This Tuesday, National Voter Registration Day comes around once again. This time last year, I took some time to harp on the civic necessity of voter registration; happily, and with that same sense of American urgency, I’m here to do it again.
I’ll spare you the lofty ideals of civic duty, political efficacy, the American privilege of participation in the future of our great nation and skip to the pragmatic part: Millennials represent a huge chunk of the electorate — or at least, they would, if they bothered to turn out. Of course, we’re not entirely to blame — we had higher turnout numbers in the last election cycle than other cycles of our recent political past, and had we been the only demographic to vote, Donald Trump would have been defeated by alarming margins. Thus, the young electorate possesses a pretty significant political power, and overwhelmingly seeks to support progressive causes. Our electorate could change this country with that power — if only it were willing to wield it.
Of course, politicians are nothing if not pragmatic, and they know as well as the rest of us that millennial turnout is often dismal. And as you can probably infer yourself, they’re not in the least incentivized to include millennial issues in their platform or use their offices to achieve millennial goals if they cannot rely on the payoff — i.e., if they act in our favor or run based on our interests, they still cannot be reasonably certain of winning your ballot — because they cannot be sure you will submit a ballot at all.
Low registration goes hand-in-hand with low turnout. Gerrymandering and economic burden aside, even the millennial voter registration of privileged upper- and middle-class communities is exceedingly disappointing. If we register in higher numbers on this day, and before the upcoming midterms, we will send a direct message to those carefully watching voter demographics and electoral strategy: In an era in which our college educations, our affordable health care, our post-grad job prospects, our civil and human rights and our future international affairs and capabilities are all on the line, the millennials are no longer laying down.
The absence of perfect political conditions is the nature of politics itself. If you refused to turn out in November because Bernie Sanders wasn’t on the ballot, perhaps the lovely Trump era has made you recognize how beautiful pragmatism can really be. This Tuesday, ensure you are registered. I’m sure Sanders will continue running around looking vaguely disheveled, endearingly shouting and endorsing anti-choice candidates in future cycles; let him rely on your vote. If you believe California’s heavy Democratic swing means your voice won’t count, change that by participating in local and state politics to a far greater degree. Don’t give in to conservative attrition in California — go fight that life-saving health care, or whatever else it is that makes your fists shake with self-righteousness. Let them rely on your vote.
Either way, whatever your cause is, it goes unheard if your vote is unreliable. If our registration numbers are still abysmal, and if politicians still cannot believe that working on behalf of your interests will be fruitful and reliable, your wishes will go ungranted. No one — no one — cares about the needs of the armchair activist or the apathetic non-voter. You’re not political? Chances are that at least part of your discipline’s field, your higher education, your family’s health care is federally subsidized or even partially funded. Politics is not only characterized by the idolization of one specific candidate or another, or the catharsis of shouting into the ether for your cause. Whether you see it as fickle, or you’re simply “not into that” — trust me, you are — you are deeply invested in more ways than one. The endless sea churns with or without you. And whether you choose to take the horse by the reins or leave your country to whichever way the wind blows, change will come, and it will affect you and the things you care about. Don’t be part of the idiocy of a “come what may” philosophy. Make sure that change is a change you wanted. Vote.
Lily Vaughan is a junior majoring in history and political science. Her column,“Playing Politics,” runs Fridays.