Voting in a presidential election, especially today, is probably one of the most stressful things we come across as young adults. Reading endlessly on different candidates, listening to and watching debates, and hearing people argue over who’s better becomes exhausting. As a first-time voter, I’ve had some time to think about who I am voting for. While I clearly knew that Donald Trump was not the right candidate for me, I still had no choice but to vote for Joe Biden. Biden reflected more of my views, but it’s almost painful listening to him speak. It was even more painful to watch the debates between Trump and Biden because it was like watching two zebra finches go at each other. If you have never heard a zebra finch chirp, I beg you to look it up. Not only are the presidential candidates bad, but so is Congress. We constantly listen to old people bicker back and forth, while younger Representatives attempt to speak. These younger Representatives are looked at as inexperienced and aren’t respected in the same way. After watching the first presidential debate and realizing the issues our generation faces today, I’ve realized that the age to take office is too high, and it misrepresents the younger population of the United States.
As young people, we find comfort in each other because we all grew up in a similar world. We may have had different experiences, but we all share a commonality of being a young adult in America. If you look at our government today, how many people in office are closer to our age than our parents? Not many. We have “elected the oldest new president in history, and Congress, too, has been getting consistently older, with its average age now up around 60” (Vinik). So how do we, as 18 to mid-late 20-year-olds, expect to be fairly represented when our presidential candidates have just hit the ripe age of 74 and 77, and Congress has the average age of around 60?
Donald Trump and Joe Biden have gone back and forth for the past few weeks on why we should vote for them. While watching the first debate, I couldn’t help but laugh at the two old men in front of me. Trump constantly interrupted Biden and the moderator, which was unprofessional but matched his persona. His opponent though, while more professional, stuttered almost every other sentence. Yes, he was somewhat provoked by Trump’s interruptions, but I felt as if I was watching a movie from a scratched-up DVD. Both of our presidential candidates are very old, although the younger population generally favors Biden because of his democratic principles. The younger population of America favors the Democratic side over the Republican side, especially Millennial voters who “have had a Democratic tilt since they first entered adulthood” (“Trends in Party Affiliation among Demographic Groups.”).
This now brings up the issue of party lines. Many young people are voting in the current presidential election, but some have concerns about the “overall health of the American system of governance.” Only “37% believe the current two-party system works effectively, while 52% want to create ‘something that works better’” (Brewster). Party lines are an outdated practice in our government today that only withstand because of how old our politicians are. It creates the expectation that a candidate is supposed to take one side or the other and cannot float in between the two. Party lines create problems like unsure voters or people not voting at all.
The younger population of America is one of the most diverse populations. From race and ethnicity to gender and sexual orientation we embrace our differences, but the government does not represent this. Our legislators and representatives are becoming more diverse, but there is still a severe gap between the young and old. Some progressive laws have been passed in our lifetime like the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015. The problem here is that, yes these were progressive, but not progressive enough. Congress today does not take into consideration the same issues the young population of America cares about.
In today’s government we notice that since our law-makers are significantly older than us, they do not have the same experiences as us. Today we face increasing student loans and school shootings. Only “one in ten members of Congress are paying off student loans while four in ten young people are paying student loans” (Thompson). This is an issue because student loan debt is at an all-time high of “$1.5 trillion, making it the largest type of consumer debt outstanding other than mortgages” (“Student Loans: The Problem.”). Most legislators today went to college in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Around that time “it cost [a] student the modern equivalent of $17,410 to attend a private college and $7,900 to attend a public college — including tuition, fees, room, and board.” The number “increased to $26,050 and $9,800” in 1990. From the years 2000-2010, the cost of school increased at an alarmingly large percentage of 329% (Hess). This number is still increasing, but since our law-makers are not experiencing the debt from taking out loans, they do not care about this issue.
There is a glaring problem with school shootings in the United States today. The younger generation in America “are more likely to be killed with a gun than die in a car accident, yet the 115th Congress has yet to vote on a single bill to strengthen gun laws” (Thompson). Once again, since it does not affect Congress, they have not made the safety of the younger generation a priority. From 2009 to 2018 there have been 180 school shootings and 356 victims. CNN examined 10 years of school shootings “and found two sobering truths: School shootings are increasing, and no type of community is spared” (CNN). So why hasn’t this changed? It’s because our legislators have not experienced the same fear of walking into school, and wondering if they’re going to walk out alive like most of our generation has.
As a young group of Americans, we are not fairly represented in government. Although we have some young Representatives on our side, the age to take office is still set high. As a young voter, I found it hard to vote for a candidate who truly represented me. I decided to cast my vote based on what party I agreed with more, but I still believe that the parties are outdated just like the politicians in our government. We need more representation among young America because our future lies within the hands of people who grew up many years before us. Their experiences don’t add up to ours, and we are fighting different battles than they did 50 years ago. Let’s not go back in time and really ask the question: How old is too old?