Columns, Opinion

RYAN: Don’t Sleep Through Midterms!

In just a few short weeks, midterms will be here. Most of us will be vastly underprepared and at least borderline apathetic. A dedicated few will stay up through the night; just a handful will obsessively check for the results. The best part? Aside from the millions of dollars spent in the process, these midterms won’t make a difference.

No, I’m not talking about your Grecian history midterm from hell. Our topic this week is the 2014 U.S. midterm elections. I’m going to explain why this year’s elections are utterly uninspiring and why you should still vote anyway.

Most political experts, like FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, can agree on two things. First, Republicans will keep the majority in the House, and second, because of this, none of the other federal elections matter.

For those interested, it looks like Republicans have a good chance of winning the majority in the Senate. According to Silver’s calculations, there is a 63.8 percent chance that this will happen. While it’s not a landslide, it’s nothing the Senate Democrats are looking forward to come January.

Other than the new business cards for Senate leadership, there wouldn’t be any real effect on Washington politics. U.S. President Barack Obama will still have the ability to veto anything the Republican Congress passes. It will just be another two years of gridlock and partisanship.

If this was the Land of Unicorns and Rainbows, this divided federal government might put aside their differences and work together to do what’s best for the American people. Then, we could all ride off into the sunset together, friendship bracelets and all. I don’t have any data to back this up, but I’m going to say the odds of this happening are pretty low.

In the final two years leading up to the 2016 presidential election, expect growing animosity between the two parties. Both Democrats and Republicans will receive criticism for the lack of productivity, but don’t hold your breath for any work getting done. The months leading up to a presidential election can be the most vicious in American politics. Republicans and Democrats will try to differentiate themselves as much as possible heading into Nov. 2016.

Now, I’ve just spent the last 350 words explaining why this midterm doesn’t matter. Of course, the logical conclusion would be, “Well gee, Sara. Since we should just expect more of the same, I don’t have to vote, right?”

That is where you are wrong, my dear reader. Regardless of a perceived election outcome, we should always make an effort to be informed and participating voters.

Every single U.S. citizen reading this should be registered to vote (unless you’re one of those super geniuses who came to college early and aren’t old enough yet)! You can either vote in your home district by absentee ballot or register here in Boston. It’s a little bit of work, but this is a civic right!

We have to pay taxes, serve jury duty and follow a bunch of laws most of us could live without. We do all of that, so we can have a say in who runs our government. It’d be silly to do all of the work and then not take advantage of the perks. That’s like having a Dunkin’ Donuts Perks card and not getting your free medium drink on your birthday!

Voting is an important right (and responsibility) that young people don’t take advantage of. On May 8, 2013, the Pew Research Center, also known as Statistics Mecca, reported that only 41 percent of 18 to 24 year olds voted in the 2012 presidential election. Compare this to the 65 and older age group, which saw a turnout of 71.9 percent.

I know that old people don’t have anything better to do than vote and play bridge (Love you, Grandma!), but they know what’s up. Do you know what the government spends most of its budget on each year? Go ahead. Guess. The answer is Social Security and Medicare. According to National Priorities, a website dedicated to making the U.S. federal budget comprehensible, the federal government will spend almost $2 trillion dollars on these two programs alone.

Is it a coincidence that the age group (65+) with the highest voter turnout also benefits from most of the government’s most expensive programs? It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what’s going on here.

Young people don’t vote, so our issues aren’t a priority. If our government doesn’t do anything for us, it doesn’t matter. We won’t vote them out. We won’t even show up at the polling place. You want education reform and more Pell Grants? You want to #420BlazeIt? Do you care about the environment you’re going to be living in for the next 60 years or the national debt you’ll be paying for in 10 years? Then register to vote.

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