On May 2, 2022 a political bombshell dropped, shocking liberals and progressives alike. Familiar feelings of shock, fear, and hopelessness arose, feelings similar to when Donald Trump was elected in 2016, or when Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away at the end of 2020. This newest shock came from a leaked SCOTUS draft decision written byJustice Samuel Alito that ends the constitutional protection of abortion under Roe V. Wade and Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.
Immediately after Politico leaked the draft opinion, pro-choice groups sounded the alarms; individuals and publications pumped out articles and op-ed, protests were planned, donations filed in, and we saw the first steps of a new wave of a national reproductive rights movement.
When I, like many young people, saw the leaked news on Twitter, I was filled with sadness for what has become of our country. I thought about my friends who have had abortions, as well as my friends who have had pregnancy scares. As a cisgender man, I will never understand the weight of pregnancy and the ultimate decision of determining whether or not to end it. And as such, I leave that decision to the pregnant person and support them in any way I can. As we move into a post-Roe world, I can only imagine the fear that many feel as they maneuver through the world lacking the choice over their bodily autonomy.
I was also disappointed in the return of a common misconception in Democrat and Liberal politics that can be summed up by: “young people don’t vote and that is why this has happened”. Like clockwork, party insiders and political leaders on the left flooded social media, press, and airwaves with the idea that all of our issues stem from a lack of youth democratic participation, and how we should rally behind Democrat candidates in order to fix the issues we are facing.As a voting rights organizer who has dedicated my entire adult life to registering young people to vote, informing them on upcoming elections, processing their votes as a poll worker, training other poll workers, and personally counting votes for a presidential election, I can say with absolute certainty what we are seeing is not the fault of youth apathy but rather a system that does not support a true democracy.
In 2000, Vice President Al Gore was running against the heir to the Bush dynasty, George H.W. Bush. Many remember this election because of the infamousFlorida Recount that, ironically, ended with theSupreme Court decision to stop the recountand hand Bush the election. If you look past all of the “hanging chads” and “lost ballots”, we remember that although Al Gorelost the electoral college by 5 electoral votes, he won the popular vote by 543,835votes, almost the population ofWyoming. George H.W. Bush was the first president with a lower amount of popular votes elected since Benjamin Harrison in 1888. Sixteen years later, Donald J. Trump won the presidency while also losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2,868,686. As I write this at 24 years old, I have lived 12 years– half of my life– governed by a head of state that was not elected by the popular opinion of the country but rather through a loophole placed to keep Black people like me in chains.Yet still, I hear time and time again that we young people do not do enough.
Well the question I ask now is, what is enough?
We commonly misdirect our anger for a defunct system on the people that suffer under it the most. In the wake of historic voter turnout that elected one of the most diverse governments in this country's history, the opposition attackedLGBTQIA+ rights and representation,our community through racial prejudice in policing,unattainable affordability for most Americans, andapathy on forgiveness for student loans. And now, we are in the wake of losing essential reproductive healthcare. Many of these issues were thought to be secure after the 2020 election. But when liberals succeed electorally, the win is often met with the implementation of moderate policies that are not enough (I raise you the Affordable Care Act). When we request that our tax dollars be used for housing, healthcare, codified reproductive healthcare, community development, and loan forgiveness, we are told those goals are too lofty and unattainable and instead we are given war, increased police funding, and tax cuts.In the wake of all this, we still hear that this is happening because we did not do enough,
The question I ask now is,what is enough?
I am an optimist, but sometimes this ideology is hard to maintain. On the conservative side, I have a political machine deadset on erasing my history, my humanity, and my future; while the liberal side blames me for policies and decisions made by conservatives. Many young people pay the price for elections and policies that they were not old enough to vote for. If fighting for basic human rights and decency and holding politicians accountable to their promises is a political liability, then that means the systems meant to come out of our votes are not working.
It is time for us to ask the question: what election is going to liberate us? Because we have seen historic turnout and a historic rise in consciousness, but we still do not see the progress we need. The responsibility of mobilizing the vote lies in those that run for elected office, and in order to mobilize others, they need to fulfill their promises when elected. We need to ensure that elected officials create policies that pay dividends to the well being of the electorate. Not to mention that the trend of blaming voter apathy on issues caused by institutions like the electoral college and partisan gerrymandering will not inspire voter turnout.
Do not blame us for a lack of participation. Do not say we did not do enough. When that is said, we must ask the question back: