Op-ed: Let’s help keep youth politically engaged

Bernie or Hillary? It’s the question I’ve been hearing in person and online almost every day for the last couple of months. All over my Facebook newsfeed there are posts and pictures, memes and videos, comments and arguments about which candidate should be our democratic candidate.

And why is this relevant? It’s not because my newsfeed is very clearly “Berkeley liberal.” It’s because 95% of my newsfeed is people under the age of 30 and they’re ALL talking about politics. This is the most shocking aspect of this presidential election. The issues that these candidates are addressing: education, money in politics, etc. are issues that resonate with young people.

I recognize that living in Berkeley means my network may be more politically active, but even when Obama was running, I didn’t hear as many serious discussions about the issues he was bringing up. Conversations about Obama vs. Hillary were more about the hope that Obama promised to bring to Americans.

These conversations about Hillary vs. Bernie are about what each candidate will actually accomplish, how trustworthy they are, and what they believe in. Some friends say that Hillary is pushing the fact that she’s a woman too hard and that her campaign should focus more on how qualified she is. Some friends say Bernie is too radical to get anything accomplished. Bernie fans are getting called socialists and sexists and Hillary fans are being accused of sticking to the status quo.

Regardless of the fighting between the two groups, I am thrilled that “young people”, myself included, are engaging with politics and care enough to get excited and debate among themselves. I think it’s important to challenge our elected officials and ensure that they are actually representing the people.

If the youth begin to care about the issues and begin voting more, then our politicians will be representing more of their constituents. This is what democracy is about. We need to continue to encourage everyone, children included, to be civically engaged. We need to stop assuming that young people don’t care or don’t understand the issues and work to include everyone in the political process.

Let’s use this momentum to increase political involvement and make positive changes that represent all people in our democracy.

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Adena Ishii is the membership consultant for the League of Women Voters Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville, a South Berkeley resident, and a recent graduate of UC Berkeley.