Political participation shouldn’t end with midterm elections

The midterm elections have ended, the votes have been tabulated and the results are fairly clear: America is and will continue to be as divided as ever before. The end of single-party rule in D.C. will surely lead to more gridlock, and the partisan struggle between Democrats and Republicans shows no signs of abating. As a result, regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, there are things to be elated or enraged about in equal measure.

Young people, especially students, can find one bright spot after the midterm elections in seeing that the nation’s youth made their voices heard. Even though this year’s midterm elections are over, students should not let their guard down or give up the fight. Change is made by those who raise their voices, and even though the midterms are over, students across the nation should keep fighting for what they believe in.

GW is a very politically active campus. In the lead-up to this year’s midterms, students across the University participated in numerous get-out-the-vote efforts, tense protests at the Capitol Building and campaign trips across the country.

Both the GW College Democrats and College Republicans rolled up their sleeves to campaign for candidates and causes they believed in. They even wound up in the same district, Virginia’s 10th District, campaigning for dueling candidates. The Democratic candidate, Jennifer Wexton, ended up beating the Republican incumbent, Barbara Comstock, in what was one of the most closely-watched races of the cycle.

America saw the power of impassioned youth this election cycle. Exit polls from Tuesday’s election show that early voting among the 18 to 29 age bloc – one that usually sports absolutely abysmal turnout rates – was up 188 percent from 2014, totaling more than 3.3 million votes. Anticipating this youth involvement, many popular websites, apps and social media pitched in to try to get young voters to vote. Twitter, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube all implored users to get registered and turn out on Election Day. Snapchat alone registered as many as 400,000 new voters in key swing states like Georgia, Florida and Texas.

Perhaps one of the main reasons that the younger bloc of voters played more of a role this time around was the fact that more of the issues they care about are front and center. Topics like gun control, lowering the cost of college and minority and LGBTQ rights were salient this election cycle, and are issues that young people tend to care more about. The fact that young voters tend to vote Democratic – compounded with the fact that turnout for registered Democrats increased by 4.6 percent in the midterm elections – should not be overlooked, but it’s hardly the point.

Both sides of the political spectrum have both good things and bad to take away from these midterm elections. Nobody got everything that they wanted. And that’s why students need to keep pushing for the causes they believe in, even after the midterms.

One of the single most salient causes this cycle, gun control, provides a perfect example. Those who want gun control can find elation in the fact that more than two dozen candidates who were proponents of gun control were defeated by challengers who are gun control advocates. But those who don’t support gun control can look to the probable victories of pro-gun candidates in the Florida and Georgia gubernatorial races and be happy there are advocates for limited restrictions on firearms. Both sides of the gun debate still have a lot left to fight for in the pursuit of what they believe to be right.

Other issues, like LGBTQ rights, were present in Massachusetts. Voters had the opportunity to repeal a law that protects transgender individuals from discrimination in public spaces including bathrooms and locker rooms. A majority of voters voted to keep the law, with a projected majority of 68 percent. With an increased amount of LGBTQ representation in candidates, these bills and laws protecting minority communities will likely become more common.

Change is a two-way street. It’s easy to take a good election result as a win and become complacent. We can’t let that happen because there’s simply too much at stake. As seen in this election, the power of young people at the ballot box is formidable. But despite the importance of voting, we need to do more.

We need to keep speaking out and continue shaping the public debate around the policies that will change the nation we’re growing up in. Whether it is in the form of campaigning, phone banking or protesting, our political expression matters. We all need to stay passionate about what we care about, because activism translates into votes. The road to meaningful change – regardless of if you’re liberal, conservative or in between – is a long, arduous fight. And it’s one worth waging and winning.

Andrew Sugrue, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.