During times of political strife—heck, even in times of political triumph—the university has been a place of radical discourse that explores and encourages academic examination of political norms. It’s supposed to be a safe haven for dialogues that aren’t so popular in mainstream USA. For example, the recent controversy over a pro-Palestine forum at Brooklyn College.
We’ve always been the liberal crowd, but in recent years, it seems like there’s been a wane of liberal activism within the university. It wasn’t until the Occupy movement that students were reinvigorated with a passion similar to the student strikes against the war in Vietnam. But unlike the anti-war protests, those protesting with Occupy saw few fruits for their labor in terms of government recognition and reform.
For the past few decades, college students have trended more conservative than their 1960’s and 1970’s counterparts. Thus, more and more American students are calling themselves middle-of-the-road. A recent UCLA study claims that college students’ central political views are shifting left. That means that more students who consider themselves ‘middle of the road’ are leaning towards liberal legislation.
This shift from center may lead to a paradigm shift within what all Americans see as ‘middle-of-the-road’. We saw a victory for the left in the 2012 election because of the youth vote. It isn’t far cry off to say that our views will become the new normal in just a couple of decades.
As we begin to infiltrate political ranks and take on powerful leadership roles, our middle will easily become everyone else’s middle. Consider this: our generation of Americans is comprised of more minorities than generations past. Thus, our voting patterns tend to reflect what will benefit minorities the most.
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Is it really any surprise that our middle-of-the-road is shifting left, though? Our generation sees their dreams as one student loan away. They are betting on their futures and the government is betting on them, too. Increasingly, our generation is betting on the future in other ways as well. Investing interest in climate change has gained more momentum than ever in the student community.
According to the UCLA survey:
“…roughly two-thirds (66.4%) of students who identified themselves as middle-of-the-road agreed that the wealthy should pay more taxes, which represented a 6.5 percentage point increase for the same group in 2008.” And “support for same-sex couples having the right to legal marital status is widespread amongst first-year college students, and continues to show gains.”
Perhaps the failure of Occupy was a lesson for our generation—we should be embracing new tactics instead of reverting to the strategies our parent’s used. Just like we use Wikipedia now instead of sifting 20 volumes of books, our generation should harness their power by infiltrating the big wigs with votes—not by ineffectively striking against them in small numbers. Through the power of the internet, we can appear in larger numbers than the crowds of folks who marched against the war in Vietnam. While it may seem like a passive use of power, it can be just as effective. On the ground organizing is always going to be important; it is always going to have a place in instigating change. However, there is power in numbers—even if those number are online or in votes.
By harnessing our power with our generation’s new tools, we can shift Washington’s middle-of-the-road perspective in the near future.
Maegan Vazquez, a Texas born sophomore at New York University, brings her young woman’s lens on all things political to Heartfeldt Blog every Monday. Send news tips to email@example.com