This post originally appeared on PolicyMic on October 11, 2013
By Austin Estes, Manager of Online Engagement at Rock the Vote
Walking home from the King Street, Alexandria metro station the other night, I passed a chalkboard street menu bearing the words “Special Deal for Members of Congress: 2X Entire Bill.” This is no anomaly — signs like this are sprouting up all over. I admit they are funny, but there’s no denying the brewing frustration with our government. I mean, come on — Americans currently prefer cockroaches, potholes, toenail fungus, and hipsters to our current Congress (although Congress still trumps Miley Cyrus. Way to go, America. Good job.).
And yet I remain optimistic that our democracy will recover — even as #furloughbeards approach the tipping point of appropriate public hygiene.
In just a few weeks, Virginians will head to the polls to elect a new Governor, and much more. The impact of this election will be huge: as chief executive of the commonwealth, the Governor of Virginia will oversee policies and programs from healthcare, to education, to transportation. And the three lucky fellas vying for your vote are Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, and Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis (all listed in alphabetical order by last name to avoid preference).
But even if you haven’t been closely following this election, the timing of the Virginia gubernatorial could not be better. This is one of our country’s first major elections since the government shutdown, and the outcome could set a precedent for 2014.
Our democracy was constructed to respond to the will of the people, and when the public gets agitated, our leaders get nervous (and let’s be honest, we’re more than a little peeved). When we stand united, We the People have a voice — and given the state of politics these days, I think it’s about time we use it. Now, more than ever, we need to remember the importance of civic participation, and the consequences of a government that doesn’t act in the interest of the American people.
In times like these, young Americans are poised to motivate a substantial shift in the attitude of our elected officials — particularly in Virginia. Currently, young people between the ages of 18 and 30 make up 20% of the electorate. That’s one out of every five eligible voters. Right now, thousands of young people across the Commonwealth are registering their friends, knocking on doors, picking up phones. There is power in those numbers, and when we organize, our leaders get scared (Don’t believe me? Remember Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, KONY 2012, SOPA, The Human Rights Campaign … that list goes on).
All this is to say that we Millennials have power and, given the right spark, we can set the world on fire (credit to the band Fun. for that line).
Mission Impossible movies also come to mind. You know when Tom Cruise receives his assignment: “Your mission… should you choose to accept it ….” I admit (though it’s hard), I’m no Tom Cruise, but we Millennials have the tools to organize. We have a reason to rally. This is our spark. And the final step is to accept the mission at hand and take action.
So here’s your mission… should you choose to accept it.
1. Register to vote (Deadline is Tuesday, Oct 15th. Don’t procrastinate with this one. It takes five minutes)
No matter who you are or who you vote for, this fact remains: we will not have a voice in government unless we raise our voices now. The name of Virginia’s next governor is irrelevant if we don’t hold him accountable and pressure him to serve our interests. Regardless of political affiliation or campaign platform, we want to send the next governor into office with a clear mandate: don’t fuck around with Millennials.
Our government isn’t exactly working for us right now (or anyone for that matter). How about we change that? Register to vote by Tuesday and join me at the polls on November 5.