Young voters more flexible in a partisan world

 

My voting history has been quite the ride.

In 2000, at 18 years old, I voted for the very first time – for George W. Bush (grimace). I like to think that I knew no better. After all, I am from the strongly conservative state of Kansas, and even at the university, Republican values seemed to rule among my classmates. Wait – let’s face it. At this point, I had barely graduated from high school, and I suppose I was not exposed to the other political possibilities. All I knew is that Bush seemed like a nice guy, and he opposed abortion.

In 2004, it was quite a different story. As a registered independent, I was now a political rebel. I was gaga over Ralph Nader and the possibility for change. I hated the two party system, and I even convinced two of my friends to jump on the Nader wagon. This is about the time that I really concerned myself with the environmental movement, and I saw Nader as the only committed candidate to this cause. Needless to say, I was heartbroken to see that Bush won a second term. Perhaps even more so because I knew that a vote in Kansas for a non-Republican candidate has often meant a wasted vote.

It’s 2008, and it’s quite a different story once again. Tomorrow is the 2008 Kansas caucus, and I have decided to give up my independence so that I can vote for a Democratic candidate. And I’m not the only one flipping ship. I have read countless accounts of former Republicans going Democrat this time around, as well as accounts of independent voters registering with a party.

At first glance, I may seem like an erratic, unpredictable voter. But if you scratch the surface, there is so much more to my choices. It was a growing process. I went from one conservative extreme, as a Republican supporter, to the complete epitome of anti-government with no party affiliation, and back around to partisan politics by associating with what I like to call conservative leftism.

So what drew me back to partisan politics? Certainly not political parties. To its credit, the Democratic Party has done something that hasn’t been done in decades.

It has given us hope, no matter who we are. It has shown us that this country does not have to be ruled by a rich, white man. It has shown us that there is still hope to join the global community instead of continuing our old defeatist ways (as opposed to Bush’s Us vs. Them paradigm). And that’s refreshing.

The logic is simple. Not even Nader, with all of his big ideas, could bring the emotional movement that is present in just considering that we could be on the don of electing a black or female present for the first time in United States history. Think about it, we are getting further and further from those old sexist and racist paradigms with each generation, so it seems natural that candidates such as Clinton and Obama would appeal so much to 18 to 20-somethings. We are fed up with the status quo, and we want change.

My generation is much unlike generations that have come before us. We are open-minded, worldly individuals with humanitarian, environmental and ethical concerns. We are not so much concerned with reversing Roe vs. Wade as we are with curbing global warming. We are not as concerned with allowing concealed firearms as we are about changing the world (an inherently youthful trait, I suppose). We are becoming less and less concerned with the almighty dollar, and more concerned with what we can give up to assist others. We have quite the social conscience, perhaps because we are terrified of what lie ahead if we don’t.

I’m not completely satisfied to be registered in one party, but I am very satisfied about the possibilities I see with Clinton and Obama. Surely, if elected, either candidate will still conform to the business as usual paradigm that rules Washington, but I see both of these candidates as people who are willing to get back to what’s important for American citizens: things like healthcare, the environment and creating catalysts for peaceful worldwide alliances. Bonus: they are not old, rich white men with their pockets in the oil industry.

So I will give up my independence. I will conform in my quest to elect the most capable candidate for president. But I will not retreat. I will continue to fight for the things I believe in. And I have a feeling that many of my contemporaries will do the same.

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