide who is most deserving of our vote based on a candidate’s one-time stop in Hanover. While such visits may help us learn more about a candidate’s policy positions, campaign events on campus aren’t a substitute for staying informed on a regular basis. By attending a politician’s address, we can better assess their personality and how they conduct themselves. To an extent, we can get past the sound bites and cut to what really matters. But, their performance at the podium must be taken with a grain of salt. Any candidate on campus boils down their ideas to give what is essentially a stump speech. In the coming weeks, regardless of whose campaign bus pulls into Hanover, we must be ready not only to listen, but also to question and ultimately, to learn.