Let's Talk About Voter Apathy
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Politics and Activism

Let's Talk About Voter Apathy

Zika virus isn't the only epidemic we should be fighting.

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Let's Talk About Voter Apathy
Cathy Cole

The 2016 election.

Just mentioning that phrase triggers eye-rolls and sighs of exasperation from Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. Why? Because it’s an absolute trainwreck.

Ask most of the Republicans at this school (and most places, really) who they wanted to win their primary, and it probably wouldn’t be Donald Trump. Ask our Democrat students and you’d see they’re none too cozy with Hillary Clinton, either. Between Trump’s embarrassingly insensitive remarks and the cloud of doubt surrounding Hillary’s emails, mysterious Goldman-Sachs speeches and DNC corruption, it seems neither candidate is what either party would prefer.

Many voters who feel as if they’re choosing between being poisoned or getting shot are flocking to Gary Johnson, who markets himself as the third-party alternative to the unhinged Trump and the corrupt Clinton. But even he has raised doubts about his competence in foreign policy when he admitted he had never heard of Aleppo, a large, war-torn city important to understanding the Syrian civil war.

Those who were previously feeling the Bern have considered the Green Party’s Jill Stein—but this is the same Jill Stein who panders to the scientifically delusional anti-vax crowd.

This all begs the question, if most of us don’t want any of these people to be president, how in the world did we get here? Because people don’t vote. Earlier last month, The New York Times published an article claiming only 9% of the country chose Trump and Clinton.

Nine percent of our country chose the two nominees that more than fifty percent of us hate.

Just how lazy are we as voters?

According to UC Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project:

  • 235.2 million eligible voters lived in this country in 2012.
  • Out of that 235.2 million, only 129 million people turned out to vote for Romney, Obama and others in November.
  • That’s a turnout of 54.85%.

I can guarantee you President Obama has made decisions that affect 100% of us, for better or for worse. Yet only a little over half of us even helped decide whether he should be in office. No part of that is acceptable.

That same voter apathy has followed us to the 2016 election and we are suffering for it. Only 57.6 million people (26% of eligible voters) voted in the primaries this year. Barely a fourth of voters.

Our primaries. The ones that elected Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as our major party nominees. I’ve seen a lot of anger put out by eligible voters—far more than 26% of them—over Donald’s controversial statements, Hillary and her Wall Street pandering and corruption and the overall disaster that this presidential race has become.

Friendships ended, violent rallies, blisteringly heated Facebook arguments—all of these paint a picture of a nation ripping itself apart in fury at the choices it’s been presented for its future. Very few eligible voters are happy with things, but when you ask them if they voted in the primaries, it’s “nah” 74% of the time.

How can we claim to be concerned for the future of our country if only a fourth of us show up to our own primaries? It seems we care enough to throw our opinions out online for endless retweets and shares but not enough to actually put down our phones, shut our laptops and go to our local polling place.

Where was our anger over the bombastically offensive Trump and the shady, possibly criminal Hillary while nine percent of our country decided they were entitled to the POTUS’ chair?

We don’t have the right to indignation over the wrong person getting elected if we’re not willing to take part in the democratic process. Our right to vote is something we should treasure and use at every opportunity—after all, why would you not want to have a say in how your country is run?

America was built by men and women who decided that what they wanted was worth fighting for, and transformed their passion into action. This November, let’s respect what they’ve built and show up to vote. Let’s not repeat the mistake we made this year in the primaries and past elections.

No, I don’t like Trump or Hillary either and I don’t agree with Gary or Jill on many things. But our inaction and lack of initiative has led us to these choices, and we don’t have the luxury of sitting back and not bothering to vote. Our future, our nation’s future, depends on it.

This November, we have to make a choice, regardless of how uncomfortable it is.

How can we remain the land of the free if we’re not home to the brave?

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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