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This election belongs to the young

Joko Cailles, left, director of legislative affairs for the Associated Students of the University of Nevada and Peng Chen register voters on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019 at the University of Nevada, Reno during national voter registration day. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Well, well, well. What a difference a week makes. Saturday felt like the first real sleep I’ve had in four years. That’s not to say that I think our slide into fascism is over, or that there isn’t still a ton of work to do, but for now at least I can see a future.

In the days following Election Day, the media analyzed to death all the typical data points. Our most famous Klansman voted for Trump, and as it turns out so did a majority of white Americans. Make of that what you will. Nearly a third of the Latino vote went to the one-term President, as well — something I will have to write about in the future because I simply cannot wrap my brain around it. Black people in general, but Black women especially, showed up and came through as the only demographic with any reliable sense. Thank God for Black women.

Mostly though, this election was decided by the young. Two-thirds of voters under the age of 30 voted for change, and the only age group that voted for Trump in its majority was voters over the age of 65. For all of our collective, and entirely unoriginal disdain towards youth and their “crazy” ideas, the future really does belong to them and they deserve the space to help shape it in their interest. Their ideas aren’t so much crazy as they are unencumbered by any arbitrary rule as to what they can or cannot do. They’ve not yet been beaten down by a system that might bend towards justice but moves slower than a turtle on its back. They’ve not yet learned to limit their hopes or to play by rules that they had no part in creating. They know what kind of world they want to build and how they want to build it, and they won’t accept any preconceived or preordained reasons why they can’t. That isn’t arrogance. It’s faith. We should be feeding it, not dimming the brightness of its light.  

But the real heroes of this story are the people who made it their mission to see that all those young and Black and Brown and otherwise marginalized voters came out to claim their voice this election. It is the organizers and the activists who put their bodies on the line to ensure that our way of government truly is an endeavor as close to “of the people, by the people, [and] for the people” as we can get. These are the people knocking on doors, phone banking, calling and texting folks to make sure everyone is informed not only of their right to vote but of what the issues are and how elections affect their daily lives. These are the people who take their outrage and channel it into change. They are the Stacy Abramses of the world but more so, they are the folks standing outside the supermarket making sure you are registered to vote; they are the folks coordinating rides to polling places for people who might not otherwise make it; they are the folks helping the unemployed fight for their earned benefits; they are the folks foregoing sleep to make sure every single one of us is counted.

In other words, these are the people doing the work of democracy and they are the ones who deserve the credit for this win. I promise you it wasn’t your racist aunt in Georgia who never voted for a Democrat until this year and wants a pat on the back for it. It certainly wasn’t the pundits crunching their numbers and fantasizing over countless scenarios leading up to Election Day. And it definitely, definitely wasn’t the media, who seem to have only discovered this weekend that they can in fact call a lie a lie (not an “unsubstantiated claim,” not a “mistruth”) and simply refuse to air misinformation, even when it’s coming from inside the White House.

I read somewhere recently that everyone over the age of 40 should have a mentor who is under 30. Not a mentee, mind you, a mentor. Someone to counter the impulse to stick to the status quo, as that impulse inevitably comes with age and the experience of having to overcome roadblock after roadblock. We need the constant reminder that things don’t actually have to be the way they are or even the way they’ve always been. It is always within our power to be the change we want to see. So, thank you to all the young people, the people of color, the Black and Indigenous women, the activists, and the organizers. Thank you for reminding us, despite our best efforts, of who we once were and of who we want to be. Thank you for reminding us of who we still CAN be. This victory is yours.

Martha E. Menendez, Esq. is the Bernstein Senior Fellow at the UNLV Immigration Clinic.

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