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Rock the vote

Joe Trombello | Monday, January 26, 2004

During Winter Break, gathered at a friend’s house over dinner, the conversation quickly turned to politics. She, a Stanford sophomore, told us of the circus-like atmosphere to which California had fallen as a result of the recent governor’s recall and spoke of her excitement at finally being able to vote as a Californian. She proudly mentioned how she, like so many other Palo Alto residents, bucked the state-wide trend to recall Gray Davis. Her vote meant something, even though she voted for a losing proposition, and she was excited at getting to do it.During a short break in the conversation, another friend quietly asked, “Guys, I’m sorry, but, what recall?” Polite laughter ensued – my friend, the loveable screw-up, smiled sheepishly. I laughed too, later finding this emotion replaced by one of slight sadness and even embarrassment.So much has been said about the political apathy in today’s youth. Eighteen- to 24-year-olds simply don’t care enough, or are too lazy, to get out and vote, the argument goes. College students would rather drink and watch sports than a political debate.It’s much sexier to send off that subscription in the mail for Maxim or Sports Illustrated than the voter’s registration card or an absentee ballot, more enjoyable to surf the Web in search of music downloads (perhaps, even, the new remixes of Dean’s “I have a scream” speech) than a candidate’s personal Web page. It’s fairly easy to understand why people refuse to vote. To some, politics is a complicated and frustrating game, too partisan and bitter. Candidates on both sides often seem flawed. College students especially seem pessimistic about government – we complain about the ineffectiveness of student government, for example, at how the administration seems nonchalant about our concerns, how little change actually gets accomplished. Why should we expect politics at the national level to mean something?That notion is false – or at least it should be so. Politics should matter to us, and politicians do get things done. It’s time to buck that stereotype about America’s youth. We should watch the evening news or read newspapers to keep informed of the campaign trail happenings (or to watch Dean’s latest concession/motivational speech). We should discuss issues and platforms with friends and faculty members alike. Above all, we should mark that ballot on election day (watch those hanging chads). We should realize that we’ve earned that right and are capable of fulfilling it.