By Jan Aguilos—
“Change Starts with U!” has been our Student Government’s motto for the 2012-2013 academic year and that motto has a word that has obvious ties with President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign – change.
But in the wake of the 2012 election results, we know more than ever that young voters are critical to political change. President Obama was re-elected just a month ago, and results are showing that voters under the age of 30, the youth vote, mattered more to his re-election this year than his election in 2008.
The Pew Research Center points out that Obama got 60 percent of voters ages 18 to 29, but he got edged out in voters age 30 and above 48 percent to Romney’s 50 percent. Remember that President Obama won both the under 30 vote and the 30 and older vote in 2008. Young voters saved Obama’s skin this recent election and he owes us more than ever.
We as young voters, those at NJCU and beyond, need to understand that they are more powerful than they’ve been told by cynical analysts who thought we’d sit this one out. We can swing elections for people, the numbers prove it.
In fact, it’s been widely recorded that Obama would have lost the four battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida if only people age 30 or older voted.
And that would have tipped the Electoral College vote towards Mitt Romney! (Remember that presidents are elected by Electoral College and not popular vote)
Yes, young voters who voted for Obama, he owes us. He has to listen to us now because we’ll be collecting our IOUs, and this is what he needs to do for young Americans:
• Push Congress to pass the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act, which would allow student loans to be discharged under bankruptcy laws
• Pressure Congress to pass the Student Loan Grace Period Extension Act, which would restore and extend the grace period before repayment begins on Federal Direct Stafford loans and Federal Unsubsidized Stafford loans
• Formulate a more compassionate immigration policy and actually lead in creating a pathway towards legalization for undocumented immigrants, especially those who are earning an education
• Protect public assistance from those who want to cut it, because working class and poor people need it to prevent abject poverty
But it won’t just take pressuring President Obama, it’ll also take pressuring his allies in Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives. After all, those at Congress are the ones who vote on bills before the President signs them into law. Nevertheless, it is the President who is the preeminent figure in government; it is Barack Obama who young Americans first think of when they think of a leader in Washington D.C.
Gone are those amorphous chants of “Change” and “Hope.” Young voters spent the last four years being stripped of those romantic notions that President Obama would fight on our behalf without us making demands.
Politicians are easier to contact today than they’ve ever been before: you can easily Google the phone numbers to their offices, and Obama and all politicians are hooked into social networking sites like their lives depend on them.
Reach out to those who determine policies affecting millions of people and tell them what’s up. You voted, your friends voted, and they should remember. Change really does start with us young voters, and any politician who doesn’t follow this advice will go the way of the dinosaurs – extinct.