Young people must vote

E ach new generation feels called upon to reform America, but because America is on the road to autocracy, the task of the generation 18 to 30 years of age is more daunting than that of their predecessors because it consists of preventing America from committing suicide as John Adams predicted.

You are disillusioned, which I fully understand. However, if you want a better nation, you must get involved in making it so; and the first act is to vote consistently in every election and, in turn, to open the understanding of everybody you know of the false and dangerous notion that your votes don't matter.

Some among you effect a smirking cynicism of sideline critics; but you must understand that this is a form of virulent plague among you that carries human degradation instead of wellness and progress. (Inspired by Robert Fulghum.)

We may be the last generations living in a democracy, faulty or not. At the pace radical right extremists, as opposed to Republicans, are driving the country, the next generations will be living in fascism, autocracy and slavery to corporate America. This is a clear and unequivocal acknowledgement of today's reality.

Totaling 67.3 million, your generation, the 18- to 30-year-old grouping, constitutes the largest component among America's voter-eligible populations. In comparison, there are 55 million citizens in the 65 and over category.

Tragically, you have not been exercising your civic responsibility -- your voting record has long been appalling. In 2022, only 23% of you voted, 52 million did not vote; only 28% voted in 2018 and only 23% voted in 2014. In 2022 in North Carolina and Virginia, 77% did not vote. (Source: April 2023 Circle, data aggregated by Catalist.)

For a stark comparison, consider the 52 million non-voting young people against the 112,000 who did vote and swung the Electoral College for the administration that took office in 2017 -- 112,000 is 0.2% of 52 million. This data point alone should convince you that every vote matters.

The poor and otherwise disadvantaged citizens among the lower echelons, especially descendants of America's slave class, as well as their children and grandchildren, so easily identifiable, will fare especially badly in the kind of autocracy that is evolving in the vacuum that has been created by self-disenfranchisement. The African Americans and women among the self-disenfranchisers must not feel a connection to their forebears who fought and died to gain for them the right to vote.

Justifiable pride in the achievements of our forebears can only exist as a consequence of factual knowledge of what they accomplished. This kind of pride is an empowering passion of the highest form. People who do not possess that sentiment will contribute nothing on which their descendants will be able to avow and formulate further progress. (From Jefferson.)

Although 52 million eligible voters ages 18-30 did not vote in 2022, 15.5 million did vote. One has to ask about the kinds of families, communities and schools of these youngsters who exercise their civic responsibility. Have they been told and shown that the only way to have the kind of nation that meets its responsibility to the citizens is to get involved in creating it -- before elections, at each election, and work after each election? Have they been told that the enemies of Democracy who are now bent on turning America into a fascist nation are empowered, aided and abetted when Americans do not vote? Have they been told that their votes really do matter?

If all of the citizens of voting age in America exercised their enfranchisement right and responsibility, fascism, autocracy, tyranny, brutal economic disparities, injustice and unfair laws would be impossible. However, Democracy is not only for elections, for politics or for a party name. Given the political leaning and demographic makeup of the 110 million non-voters, if they voted, Democracy would come to full power in politics, in government, in religion, in the media, in education and in all public and private interactions. The humblest and weakest persons would enjoy the highest civil, economic and social rights that the biggest and most powerful possess. (Inspired by A. Phillip Randolph, Whitman, Thoreau, Socrates, Plato, Fulgham and many others.)

Lloyd V. Hackley holds a doctoral degree in international relations. He lives in Boones Mill, Va., was chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff from 1981 to 1985 and is president and CEO of Hackley and Associates LLC.

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