What It's Like When Your Parents Never Vote
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Politics and Activism

2020 Was The First Time Voting In A Presidential Election — For Me AND My Dad

2020 marked my first opportunity to vote in a presidential election. It felt amazing to be a first-time voter. It felt even better sharing my first-time voter experience with my dad.

2020 Was The First Time Voting In A Presidential Election — For Me AND My Dad
Rachel Reiniger

My dad had never voted prior to 2020. Yes, I said it. It's embarrassing but, in my opinion, his growth towards valuing civic responsibility is admirable.

Prior to the 2016 election, my dad avoided politics at all costs. He had a negative attitude towards politicians who he felt were all dirty, and, moving to Belgium in high school, he grew disassociated with American government.

When he came back to the states, he held on to his philosophy professor's advice to not vote. As his teacher put it, "I can't tell you who will win, but I can tell you who will lose… the American people."

The foreign notion of politics seemed to solely concern taxes and pointless arguments. Looking back on his "my vote doesn't matter" mantra, my dad feels embarrassed that he did not realize human rights were at stake.

He became increasingly concerned and passionate about American government during the 2016 election, as politics seeped into every sector of his life, including sports. Even so, my dad felt that there was virtually no way his vote mattered and there was no possible realm that the majority of Americans felt different than him on basic issues regarding human rights.

Well, obviously, he was shocked when he woke up to hear the 2016 election news.

And, from that point forward, the tension and passion grew stronger through the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19. Those events, in combination with the rising conflicts from 2016, left my dad feeling like he "no longer could remain silent."

I asked him if he thought coaching an all women's college tennis team (go NoVa) and having a wife and daughter impacted his decision to vote. To this, he responded "Of course. To see how threats of political interference can directly harm people's rights who live alongside you, who you coach every day, should affect your vote."

Beyond that, my dad is concerned with the rhetoric surrounding women in both elections, and wanted, "my son to have a leader that respects women, a president that speaks about women the way I expect my son to."

Although the past two elections have divided the American people more than ever before, the positive impact, my dad says, is voter turnout. "Having such a polarizing figure in office has encouraged your generation to vote and has gotten people like me to feel so strongly about topics I never educated myself on prior."

And, when looking back on his previous idea that ignorance is bliss in politics, he now feels that there is a certain point in which our ignorance becomes dangerous for the American people.

Although I wish my dad had voted prior to 2020, I think his efforts this election year are extremely admirable. I am proud of my dad. When I asked him what he would say to people who did not vote in 2020, he responded, "In today's climate, there's too much at stake. It's never too late to become more involved and vote next election!"

I wish more people, like my dad, were OK with changing their opinion in politics and voting in order to make tangible change.

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