The older you get, the more you appreciate history, because you’ve lived through so much of it.
And in this year, history is being written in dynamic and unpredictable ways. So don’t blink or you might miss it.
Here in New Mexico, the tumult isn’t so obvious. We mostly live in small villages, towns and cities, and that’s not where the action is. Consistent with history, most of the really big changes are going on in the urban centers of our nation, and with the young.
Oh the wonder of modern technology, which is not only reshaping the way we work, play, worship and live, but is having an impact on our government and our elections too.
This is a year in which people are fed up with status-quo leadership. Whether the changes they seek will come to fruition remains to be seen, but either way I think this country will be different next year. Either we’ll have a new and unconventional national leader or people will be even more fed up, perhaps to the point of an all-out rebellion.
I’ve always been something of a political animal—first as an observer, then as an activist, and finally as a journalist. I can personally remember every presidential election going back to Richard Nixon’s first election, despite being too young to vote at the time.
I still recall my paper route in high school, when I would wrap my newspapers early each morning, blurry eyed and wishing I could go back to bed, and seeing the headlines about the Watergate scandal as it unfolded. Even then I recognized it as a significant event in our nation’s history, even though I wasn’t yet a voter.
I’ve always felt bad for not voting in 1976, when Jimmy Carter was elected. I was wandering around too much at the time to care enough to go through the hassle of an absentee ballot. That’s the only presidential election I’ve ever missed.
Four years later there was Ronald Reagan’s “revolution” and George H.W. Bush’s devolution, followed by the unlikely rise of Bill Clinton from my home state of Arkansas. By then I was a newspaper reporter and I still consider 1992 as one of the more important years of my personal history.
Next came George “Dubya” Bush, who was in office Sept. 11, 2001. So far, history has not been kind to him, largely because of his militaristic policies in the Middle East.
Now we have Barack Obama, who gave us a new chapter in history simply by being our first African-American president. It’s too soon to know how the breadth of his presidency will go down in history.
One thing is clear, though: Obama won election in 2008 in part by stirring up the hopes and dreams of the younger generations and getting them out to vote. This year, young voters could matter even more.
This year’s results may hinge on whether young voters turn out. The generation now entering the fray has a lot at stake—an imbalance of wealth and a rigged economy, crippling student loan debts, perpetual war and national insecurities; these and other issues mean a lot to the millennials who are hitting adulthood. Whether they’ll have an impact on the direction of this nation depends on whether they take the time to register and vote.
Maybe they won’t vote. Right now, candidate Bernie Sanders has huge support from the Millennial Generation, but he’s not likely to be on the general election ballot. These younger voters might become disillusioned as a result, and they might just stay home on Nov. 8.
I hope that doesn’t happen. Our democratic-republic is ill-served by low voter turnouts, and the perspective of younger voters is critical to our future.
If you want to vote in either the Democratic and Republican primaries in New Mexico, the deadline to register is May 10. And because of legislation passed this year in Santa Fe, if you’re age 17 now but will turn 18 before Nov. 8, you can vote—if you register in time.
I remember every presidential vote I cast, and I’ll bet you will too. So do it deliberately, putting some real thought into it. Then, even if you vote for a losing candidate, you can stand proud in the knowledge that you exercised your right to have a say.
Tom McDonald is editor of both the New Mexico Community News Exchange and the Roswell Daily Record. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.