Two Eagle Millennials Weigh in on the Election
In November, many students on our campus will vote for the first time in a presidential election. Millennials, or people born between 1982 and 2000, now number 83.1 million. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials are more diverse than previous generations, with 44.2 percent representing a minority race or ethnic group. Young Americans will make up 21 percent of the eligible voting population, and their vote could make the difference in at least 10 states in the upcoming election.
Amber Bailey is a senior and president of the Young Democrats of Georgia chapter. She says the organization serves to educate, empower and provide a cohesive conduit for young voters. Bailey is from the small Georgia town of Sylvania and majors in international studies and political science.
James Parris is a senior and international studies major from the small town of Kathleen, Georgia. He identifies as a Libertarian and a moderate Republican. Parris says like many young Republicans, he leans more liberal on social issues like same-sex marriage and medical marijuana and is a conservative when it involves fiscal policies.
Both students agree that this year’s presidential campaign is unlike any other since the candidates from the top two political parties are viewed as unfavorable by so many voters. Bailey and Parris opened up to Georgia Southern magazine about their thoughts on the 2016 election.
Question: Do you think students on this campus have been engaged in the presidential campaign process?
Bailey: Their role in this year’s political engagement has varied. The candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have focused the spotlight on young people, issues important to them and how to achieve their goals in the political arena. The state of the political forum in this election has been abrasive, engaging young people in media coverage rather than policy and has even inspired some to opt out and not vote at all. However, we are hopeful that the level of engagement of actual policy across the board will take precedent.
Parris: I think students are engaged in the campaign, but only on the surface level as are most young voters. In the 18-24 age group, we are zealous about certain topics but can we speak about them in depth? Generally not. Students don’t talk about the issues surrounding the election. They discuss what they heard the candidates say in the past 24 hours and they talk about their most recently developed opinion of a candidate. The issues surrounding the election and the information required to properly and effectively discuss those topics are often absent from the conversation.
Question: Would you describe Georgia Southern as a conservative or liberal campus?
Parris: Compared to other campuses across the United States, Georgia Southern would generally be considered conservative to the extent that a college campus of young students would be described conservative.
Bailey: Having grown up in the Statesboro area, I would definitely say our campus is representative of conservative values. Our chapter is very hands on, especially when engaging new members and being politically active on campus. Finding individuals to engage with Young Dems who are passionate about being politically active on campus is definitely a task. Although, we take immense pride in the community within the organization. The longevity of our organization is reliant on the ability and openness to truly engage in political conversations, which is an example we set for both members of our organization and the student body at large.
Question: Do you believe Hillary Clinton can galvanize student voters the way Bernie Sanders appealed to them or the way President Obama did in his campaigns?
Bailey: It’s definitely possible, but I think if Clinton had Sanders on her ticket it would be easier for her to galvanize young voters and unite the party. Young voters, on average, tend to vote more leftist and Bernie would surely be more representative of that demographic. The election of Hillary Clinton would be a milestone for greater equality in women’s political representation. Change inspires some, where it strikes fear in others, so it will be interesting to see what comes of November. It wouldn’t surprise me if the campaign intentionally did not vet him as to maintain a somewhat more moderate platform to appeal to a broader range of voters and that’s just politics.
Question: What do you view as the most important issues facing millennials in the election?
Bailey: Wedge issues involving the LGBTQ community, Black Lives Matter movements, and drug policy reform are hot topics right now. The amplification of these issues is even louder during election cycles as to sway voters one way or another, but these policies have real consequences. It’s vital to ensure the protection of marginalized individuals in the United States, especially considering the infringement of fundamental human rights that could come from digressive policy. Arkansas is also proposing the most comprehensive legal system for medical marijuana in the South, while California will decide to legalize recreational use or not. Regardless of party affiliation, immense change will follow the results of the 2016 presidential election.
Parris: Obviously the state of the U.S. economy remains at the forefront for me and most of my peers. Preserving and improving our individual rights as citizens at the federal, state and local community levels are among our concerns right now as well. Overall though, reforming the conduct of operations in D.C. is our goal: real change. This generation will likely continue to push for a complete overhaul in the outdated, corporately funded, delegate controlled, two-party confined political system in which leaders are selected and decisions are made.
Question: Do you think the country is going in the right direction?
Parris: Yes it is. Everyone hears that question and automatically confines their answer to the present situation, when instead they often forget that the people in charge of the country right now are from previous generations and with each generation, Americans have utilized the inherent design of the American system to make our country progressively better. That has been true throughout our history. So, is the country perfect now? Absolutely not. Few people have delusions of this being a perfect country and it will not be a perfect country when our generation is in charge. Fortunately, each upcoming generation is more understanding and tolerant than the last, and if this direction continues to hold true for America, that’s a trend our generation will follow and it’s a good one.
— Sandra Bennett
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