Von Monika Griefahn
For the second time within the space of only a few weeks the young generation has given away a victory to those they would normally reject. First, many neglected to go to the polls when the people of Britain voted in the Brexit referendum over whether the country should remain a member of the European Union and then couldn’t believe their eyes when the result came out. Later, in the United States presidential elections, young voters could have brought about a different result – had they voted. Among the millennials – those who are between the ages of 21 and 42 – a majority voted for Hillary Clinton. However, only half of young people turned out to cast their vote. The electoral map would look completely different if only the young had voted (Source: Survey Monkey).
It’s the second time that the „winner takes all“ electoral system in the US has given the victory to the Republican Party. In the 2000 presidential election the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, received a larger share of the popular vote than his Republican opponent, George W. Bush. However, he had less electoral votes than Bush and therefore lost an election that he should have won.
What does that tell us?
If people turn away from democracy and from the political institutions – or are simply too phlegmatic – we have to shout at them: fight for democracy! Fight for freedom, for freedom and a plurality of opinion, fight for future issues and don’t let those win who want to take us back to the 1950s! Because instead of freedom and democracy what we will have now are particularism, nationalism, more power for the arms lobby, more electricity from coal and an exit from the climate negotiations. Is that really in the interest of young people? Going out and demonstrating against climate change but not bothering to go out and vote won’t work. For decisions are made at the political level – it’s what the political institutions are there for.
It doesn’t make sense to attack those politicians who are making an effort, to weigh every word and to target shit storms at those who want to act. Instead, it’s important to get involved, to act and to try and solve things for one’s own future. It’s about not being opposed to everything but instead to be for certain things. That applies to every situation in life: work, school, institutions and also politics! And we need to show respect to those who get involved. Most of them do it because they want to change the world for the better and because they have goals for this planet.
When I see that the republicans are in the majority in the US House of Representatives as well as in the Senate, that Viktor Orban can govern unchecked, that Erdogan can advance his antidemocratic policies without any scruples, that the next French president may be Marine Le Pen or the next Dutch prime minister may be Geert Wilders I feel physically sick. Who is it that helps those people gain power? Yes, it is those who don’t get involved and only complain instead of actually doing something. It’s those who are phlegmatic and apolitical and those who cast their votes as a supposed form of protest without thinking.
So, dear readers: be interested. Be informed. Be involved. Take part in democratic processes. And think of your future. Accept the tedium of politics. Especially we Europeans have fought long and hard for democracy. We have been trying for centuries to improve the achievements enlightenment has given us. That is in great danger at the moment. Let’s not accept it.
About the US elections:
Find more information about the voting behaviour of the young generation here.
Find more information about non-voters here.
Find the graphic depiction of the election results of young voters here.