A vote for political engagement

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Though it can be mentally draining trying to stay politically engaged these days, evidence of the rewards of community engagement on all levels is everywhere we look—most obviously in the U.S. with the recent midterm elections. 

Whether celebrating or lamenting the election results, media outlets representing various points on the political spectrum have all agreed on one thing: the youth vote and Gen Z were critical to the Democratic Party’s success in the recent U.S. midterm elections. 

Young people are commonly criticized for general apathy when it comes to politics, but—as the GOP learned this month—we should know better than to write off young voters.  

While a lot of us are chronically disengaged, it’s for no shortage of reasons. 

Today’s political culture is overwhelming and perpetually high stakes, which eventually leads to our dissociation as a natural defence against stress. It’s hard to blame anyone for wanting nothing to do with politics, even if democracy can’t function without our participation. 

Voter engagement is a problem at all levels, including student politics. The knowledge that democracy depends on voting isn’t enough anymore; we need to more effectively incentivize people to engage in social processes. 

The reality is, politicians lie—sometimes unintentionally—and while we should challenge this norm, it isn’t a good enough reason not to vote. 

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford is facing backlash for his proposal to develop the Green Belt—an area he promised to protect—to address the housing crisis. While the shortage of affordable and accessible housing is an urgent issue, we shouldn’t have to sacrifice protected land.

Higher density housing is the approach to take. Be it through apartments or other compact living spaces, building up tends to produce more affordable housing by allowing more people to be housed on less land. We don’t need million-dollar houses on huge lots along the Green Belt. 

When we see the Green Belt being threatened despite the Conservative’s promise to protect it, voting can seem pointless. However, these types of broken campaign promises should spur us into taking action rather than push us to disengage. 

Constant broken promises increase voter apathy, especially among young people who see their futures being toyed with by grey-haired politicians. With that said, we need to remember change is possible and that we aren’t powerless. 

For starters, voting isn’t the only form of activism. Advocacy is just as important and a way to hold our leaders to their word on issues that really count. If politics is about making promises, then activism is about making sure they’re kept. 

Democracy is about compromise. As frustrating as it can be not to see everything we want implemented, sometimes it takes more than the right candidate to manifest positive change.

For better political engagement, we need excellent journalism to help people follow political developments without distractions like bipartisanship, otherwise we can’t vote with clear knowledge of issues that affect us. People need to feel like they can read about and understand political issues to get and stay engaged.

However, even with every resource in place to inform voters, taking the initiative to seek out information ultimately falls on the individual. 

Social media, while deeply flawed, has proven itself over an over to be an effective tool for sharing information that reaches a lot of people. People already use Instagram and Twitter as news sources, and we shouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of them to address our apathy problem.

If social media makes it easier to engage with political issues, let’s embrace it. We can’t afford to be picky when it comes to political engagement. 

Whatever method it takes to reach people is worth investing in—even if it’s unorthodox.

—Journal Editorial Board

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