In past years, I experienced political elections through the lens of SNL sketches and snippets of conversation at the dinner table. While Loomis Chaffee encourages learning and achieving one’s best self, I have found that living on the island has marooned me from most news that doesn’t circulate around the dining hall’s new layout. Social media allows for quick, efficient access to top news stories, but most of these articles are pre-chewed so I can easily digest world’s current affairs on my way to AP Lit.
The one area of current events that I never felt guilty for missing was the presidential elections. Seeing as I had no power over their results, I used a minimal amount of effort to comprehend the nation’s current governmental status. Unfortunately, I’m nearly an adult, and I have reached the age where my vote can mean something – and that thought is pretty terrifying.
This newfound responsibility/opportunity (what have you) of voting marks a huge milestone in the life of 17- and 18-year-olds across the country. Aside from the terrifying realization that in one year, an individual gains all sorts of new and powerful abilities, voting is extremely exciting. That being said, I asked Mr. Eric LaForest, director of the Norton Family Center for the Common Good, several of my questions to get a better understanding of this election as well as the voting process.
XP: “ Do you think voter apathy will be a major problem in the upcoming election? Going off this, what do you think of young individuals voting for Donald Trump as a joke?”
Mr. LaForest: “It’s hard to say. Millennials now make up the largest population in the country, so judging by their size, they may not feel that voting is pointless. At the same time, there is a certain cynicism about established political traditions and the fairness of our democratic process. [Apathetic voters] have a point, as voting seems less directly democratic with the power that corporations and certain individuals hold. When it comes to thinking about voting ironically for Trump, apathy is one thing, but irony is less understandable. Democracy is a joke until you don’t have it.”
XP: “ Do you have an expectations for the upcoming election?”
LaF: “The way politicians have used social media up to this point will seem quaint. Think of what Obama did in 2008—it was such a disruption then, but now it’s an assumption. I do think that Vermonter Bernie Sanders is making it possible for people to feel as if their lives matter, and other politicians will have to pay more attention to different groups as a result. The way his campaign responded to the #BlackLivesMatter protests reveals to me that traditional campaigns on both sides will need to react very quickly to the claims to power of new coalitions.
That said, I feel as if we are at a crossroads as a nation. On the one hand we are facing enormous campaign finance issues and on the other hand you have more and more kinds of people participating in our democratic process. I am curious to know who will be able to balance between those two futures.”
XP: “What should young voters use as criteria when choosing a candidate?”
LaF: “New voters should start by ranking what they care most about and researching the candidates to determine which ones line up with their views. And don’t just listen to the candidates’ rhetoric or watch their appearances on Colbert. Talk about politics with people who hold different political views, see what their thoughts are, and have your views challenged.”