A fact that surprises me every four years is how low our nation’s youth turnout is on Election Day. You would never guess how indifferent the younger generations are after spending only a few minutes on social media. But for all the talk, trolling, threats, and outrage, our younger voters appear to be too disenfranchised to be bothered with the most fundamental duty of our republic. And I must admit, I have been a part of those statistics.
There are very few things that can compare to the excitement of your first election. In 2008, I stood in line with my fellow students at the University of Scranton, waiting with very little patience to cast my first vote. Scranton is a major part of the coal region in Northeastern Pennsylvania, so we understood the importance of our votes—at least as far as we were told.Regardless of who we voted for, there was electricity flowing through all of us. John McCain had visited the campus only a few weeks prior to the election, walking into the gym to the sound of hundreds of students chanting “Maverick” and the speakers blaring Europe’s “Final Countdown.” Regardless of who we voted for, there was electricity flowing through all of us.
The entire process was cathartic, giving a sense of weightlessness as soon as we cast our first ballot. My friends and I stayed up late to watch the results, and then the dorm fell into chaos as some celebrated and others ran around in feigned distress. Some students called their parents in celebration and others in panic, even considering changing their majors, fearing their desired profession might not exist after Inauguration Day. But the day after, nothing seemed to change; we woke up, went to class, played video games, watched hockey, and moved on.
Following the 2008 election, my interest in politics took a dive. I found no joy in the political process, primarily because I could not find adequate representation in any of our elected officials. While I was still trying to shape my personal worldview, a process that looks similar to one banging on sheet metal with a mallet, I realized that the mainstream views we are presented with were hijacked long ago.
By 2012, I did what I then considered my best to perform my civic duty. I drove around for 45 minutes, unable to locate my polling station. Whether intentional or otherwise, our political parties have done a fantastic job of weeding out the agnostic from the faithful.I gave up, went to the gym, the store, and then home to have dinner and watch hockey while occasionally flipping over to the news to see if Pennsylvania had been called yet. I simply had no interest in the results of an election that was a foregone conclusion and one I knew would not bring about any palpable change that I could support, regardless of the winner.
Being politically agnostic or, put more accurately, apathetic, is not at all uncommon; it is the final result of party politics. Whether intentional or otherwise, our political parties have done a fantastic job of weeding out the agnostic from the faithful. This has left us with the devout on either side, bickering over minutia, while the skeptical look in, afraid and, indeed, unable to offer an opinion.
By 2016, I had simply given up on any finding an American political identity. Despite this, however, I was still trying to define the tangle of thoughts and beliefs in my mind. I began to focus my attention on the political situation in Northern Ireland and what eventually led to the collapse of the Northern Irish Assembly. In my deep dive into Irish history, combined with my natural tendency to reject authority, I began to draw parallels between America’s own struggle for independence and the continued sectarian battles in Northern Ireland. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum.
“Have you heard of the Libertarian Party?” A simple question from a dear friend at work introduced me to libertarianism and its many faces. The perennial third party I once viewed as on the fringes of anarchy (a word I deeply misunderstood) became the gateway to a new way of viewing the world, and that tangled mess of ideas and beliefs was slowly straightened out.Even more surprising was the realization that I could disagree openly with both the Libertarian Party and independent libertarians. I was able to see how my personal views applied to such a philosophy. Even more surprising was the realization that I could disagree openly with both the Libertarian Party and independent libertarians. Instead of the traditional excommunication common among Republicans and Democrats, I was invited in further and welcomed to discuss my views and debate openly and civilly with others.
Limited government and restrained authority, free-market principles, non-interventionism, and the pursuit of peace, individual liberty, and a recognition of human worth and dignity—these were the principles I had been seeking. I have since come to reject our two major parties, seeing them now as two sides of the same obstinate coin. Instead, I have embraced the ideology of individual liberty and peace.
A New Civic Duty
Sitting on the outside and looking in at the current political landscape, I now find a measure of hope as Americans begin to reject mainstream politics and study the laws that allow such a system to pervade. Now is the moment in our history to reach out and help more Americans rediscover our liberty and the limitless possibilities within us.
I was once told to stick to my strengths; find what gifts I possess and bring them out, hone and polish them so they could be used to bring something positive to the world. Having written regularly since I was young, I took to my computer, telling little anecdotes that might make others laugh while also posing questions and pointing out the flaws of an overbearing government.
I have come to realize that all of us within the liberty movement, as a whole, have one of the strongest voices, and it is now time to speak up and reach out to the rest of the country. As Thomas Jefferson once said:
I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.
I reference this quote frequently, as I hold Jefferson’s words close to my heart. Ultimately, to bring about the positive change we wish to see and empower each individual to live their most prosperous and peaceful life, continued education is required. Liberty is for all people; we must bring forth its light and drive out the shadows that linger over us.