The millennial vote
This is a moment of truth for Filipino millennials. Their numbers are of critical importance in the presidential election, and it behooves them to be aware not only of the burning issues but also of the significance of their vote in their country’s progress. It is not being overly dramatic to say that they hold the future in their young and vigorous hands.
A cursory look at Commission on Elections figures will show that to be true: 54,363,844 registered voters nationwide, of whom 24,730,013 are aged 18-34 (the age range of millennials, or those born between 1980 and 2000), and of whom the single largest group (7,983,167) is composed of those aged 20-24. So do the math. This nation of more than 100 million will either benefit or suffer from the choice that the millennials will make tomorrow. It is hopefully a choice that they are taking very seriously.
Inquirer Super recently spoke with first-time millennial voters who said, among others, that they want a trustworthy and honest leader who represents alternative politics. A 22-year-old teacher’s view is heartening: “This kind of politics births new measures to forward the concerns and issues of women, youth, farmers and the like. Leaders who are advocates of alternative politics see to it that the power they have will be used for the advantage of these marginalized people.”
Elsewhere, in social media, for example, the discussions have been so clangorous as to border on violence. On one hand it is noteworthy that voters are quite engaged, but on the other it is reprehensible that threats of rape and mayhem issued by a candidate’s supporters have become commonplace. Inquirer millennial columnist Kay Rivera wrote recently: “Maybe we do deserve a president who is willing to recognize that rape culture and systematic oppression do exist, and who won’t contribute to that. But, regardless of who wins, maybe change is coming—and maybe it starts with us and with our keyboards, and our capacity to educate ourselves and others.”
Rivera also issued the reminder that turning out to vote greatly matters: “The more insidious danger lies not in irresponsible tale-telling on social media. The danger lies in this disappointed apathy. The danger lies in not believing that you can make a difference.”
Indeed. And millennials should vote for the candidate they want, not the candidate they think will most likely win, or the candidate other people are pushing. If they want their vote to matter, they should own it.
Political science professor Antonio Contreras told Inquirer Super that the youth “should not just focus on who they are going to vote, but on what kind of politics they want, and start to do that right now.” The youth make up “46 percent of the electorate,” he pointed out. “Surely [they] can demand.”
Yes, they can demand many things of the leader they choose. This leader should represent the best in them and the things that matter most to them. In choosing their candidate, they are choosing the one who hews most closely to who they are, or what they want to be. They should remember that many people have died and sacrificed so that they can one day exercise their right to vote. Without those heroes, millennials would be “voting” in Marcos-era referendums.
Millennial voters are burdened by great expectations, including the difficult task of shunning dictatorship despite their never having experienced the terrors of martial law. But then they are made of encouraging stuff: They embrace diversity, call for LGBT equality, and seek to make the passage of the freedom of information bill a priority. They consider education important, are environmentally aware, and are disgusted with the corruption around them.
Hopefully they have come to realize that history matters, and that the next six years are crucial for a country teetering between development and collapse.
To be old enough to vote is to take on a meaningful responsibility. It is not being unrealistic to expect millennials to grasp the necessity of participation in the nation’s collective destiny. But first, critical awareness is required of them, a correct perspective on where we all stand. Sooner or later they will learn how dreadful it is to bear the crushing outcome of a mistake, and how demanding it is to undo damage where it counts.
Tomorrow, the future begins.
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