After overwhelmingly voting for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by a margin of almost 2-1, the Golden State has now become the Blue State. But in anticipation of a Trump presidency, California quickly organized itself and reassured its residents that it would be a bulwark against perceived threats to justice, opportunity and progress. For example, California has signaled to international leaders that it will take the lead on combating climate change despite Trump’s skepticism on the topic, and Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled plans to continue to reduce emissions in his inaugural address last year. More recently, the California legislature hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to advise the state in legal disputes with the Trump administration this month.
The California government is therefore clearly braced to oppose the incoming president. Considering the absence of issues such as student debt in the Republican platform and President-elect Donald Trump’s stance against climate change, which almost half of millennials consider the top global challenge, it’s not surprising that only 37 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds cast their ballot for the President-elect. With so many millennials opposed to a Trump presidency, the question now becomes whether USC students will follow their state’s progressive lead and resist the harmful actions to which the incoming administration appears committed. Protests on USC’s campus have been scheduled for Inauguration Day, and while sit-ins and walkouts do have value, they are not enough. Pressure on elected officials cannot stop there or be isolated to the confines of the University.
California’s already-progressive politics and its guarantee to protect these policies run the risk of discouraging the state millennials from joining the cause. It becomes easy to rely on state leaders to win these battles. But fighting against climate change and for equality requires more than just legislators or bureaucrats — it requires action from all of us.
Students should act on their political beliefs in their home states as well as on campus in order to make a difference. Such activism requires that students get involved in whatever capacity they can to advance progressive causes and enact positive change. When they graduate or are home on vacation, students can volunteer with local nonprofits, hold fundraisers for progressive causes, canvass for political campaigns, sign and share petitions, attend city council meetings and most importantly, vote in local, state and national elections.
The forces of complacency and diffusion of responsibility will be strong. In a country with so many people and problems, it becomes easy to distance oneself from politics and become disheartened and disengaged. But we’ve already seen the consequences of this attitude in the midterm elections in 2012, when only 46 percent of eligible millennials voted. We saw it again in 2016, when the millennial share of the vote shrank from 26 percent to 15 percent in Arizona.
As America’s largest generation enters the workforce, millennials all hold a stake in the future of the United States. So let’s make a belated New Year’s resolution for ourselves and for our campus: Despite the leadership of California’s elected officials, we will resolve to continue to stand up for our rights, whether that be in our own backyard or across the country, and we will resist the temptation to sit down when progress stalls and our nation’s challenges seem too overwhelming.
This presidency requires more than couch-side politics and posts on Facebook. Activism requires time, energy and dedication and will come with moments of hopelessness, pain and frustration. But the stakes are too high for us to stand on the sidelines.