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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Do more than vote

    Sam Feldmancolumnist
    Sam Feldman
    columnist

    Avi Feller has an amazing idea. He thinks you can make your friends go vote. The Yale senior was on Facebook one day and noticed how dense social networks can be and how much information can be spread simply through person-to-person interaction. If STDs can be spread this way, why not voting?

    Now he is studying how these social networks can be used to affect youth voting. After all, 27 million voting-eligible Americans are between the ages of 18 and 24. Of these, just 42 percent voted last year. Further, there are 73 million more Americans under 18 who cannot vote but need representation.

    With numbers like that, it’s clear the youth movement should play a crucial role in politics. But so far, most pundits agree that youth need to vote in order to play a role in politics. I disagree.

    Voting sure is a great start, but it is not enough. We need to do more than show up at

    If STDs can be spread this way, why not voting?

    the polls: We need to have a unique voice that is not a reaction to politics but a separate discussion entirely.

    Don’t misread me. I applaud the politically pretentious college students who participate in politics by pretending that the most abstract legislation affects our generation. You can argue over Social Security reform, but it is not the most pressing concern facing our generation.

    Here are the issues we need to care about: Today, 13.7 million young adults live without even basic health insurance. Our collective national student debt is over $414 billion dollars as of May 2006, and tuition at the UA has grown over three times the rate of inflation since the late 1970s.

    Or, how about concerns over the destruction of the environment we will be left with long after current political leaders are dead? And the growing disparities in socioeconomic status? That already affects everything from people’s level of education to America’s youngest being exposed to drugs.

    These are all organically grown youth issues, things we need to care about because they affect our everyday lives and threaten to permanently stunt the potential of our generation. Yet politicians ignore these issues, and youth are left without true representation.

    To put it simply, some of us are on our knees, working hard in the offices of the political elite, but they rarely address the issues we care about. A Harvard University study said the No. 1 reason youth report not voting is that politicians do not address youth issues. And there’s the issue: Voting and policy are inextricably linked.

    And this is where Feller’s amazing idea comes into play. Planning is already under way for a national conference to be held in January 2008 called “”Party for the Presidency.”” The purpose of the conference? To set and publicize a national youth agenda – and to demand that politicians listen this time.

    It’s a daunting task to plan and fundraise for, but Mobilize.org has some serious help.

    If you watched the 2003 Grammy Awards, then you know Maya Enista. She won a “”Rocking the Streets”” award presented onstage for her work as East Coast coordinator for Rock the Vote. “”I feel the youth voice is an untapped mass that is slowly understanding its importance in the larger political arena,”” said Enista, who proposed that, “”the 2004 election was just the start of an upward trend.””

    Now she is the chief operation officer for Mobilize.org, the not-for-profit youth mobilization group holding the conference.

    Mobilize has just 16 months to plan this conference, which will be held in New Hampshire directly before America’s first primary. And in an election where both the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries will be open, it is heating up to be a great environment for dialogue.

    So I have a challenge for you: Don’t wait until 2008. Get off your ass and start doing more than just voting and talking. Donate to Mobilize.org. Tell your friends to vote, and bother them as much as humanly possible. Go to www.govote.org and plug in your friends’ cell phone numbers to get them to register to vote.

    Do something, do anything. Just make sure that in November and in 2008 we vote to show politicians why they cannot ignore us.

    Sam Feldman is a junior majoring in political science and Spanish. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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