When you live on the outskirts of our nation’s capital, it is easy to sense that history is writing itself around you. The striking all-white dome of the Capitol serves as the backdrop, the directors have chosen their cast, and the scene is set for a drama that unfolds in newspaper headlines, TV interviews, and bar conversations. But what is the driving narrative? What story will be told?
The media think they have us pegged: young people are frustrated about the shutdown; they’re angry about the rocky rollout of healthcare.gov; they’re disillusioned with the entire political process. According to U.S. News and World Report, more than 1-in-3 rising American electorate voters (which includes young people, women, and minorities) who voted in 2012 won’t return to the polls in 2014.
They’re trying to write history before it happens, and we can’t let them get away with it. Truth is, young people are angry, but we’re sure as hell not lazy.
Tuesday is Election Day and all eyes are on the Virginia gubernatorial race. Candidates Terry McAuliffe, Ken Cuccinelli, and Robert Sarvis represent a host of diverse ideals that each resonate with different groups across the Commonwealth. This race is no done deal, and the polls predict a tight race. Not to mention, the Virginia gubernatorial contest is the first competitive election since the government shutdown and the rocky rollout of healthcare.gov. Everyone is watching with bated breath to see how dysfunction in the neighboring capital will affect Virginia voting behavior.
One thing is for sure: young people will play a significant role in electing the next governor of Virginia. Over the course of his campaign, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe visited 23 community colleges and, in the past week alone, toured five college towns with former President Bill Clinton. Republican Ken Cuccinelli tipped his hat to the youth vote as well with a stop at Virginia’s Liberty University. And even Sarvis, the popular Libertarian candidate, has made his fair share of college stops over the past few months.
There’s little wonder each candidate is eyeing the youth vote: In 2012, 1.16 million young Virginians between the ages of 18 and 29 were eligible to vote. Of those, more than half participated in the 2012 election. Young people in Virginia have a loud voice and the 2013 candidates for governor know it.
The youth vote is a powerful weapon, but it is a weapon we must exercise. For too long, politicians have written off young people as disengaged, lazy, or ignorant. But they are wrong. As much as the media enjoy predicting election outcomes, history is written ex post facto, and nothing is certain until it happens. Young people are poised to take action in 2013 and reclaim their right to a representative voice in government. All we have to do is show up.
So let’s do it.
We have a vision here at Rock the Vote: a vision of widespread bipartisan youth participation in the 2013 Virginia election. Whoever bears the title of governor-elect on Wednesday – be it Cuccinelli, McAuliffe, or Sarvis – MUST know that young Virginians gave him that title. Let’s show up and hold our leaders accountable. Let’s make sure they don’t forget the youth.
In 2013, young people have a tight grip on history’s pen. We must hold our hands steady and craft the narrative that we want to see.
PS: Rock the Vote’s Election Center has all the info you need on when to vote, where to vote, who is on the ballot, and what ID you need to bring to the polls. Take a minute to review before you vote this afternoon.
PPS: If you’re a twitter fiend like me, give us a shout out from the polls with the hashtag #RocktheVote. And follow us at @RocktheVote.