Poll Progressive Publishes Op-Ed About Youth Turnout Ahead of 2022 Midterms
I once heard that voting is like taking the bus: you very rarely get from point A to point B in one straight shot. Instead, you take the ride that will get you closest to your destination.
As a 24-year-old political activist and advisor, I find myself repeating this expression often to fellow young voters who don’t think we’ve gone far enough in achieving progress over the last two years.
According to some projections, my demographic might turn out for this election in record numbers— 40%—but that seems astonishingly low given the fact that our future is at stake. That’s why, with the midterms fast approaching, I want to prove to my fellow young voters that Democrats have driven us closer to our destination than we ever thought was possible.
When it comes to clear victories for young people, the most tangible example is the cancellation of student debt. On Aug. 24, the Biden administration rolled out a plan that would cancel up to $10,000 for anyone making less than $125,000 a year. The policy would cancel an additional $10,000 for anyone who received a Pell Grant to go to college. According to the White House’s estimates, the policy will benefit 43 million borrowers, with up to 20 million people having all of their debt fully canceled.
For progressives like me, this move by the Biden administration was a huge win—even if there’s already less relief than was initially announced, which is disappointing. Nevertheless, in less than a decade, student debt cancellation has gone from a fringe idea to implementation by the president. This wouldn’t have happened if young voters hadn’t turned out in record numbers in 2020, and if we hadn’t spent years advocating, protesting, and electing progressive politicians like Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Another victory for young people was Biden’s move to pardon thousands of people who were imprisoned for simple marijuana possession and his order to begin the process of de-scheduling the drug down from its outrageous placement next to lethal drugs like heroin. Like student debt, cannabis legalization has seen a massive spike in support, due partly to the emerging political force of young voters. According to Gallup, which regularly polls this issue, support for marijuana legalization was barely above 30% in 2000; just two decades later, that support had climbed to 68%. Among respondents under 29, that number shot up to almost 80%.
The shift in opinion for legalization is a significant testament to the political power of young people. Consider this: as a senator, Joe Biden was a proud leader of the “tough on crime” laws that supercharged the drug war and caused our current mass incarceration crisis. Now, he’s moving to undo those very same laws. If we can convince that man to do a 180, what can’t we do?
Finally, it’s important that we acknowledge Democrats’ victories in the fight against climate change. Like many young people, I’m scared of the impacts of our country’s years of neglect towards our environment. Thankfully, the Inflation Reduction Act, which was created out of the ashes of the far more progressive Build Back Better Act (thanks for nothing, Joe Manchin), is the largest investment in climate action in the history of the United States. It contains $300 million for green energy, jobs, tech, and more. This is a revolutionary piece of legislation that will transform our economy and move us towards the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
“I could go on—Democrats also passed the first gun-control law in decades and are beginning to make some large corporations pay a fairer share—but you get the point.” Fellow young people: we need to show up and vote for Democrats up and down the ballot on Nov. 8 to protect the gains we’ve made over the last two years. We need to reject the cynical nihilism that claims the government “doesn’t work.” The government does work, but it’s up to us to decide if it’s working for the few or the many.
Since 2020, Democrats have done their best to steer the government in a more progressive direction. On Nov. 8, let’s vote to keep them in the driver’s seat.
This Op-Ed originally appeared in DigBoston on November 7th under the title "Dear Fellow Young Voters — Dems Have Had Our Backs. Now, Let's Have Theirs."