Younger voters enthused by the younger crop of politicians


New York Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (left) and former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg (right) are among the newer, more vibrant crop of politicians that are getting younger people more involved in politics.

The 2020 presidential election was unlike any other. More young Americans than ever voted, and even those who were too young to vote got involved on social media. Voter turnout skyrocketed this year, and young people truly made their demographic heard.

While the presidency was the biggest prize up for grabs, control over the Senate and the House of Representatives also drew a lot of attention, and many early presidential candidates have made quite the impact as well. Many politicians have gained a following this election season who resonate greatly with the younger population, including many students at Olympic Heights.

One such politician is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg. Buttigieg was mayor of South Bend from 2012 to 2020. He was an intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserve from 2009 to 2017. Before his political career, Buttigieg studied at Oxford and got his Bachelor’s degree at Harvard, and he worked as a civilian contractor between 2007 and 2010.  

Buttigieg’s supporters like that he relates to their generation. If he had been elected, Buttigieg would have become the first openly gay president in U.S. history. He and his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, are strong activists for LGBTQ+ rights, which strikes a chord with many young Americans. They want to see themselves represented in government, and they find Pete Buttigieg relatable. 

His run for president may have fallen short when he dropped out of the race and endorsed now-president-elect Joe Biden, but Buttigieg gained quite a following which will help him in his future political endeavors. In fact, OH senior Yael Hamaoui thinks Buttigieg was a genius for running when he did.

“A mayor usually doesn’t get put on a national stage, so he was never going to win the primary,” explained Hamaoui. “But now, he’s set himself up for a future run for president or some other high ranking position nationally.”

Jaime Harrison, former chairperson of the South Carolina and a current associate chairperson of the Democratic national Committee, is another politician who made waves this election season. Harrison, an African-American, ran for a South Carolina U.S. Senate seat against three-term incumbent Lindsey Graham. While he came up just short in his attempt to unseat Graham, Harrison’s run was huge for the South. 

Harrison focused greatly on the registration of black voters, and he aimed to flip voters who were tired of Graham’s mixed opinions about President Donald Trump. His campaign raised tens of millions of dollars and gained national recognition, which showed Democrats that there were many possibilities for the South in the future.

Harrison’s campaign unexpectedly turned South Carolina into a major Senate battleground state this year. Many Americans believe he has certainly set himself up for a successful political future on the national stage.

Another politician who has gained popularity among young people is Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Harris made history the moment Biden chose her for his running mate. Harris is not only the first woman to be elected vice president, she will also be the first person of color and of Asian heritage to hold the office. 

Young voters liked Harris’s determination in getting to work on combating the COVID-19 pandemic. Her criticism of outgoing Vice President Mike Pence’s action on the Coronavirus Task Force received strong support. Additionally, she showed Pence that she doesn’t mess around during the Vice Presidential debate, especially with her iconic retort of “I’m speaking” everytime Pence tried to interrupt her.

Some young Americans are excited to see a continuation of diversity in the White House after former president Barack Obama served. OH senior Austin Friedenburg explained, “[Obama’s presidency] gave young Americans hope that regardless of their skin color, background, or political views, they could serve in office, too.”

Harris has this impact, especially on young black women and girls. Her accomplishments and her winning the election with Biden served as a precedent to them, sending the message that any woman of any color can achieve great things.

Finally, a politician who has become extremely popular among young Americans this year is Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, better known as AOC. AOC is the representative for New York’s 14th congressional district. She may not have run for president, but AOC gained quite a large following of young people this election season.

AOC is known for being a strong feminist who is unafraid to stand up for all women. Her confidence and intelligence has shaken Congress. Republican Congressperson Ted Yoho is one of many threatened individuals, and he made his opinion of the next generation congressperson very clear when he called her a “f—— b—-” on the steps of the Capitol Building.

But Rep. Ocasio-Cortez did not stand by. She delivered a groundbreaking speech on the House floor that condemned systemic sexism. She expressed, “I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.”

Her impact reached new heights on October 20, when she hosted an event on Twitch where she played the popular video game “Among Us.” She encouraged people to vote and discussed a variety of issues as she played alongside some big-name streamers including Pokimane and DrLupo. Representative Ilhan Omar from Minnesota also joined in.

The video game event attracted millions of young people to join the live stream, and AOC encouraged all voters to mail their ballots or go to the polls safely. If they hadn’t already, a large number of young Americans were becoming inspired by AOC’s message. “Individuals such as AOC believe in the very policies that appeal to the younger generation,” said OH junior Julie Faour.

This election season has had an especially huge impact on the country, and young people are getting more involved than ever before. Students at OH are becoming politically active not only on social media but through extracurriculars. 

Advisor of the OH “We the People” club, which encourages hatred-free political education and discussions between students of different views, Ms. Deborah Posner highlighted the importance of students getting involved. “I think primarily, what young people need to realize is that change starts with them,” explained Posner. “If young people today want a world that reflects their concerns, then they need to step up and take an active role in making that happen.”

This election season has been a rollercoaster, especially for young Americans. They had to vote for or support the candidates who would look out for their future, which is more important than ever during a global pandemic. This serves as a reminder for future political races that young people are important voters, and newer politicians are learning how to speak their language.

“This election showed one of the largest turnouts of younger voters in decades,” explained Hamaoui. “We have proved that we are a voting block that matters.”

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