New Activism in the Voting Age

Peyton Guthrie

Lee-Davis High School senior, age 18

There is an outdated misconception that young people are uninterested and uninformed in regards to current events. While little good has come out of the furthering of the polarization of our political climate, it has proved not only that young people are listening to the world around them, but that they have something to say about it. This new activism was shown to be larger than hashtags and reposts when a record-breaking amount of young voters participated in the 2018 midterm election. Yet, despite our presence in the polls, and despite the widespread coverage of movements like March For Our Lives, young Americans are often still regarded as a novelty in politics.

If you know where to look, the passion of new American voters is abundant. Social media has curated breaking news and opinion-sharing into one community. It is now easier than ever to stay informed, and the ease of getting a message across to a large audience has created new digital grassroots movements; the power of which is evident in the size and political clout of movements like #MeToo. Political commentary and discourse now belong in the same spaces as our family photos, allowing for casual activism that young people have made a part of their daily lives. Mistaking the evolution of political involvement for a lack of such is creating a generational gap, reiterating the idea that young people are not politically engaged. If we are to meet young people where they are in this new space of activism, there would be greater unity within the party and greater representation of new perspectives.

The overlooking of digital politics sometimes leads to thought bubbles in which readers and activists are only exposed to one-sided issues, or even “fake news” stories, because mainstream politics is not maintaining its presence or news coverage on these new activist platforms. It has been the exposure to current events and information that has awakened such a drive for change in young voters; the greater care that is taken with appealing to digital audiences creates a greater number of informed voters. The dangers of misinformation on digital platforms is apparent in not just “fake news” stories and yellow journalism, but in the messages conveyed on platforms like Twitter by politicians. Political discourse has clearly moved towards the internet, making it imperative that information does the same to not only create voters but to keep them informed.

In listening to these young voices, there too is a place for older voters and activists to learn from the young. The social media platforms of Instagram and Twitter used by new activists are home to audiences of millions; this provides for a community to share your own thoughts and beliefs, but also to gain a new perspective. Digital activism allows for global thinking in our everyday lives, creating entire networks of people united around a cause. Stories from other users and from news outlets are constantly reinforcing the need for change, bringing forth a new passion in young people, especially as they reach the voting age.

The Hanover Democratic Committee is taking the steps to evolve with American voters. As the head of the new Hanover Young Democrats, I have made a place for the Hanover Democratic Committee in digital activism, giving a voice to the young and future voters of Hanover County. You can join us on Instagram @hanoveryoungdems to keep up with our monthly meetings.