The outcome of the U.S. election feels deeply personal.
I am a 26-year-old Canadian woman with Lebanese roots, and the executive director of Apathy is Boring. Apathy is Boring is a youth-led, non-partisan, charitable organization, working on a national scale with a mission to engage youth as active and contributing citizens. Waking up the past few days to so many people questioning not only the institution but the purpose of democracy has thrown into sharp perspective the importance of the work I, and others across the continent, are doing.
In the United States, Rock the Vote does similar work to Apathy is Boring, and throughout this election I have been following them closely. Both of our organizations are faced with the daily challenge of getting the vote out in a non-partisan way at a time when the culture is so polarized and working through such systemic and institutional failures is an immense responsibility for our charitable organizations.
Voting does matter and we need to work collectively every day on these issues.
Based on the exit poll data, 50 per cent of youth in America voted in this election. Overall voter turnout was not much higher, estimated at 52 per cent. This might seem shocking - but unfortunately it follows the trend of previous elections. While there are many things to say about this election, I choose to focus on the data which shows that if it were up to young voters in America, the election outcomes would have been drastically different. My friends of all political stripes are angry, scared, desperately sad, and numb. Some are resorting to humour to cope, others taking to the streets.
As a young person and as a woman working in the political landscape, I wanted to see the first female president get elected on Tuesday night. History would finally play out. I was planning on having my feminist moment. Instead, I found myself in disbelief. As Lindy West simply said in the hours after the election, "We as a culture, do not take women seriously on a profound level." Despite everything I have been taught, what I have experienced and witnessed has shown me that this is true.
Watching the challenges of misogyny, sexism, racism, discrimination, poverty, and unemployment play out on centre stage in the United States has heightened the awareness that the same issues are still alive and well in our own country. Our relationship with indigenous peoples has a long way to go, women are still not represented equally in office, climate change is real and the Black Lives Matter movement has shined a light on systemic racism.
The impact that a prime minister or president can have on the issues we care about is more than immense. Voting does matter and we need to work collectively every day on these issues. In the last Canadian federal election, the youth vote rose to 57 per cent up from 38 per cent in 2011, we cannot take this for granted and the work cannot stop.
To quote Carolyn DeWitt from Rock the Vote USA:
"We will be getting up an hour earlier each day to urge investment in the tools, technology and content our country needs to mobilize the largest, most diverse generation of voters in American history. And we will recommit making our generation the most powerful force for political, cultural, social and economic progress this country has ever seen."
This couldn't be said any better -- and its application must be universal.
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