Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Student Thoughts on the Election

Posted on November 12, 2016 in News
By USM Free Press

By Johnna Ossie, Free Press staff

The upcoming presidential election has many young people concerned about the future, not just for our country but for the global community. For generations, college students have been known to be the ones rallied behind progressive candidates and to come together in protest against injustices.  

Many in the Baby Boomer generation look at Millennials as lazy, apathetic and coddled compared to the supposed do-it-yourselfers that came before them. The Bernie Sanders campaign showed that a large portion America’s youth is determined, vocal and desperate for systematic change.

With Bernie Sanders out of the race, and major criticism against both major party political candidates, how can students decide who to vote for, or whether to vote at all? What are the major concerns among students regarding the upcoming election, and the future of country?

Last week’s visit to USM by Presidential Candidate Jill Stein was well attended, but many at the event were unsure if they would actually vote for Stein, and mainly seemed interested in hearing what she had to say. When Chair of the Maine Green Independent Party Asher Platts asked who would be voting Green in the upcoming election, only small number of audience members stood up.

USM is a community of varied backgrounds, lifestyles and age groups. As a largely commuter school, many students are nontraditional, perhaps going back to school after a period off or to pursue a second degree. These students may all have different ideas about what is the most important topic in the upcoming election.

In a poll of 45 USM students of varying majors, ages and genders, 22 people reported that they plan to vote for Hillary Clinton, 4 for Donald Trump and 4 for the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. None reported that they planned to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, despite her recent visit to campus, during which she focused on eliminating student debt.

The upcoming election could have major consequences for college students, especially Millennials, as they comprise the generation that will bear the future burden of any choices made by the next U.S. president.

Emma Donnelly, a sophomore majoring in women and gender studies and social work, said that one of her worries surrounding the election is that young people won’t vote. In The Free Press’ student survey, 9 out of 45 students polled said they don’t plan to vote.

“One of my biggest concerns is that millennials will not go out and vote,” Donnelly said. “Many of us are very outspoken on social media about political issues, but rarely go out and vote. We have so much potential to really change the future of this country…our activism needs to extend beyond the long, passionate posts on Facebook.”

It is true that young people, by numbers, could have a huge impact on the election. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2015 that the population of people born between 1982 and 2000 is 83.1 million, while Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, have a population of 75.4 million. Millennials have the capacity to largely sway the election results.

“It is incredibly important for students to care about the election. Our age group has more power than many would believe,” Donnelly said.  “We make up a large chunk of the population, and if we make our voices heard we can really make a difference.”

Pete Franzen of the USM Socialists is a graduate student in mental health counseling. He explained that one of the USM Socialists’ major concerns is that people will feel stuck in voting for the “lesser of two evils,” that is, that neither Trump nor Clinton appear to be viable candidates to many voters, but they choose to vote for whomever they feel to be not the best candidate, but the candidate who is not the worst.

“It is our opinion that lesser evil-ism leads to a situation where there is no genuine left alternative, and so that far right critiques are the only visible alternative the the status quo,” he said. “A lot of angry voters who don’t feel heard gravitate towards the far right because there is no organized left.”

The USM Socialists formally endorse Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein, and were seen tabling at her recent visit to USM, talking with students and audience members and handing out fliers explaining the concept of socialism to those unfamiliar or hoping to learn more. It is their hope that students and voters will look beyond a two party system for a third-party alternative.

“We do not think Stein will win the election,” Franzen said, “but we think support for Stein is valuable because it would increase the funding, visibility, and viability of an independent, anti-capitalist political party.”

Some students and voters, however, worry that a vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for Donald Trump. This was also the concern in Maine’s last two gubernatorial elections, where the Left vote was split between candidates Independent Eliot Cutler and Democrat Mike Michaud. In these two elections, the result was that Paul LePage was elected governor, despite only having 48.2 percent of the vote in 2014, and 37.6 percent of the vote in 2010. Bernie Sanders recently told his supporters, “Now is not the time for a protest vote.”

No matter who students plan to vote for, everyone should take the time to research the candidates, their platforms, and what’s at stake.

Any student who wishes to register to vote can fill out a registration card in the Student Center on National Voter Registration Day, which is Sept. 27, at City Hall in Portland or at the Town Clerk’s Office in Gorham (located at 75 South Street). Students who pay out-of-state tuition can register to vote in Maine using their campus address. The last day to fill out a mail-in ballot is Oct.18. Students can also register at their polling place on Election Day.

“We are the future of this country,” Donnelly said,  “and we cannot remain quiet.”