8 Reasons Young People Should (Still) Get Involved with the 2020 Election
September 16th, 2020
Kate Griem and Sonia Chajet Wides contributed to this piece.
This November is crucial. I’m working with Teens Resist, a youth education & activism website, on an initiative to get young people involved in Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts for the 2020 election. We’re all-in on electing Joe Biden and other progressive candidates in November, but we realize that getting involved in electoral politics this year might not seem like a given. The following article is a version of a feature we’ve also published on Teens Resist -- making our case for why you (yes you) should be involved in the 2020 election.
If you don’t need convincing, head straight over to the initiative page on Teens Resist, where you’ll find resources, candidate bios, and a step-by-step plan for collaborative phonebanking.
But if you’re hesitating (or have friends or family who are), read on.
We’re with you - a lot of us are disappointed that Biden is the nominee (without discounting those who aren’t). Many of us fought hard to put someone nonwhite, someone non-male, someone younger, or someone more progressive on the ballot.
We’re also with you in thinking—really? We’re back to electoral politics? We just lived through a transformative spring and summer; the devastating and disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are only a few of the events that have illuminated the depth and breadth of the United States’ dysfunction. They showed how many of the systems that we have trusted and relied upon as agents of change are themselves corrupted and rigged against the vulnerable. The national reckoning that grew from this moment introduced many of us to alternative mediums for change—new vision, new anger and passion, new ideas—that are more radical and more exciting than we’ve seen before.
So...seriously? When politicians, again and again, have shown themselves incapable of creating the kind of fundamental and far-reaching change that’s called for, are we really back here again—asking people to please go vote, please—and for Biden & Harris?
We hear you.
And yet we still have to do it. Here’s why.
Maybe “electoral politics won’t save us” – but a Trump victory would destroy us faster than we could figure out how to save ourselves another way. A Trump victory would be so disastrous that (among MANY other consequences) it would impede our ability to focus on radical, long-term change. Instead, we’d be forced to commit all of our energy to knocking down the dangerous craziness he puts forward. If Biden wins, we can take a deep breath for a moment -- and get to work on the exciting stuff.
Biden’s getting better: Biden has been at the center of his party all of his life, but that party today would be unrecognizable to the Democratic party a few decades – or even a few years – ago. Biden has evolved – to the point that a vote for Biden is now a vote for the most progressive policy platform in the history of the Democratic Party. And his willingness to listen to the most progressive voices in his party suggests that he’ll keep evolving. There’s understandable disappointment with his position right now, but think about how far we could push him while he’s in office (and during the campaign).
It’s not just them! – Enough about Biden. If he’s not enough to motivate you, there are dozens of races around the country that feature young, female, BIPOC candidates that are much more progressive than our prospective POTUS. The outcomes of Senate and House races are as important, if not more so, than the race for the White House. Not to mention local races (if you want to defund the police…)!
The Cabinet: Biden’s administration is sure to represent a much more exciting and diverse array of people -- in terms of race, gender, age, and ideology -- than the Biden-Harris duo alone. We can’t emphasize enough that we’re not just electing Joe and Kamala, we’re electing an entire executive branch (and part of a judicial branch too).
SCOTUS: Some call it obscene that so many of our fundamental rights seem to rest on the livelihood of a tiny 87-year-old woman (RBG). We would agree. That being said, it’s a really important example of why electing Biden is so essential. Trump’s SCOTUS picks have been abysmal. Another 4 years of Trump would likely mean at least one more Supreme Court justice pick. Since Justices can stay on the court for life, Trump’s second-term choice(s) could alter the Supreme Court’s ideological makeup for decades.
Crises: Trump’s handling of the pandemic was absolutely (and perhaps intentionally) terrible. A competent president, even one whose policies you don’t 100% agree with, is necessary for a crisis like a pandemic. And speaking of crises, Joe Biden actually has a good climate plan, as compared to Trump’s “plan” of not believing that it even exists.
It’s not an “or,” it’s an “and.” No one’s telling you to drop everything and devote all of your blood, sweat and tears to electoral politics. The nice thing about campaigns, though, is that they’re particularly conducive to easy involvement. Phone banking is free, poses zero COVID risk, and it’s shaped like your schedule. So why not move the needle on these races even while you’re thinking and working on alternative modes for change?
Trump is evil. His destruction of the USPS for political gain while he callously sacrifices the lives of those who depend on the postal service for medicine and other necessities is one of the latest examples. But you need only search through the archives of the Internet to find countless others. We are even resistant to the language of “the lesser of two evils” for this election, because putting Trump in the same category as Biden under-emphasizes just how imminently dangerous he is. This election will change the course of history. We have to think about it tangibly, and not just intellectually. And…
The work does not end here and will never end here. As the incredible adrienne maree brown writes, “we are fighting over which employee will best suit the needs of an important job. it isn’t political home – we both have those outside of the electoral process, places and people to whom we feel accountable… electoral politics isn’t and shouldn’t be our political home. it is a commons of service, meant to be accountable to informed people who direct the values and policies of those we elect to deliver and construct service provisions like home, health, water, education… electoral strategy doesn’t include identifying ideological doppelgangers who will lose, or aren’t on the ticket, but assuage our sense of imperial complicity… it does include assigning our paid representatives to positions where they are hired to govern, which includes synthesizing amongst many possible distinctions and directions to find paths that allow the majority of people to survive and grow. political home, on the other hand, is a place where we ideate, practice and build futures we believe in, finding alignment with those we are in accountable relationships with, and growing that alignment through organizing and education.”
Cover photo, Los Angeles Times