The Politics of Being a New Voter

Posted on September 28, 2012 in Henry's Head, Perspectives
By Andrew Henry

Constructing a political stance to cast a vote in an election is a task that every voter encounters. Such a task is paramount to new voters who haven’t had the opportunity to vote in anything, short of their high school’s “class superlatives.” A presidential election can be a mighty confusing area of politics for a new voter, especially when that voter is trying to formulate an opinion, and it can be tough to gauge just how reliable some information is against others in the media spectrum. As a new voter in a major election myself, having only previously voted in the gubernatorial election, I’m experiencing the aforementioned topics, and I’ve found a few things that help me get ready to place my vote.

One of the biggest mistakes I made early in my research to form a political stance, primarily during my middle school and early high school years, was to go straight to websites that leaned toward my preconceived notions of what a “Democrat” was, sites like Newsweek, CNN, etc. My early train of thought was as follows: “I support gay marriage, so I must be a Democrat. I guess I’ll just find out what Democrats like.” This is a good place to start, but this shouldn’t define your political opinion. I started doing investigation on exclusively Democratic topics, but I realized that I actually didn’t agree with all of them, therein helping me form a basis on what I liked and didn’t like in the political sphere. This is a good place to start, but it also helps enormously to check out websites that lean toward the opposite end of your personal political stance as well.

A challenge to this can be that we live in a time of such polarity in the political spectrum. Many opinions lean toward the extreme side of either party, and it is these opinions that can tarnish the the image of what it means to be a Republican or Democrat. The polar, more opinionated ends of the Republican and Democratic parties are the ones that get the controversial headlines and the viral videos, which misrepresent what the parties stand for as a whole.

Another thing that I find really helpful, even though it takes a bit more time, is to listen to and take apart the speeches that each incumbent makes at their respective convention. There are plenty of speeches to be made, some by celebrity endorsers, others by former presidents, but the most important speeches of the night are always the candidates. For the candidate running against the president, this speech is supposed to lay out the goals and visions of their envisioned four years as president. For the current commander in chief, the speech outlines the failures or successes of the past four years and long term goals for a second presidential term. I know that the speeches of this caliber already get picked over by the general public, but doing it yourself is great practice to help you quickly understand just what the candidates are saying. Being able to unscramble presidential speeches is like a political brain teaser of sorts. It’s a practice in analytical reading, which is something that college students do all the time.

The most important responsibility as a new voter, though, is to make your vote count. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you get out and actually vote. There is no excuse not to. I find it wildly ironic that the ones who don’t vote are often the ones who complain about the results the most (you know who you are). If you want the right to complain (which I would), then you better vote. I may not agree with the stance you voted for, but I’m happier that you voted for something as opposed to not voting at all.