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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Column: No one is too cool to vote

Ben Levin

Oct. 8, 2012

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

The political hipster is a well-known animal on campus. They float from class to class, generally unnoticed and disengaged from the political life around them. They are people who don't vote. The symptoms are subtle but, once known, unmistakable: the pained smiles as they dart around the voter registration tent. The ironic political identifier on Facebook. The tendency to interject, in any vaguely politicized conversation, an appeal to the simple and obvious fact both candidates are the exact same. Can’t you see the truth? Are you blind? They call opponents “lemmings” with frightening frequency. Reductive reasoning and gross generalization is, to them, an art form.

Don’t be one of those people. I’ve been obsessed with politics my entire life. I read the American Government 1100 textbook in ninth grade. I’ve knocked on doors until my knuckles bled and started campaigns about state budgets. Politics is hard and soul-sucking and often confusing. It’s confusing enough I can almost forgive college students for giving up, for looking at the whole mess and deciding it’s bullshit.

Almost! But not quite. Politics, for all the admittedly bullshit things about it, is important. If you’re reading this, you most likely go to MU. You are invested in this school — when it does well, you do well. Right now, our school is not doing well. Every year our budget is cut. Our Fine Arts Building is an embarrassment, and Lafferre Hall literally has holes in its walls. Our professors are paid the second-lowest average salary of any AAU institution. The departments of political science and economics share a single adviser, and she’s great, but she’s only one person. Our school, for all of its charm, is struggling.

The reason? Simply, a lack of politics. Too many students just don’t vote. Political hipsters think their arrogant disengagement shows a wise understanding of the futility of blah blah blah. What they’re actually doing is harming themselves by making their degree less valuable. In an effort to fight back against “the system,” they instead punch themselves in the face. When voter turnout among seniors is high and turnout among students is low, is it any surprise education faces cuts every year while Medicare goes untouched?

I speak now to you, political hipster: Don’t be that guy. Don’t be part of the problem. How, you ask? Well, the first step is acknowledging candidates have real, important differences between them. Go look at Dave Spence’s plan for higher education. Now go look at Jay Nixon’s. Look at what Teresa Hensley wants for MU, and compare that to Rep. Vicky Hartzler’s record. Get beyond the language (veteran tip: every politician ever will claim to support higher education), and look at what politicians have done in the past. Research takes time, but in the age of Google, it isn’t hard.

So, you’ve done the research. The next part is easier and a lot more fun: Vote! The deadline for voter registration is Oct. 10. As in, tomorrow. There’s a table sitting in the middle of the Student Center that’ll be open until 4 p.m. We play cool music. We give out free T-shirts like candy. We also have candy, which we give out like candy. I urge you to stop by and register to vote. Request me personally if you want — I’ll be there all day. The fate of higher education depends on students like you representing your interests at the state and national levels. No one is too cool to not participate in democracy. Not even you.

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