By James Han, Managing Editor
Political activism and youth should go hand in hand. After all, the counter-culture of the 70’s came with waves of youth rallying against establishment policy. The 1930’s saw the rise of youth and radical ideas flying through college campuses. The Intercollegiate Socialist Society was founded in 1905 and became the League for Industrial Democracy, an organization that helped champion the ideas of socialism into the public sphere. While some view politics as an old man’s club, and to a significant degree it is today, youth can bring diversity and energy to the political table.
However, in today’s fast-paced world, that has started to become a tall order.
Voter fatigue has always been a problem for politicians. When ideas or issues become too present in media, voters become used to the problem instead of outraged or interested. When voters stop paying attention, politicians are able to slip little changes under the radar. Soon, those changes start to become more and more drastic, until those changes become the norm.
Funny enough, that trend is playing out today during President Donald Trump’s administration. Since President Donald Trump was sworn in, he’s been making significant change, and much of it has gone unnoticed or quickly forgotten. For example, he’s removed protections for transgender workers, blocked the Clean Power Plan, removed law that allowed consumers to file class-action lawsuits against financial companies, and reopened a ban on dumping mining waste into streams. To see a full list, the Washington Post has been keeping track here. That doesn’t include the headline making changes, such as allocating money for a border wall, pulling out of the Paris Climate Deal, ending outreach to Cuba, appointing Justice Neil Gorsuch, pulling out of the TPP, and opening gun purchases to those with mental illness. That also doesn’t include the scandal that the Trump administration has become synonymous with, including but not limited to: accidentally telling Russian ambassadors classified information, pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio, firing former FBI investigator James Comey in the Russia investigations, failing to immediately condemn Nazis, and remaining hesitant on the allegations of sexual assault in both the Trump campaign and by Senate candidate Judge Roy Moore.
Now, many of the scandals have faded from the news cycle and conversation, and the earth-shattering changes have become an almost daily part of reading news. That means that this has become normal, something that politicians can take advantage of.
The accessibility of news on social media and the internet means that it is constantly in our face, so we are relentlessly assaulted by news and scandal. We have become far too used to being outraged by a scandal or change for twenty minutes, and then moving onto the next scandal an hour later. When any of the previous scandals would have rocked the news cycles for months several presidents ago, now scandals stop being relevent because another scandal broke the next day.
Keeping up with scandal has become the work of essentially one demographic: journalists. Of course, while journalists are providing us with the news, they are also on the receiving end of constant attack from an administration which admonishes many of them as “fake news”. Journalists have always been an important source of information, but with their amazing capacity to cover news also comes our responsibility as citizens and constituents to read their work.
Youth comes into play now, more so than ever before. The gap between young citizens and seniors becomes more and more pronounced at a time when traditional print media becomes traded for social media and online news available at the tap of a finger. The youth that frequent social media and read online news need to pay attention. Youth cannot also just pay attention to the news for a day or a week and discard it. Instead, follow the Washington Post’s example and keep a list of major changes and scandal. Look to news that provides analysis as well as information, and take that news and truly process it. Follow opinions that differ from personal standpoints because that not only educates oneself about the issues but about fellow voters and their opinions. The way that voters become educated in the new age is not by moving on, but by hanging on with the energy and intelligence of constituents that want to make a meaningful difference.
Whether you agree with or vehemently oppose the Trump administration, the trend of an ignorant voter base that lives in echo chambers must come to an end. However, the ever-changing technology sphere and the rapid pace of this administration mean that without action those trends will only continue. It is imperative that an educated constituency emerge, led by youth. Youth must pay attention to the news onslaught for months and years because elections are decided not just by those that show up, but by voters with the knowledge and vigor to inspire others.