Does anyone remember four years ago? You know, when all the 18-to-20-somethings were taking time off from school to move to Iowa and canvass door-to-door for a presidential candidate? When non-registered voters were the social equivalent of lepers, and every college student in the nation was declaring residency in whichever swing state happened to be closest?
Granted, the heady, some might say euphorically insane optimism of the “change we can believe in” days has necessarily dissipated over the past presidential term. History, recent and not so recent, shows that radical-feeling shifts in political landscape always carry with them the twin demons of dissatisfaction and backlash.
Still, four years ago, the youth of our country felt engaged and active like never before; people cared about their vote, cherished it, did everything they could to make it count. It seemed like a new generation of political activists was on the rise. Now it seems political engagement has an expiration date for the youth of America and our fair city. Because if you’ve been for a stroll past City Hall sometime in the past few weeks, you’ve likely seen the face of plucky, take-no-prisoners voter registration. And it is old.
Old-er, anyway. Older like Steve Poses and his brigade of over-40-something volunteers determined to register all those Philadelphia residents living in high rises, almost half of whom (according to Poses’s calculations) are currently unregistered. Older like those little ladies camped out under tents around City Hall most days of the week, accosting passersby with their grave queries of “You registered to vote?”
I felt a fair few pangs of guilt a couple weeks ago when I approached those ladies to meekly submit my own registration papers. It was partly guilt at the lateness of my paperwork, and over my own and my generation’s apparent slide into disenfranchisement, and partly because the ladies so clearly had no expectations of my ability to fill out a form as a twentysomething; they practically coached me through every step, including “Name.”
But almost as soon as I’d left their tent, that guilt turned to righteous indignation. Millennials, we are only as disengaged as we allow ourselves to be! We are only as childish as those fierce old ladies can make us seem! So get out there, Philly. Exercise your democratic right. I don’t even care for whom at this point, just please start disproving the Steve Poses’s and City Hall grannies of our city wrong, for the sake of my dignity and your own.