Your Choice, Your Voice
Without taking a side one way or another, the MSL team encourages all of its readers to get out there and follow their local and national political races. In honor of the first U.S. Presidential debate between the Republican and Democratic candidates in the 2016 election cycle, here's a special message from MSL Co-Founder, Michael D. Johnson.
I’ve often described our student government association as a microcosm for national politics. The triumphs, the scandals, the projects, and the drama can be awfully similar to the spectacles unfolding on the world stage.
In my time as a member of the Marist College Student Government Association, I had the opportunity to not only witness, but be a part of some tremendous moments. Some were great, like winning my first race or pulling off a successful program. Others were more stressful, like an elections debacle that spawned a series of student protests or running through the rigor of my own campaign for the student body presidency. In most cases, however, the S.G.A. experience was shaded in odd, fluctuating hues that made it almost impossible to separate the good from the bad. Case and point, the tragic suicide of Rutgers’ student Tyler Clementi in the face of homophobic hazing inspired a showing of unity on our own campus, and led to the formation of the Marist College civility campaign.
It’s the people, not the politics that make these experiences so impactful. And yet, when election season rolls around, it’s often hard for us to look past the inundating combination of bureaucracy and theatrics to appreciate just how important our participation truly is.
For years, our S.G.A. struggled to get students out to the polls, even though casting your vote was as simple as clicking a link on the campus homepage. Democracy at your fingertips; students could exercise their right from the comfort of their homes without once encountering a perky S.G.A. pollster. And yet, overall participation continued to linger around a mere 15%.
When I finally found myself in the heat of a campus race for the highest seat within our organization, I was surprised at just how frustrating this component of the contest could truly be. Going door to door, visiting as many students on campus as I could squeeze in to the short campaign period, I came face to face with a tremendous amount of apathy and disinterest. Regardless of the enthusiasm I mustered, it made no impact; some folks just didn’t see the point.
That same year, our race was divided by a mere 80 some-odd votes out of approximately 1,600. Only 5% separated me from my opponent, and brought our contest to its close. More importantly, the final turnout represented a significant spike in our voter turnout, shattering all prior school records at a whopping 36%.
Our students realized that a few, organized voices can have a tremendous impact on our campus. The same is absolutely true for our country. It’s a reality we have to embrace not just every four years, but every year, as abstaining from races at the local and right up to Congressional levels is tantamount to sitting out quietly on the sidelines.
Never doubt the power of your choice. Never give up the influence in your own voice. Regardless of your interest in politics, take the time to find a candidate that speaks to your interests and beliefs. Most importantly, be sure to get out there and give him/her your support.
After all, we’ve each got something to share with the world. What better place to start?
The first U.S. Presidential Debate starts at 9PM Eastern, and will be streaming live on Twitter.