According to NBC News, the majority of the Washington, D.C. council as well as the mayor and the “Washington Post” are pushing a bill that would make the District of Columbia the first place in the nation to allow people as young as 16 to vote in federal elections (including presidential races).
A growing number of cities and states are considering their own ways to expand “civic engagement” to younger people.
I’m not one of those “Children should be seen and not heard” curmudgeons. Many 16-year-olds have extensive life experience supporting their families, and I know some high school students whose voting judgment I would trust implicitly; but I still have mixed emotions about upending the status quo.
I guess I’m nostalgic for slogans such as “Remember the Alamo,” “Loose lips sink ships” and “Don’t tread on me.” It’s just not the same to rally around “Let’s swap one arbitrary age for another arbitrary age! And don’t dump that tea in the harbor, dude! It’ll stress the polar bears and stuff.”
Agreed, members of the Baby Boom generation (and surrounding generations) have left the world in quite a mess. We seem to think that money, status and violence are the answer to everything. We’re so dementia-adjacent that we can’t absorb the self-evident truth that running away with your 45-year-old drivers ed teacher is the answer to everything!!!
Should arms negotiators have to worry about polling results from naive individuals who approach nuclear war with the sage attitude, “You can’t get irradiated if it’s your first time. Or maybe it’s ‘You can’t get irradiated if you’re standing up”?
Undoubtedly, dropping the voting age by two years would bring in some new blood and encourage thinking outside the box. The new voting bloc might find the key to ending world hunger, the key to solving economic inequality, the key to achieving racial harmony. Unfortunately, right now they’re a little preoccupied trying to find the key to mom and dad’s liquor cabinet…
What vast governmental changes would be wrought by an influx of younger voters? Forget tearing down statues; they would probably tear down the Library of Congress. (“It reeks of Permanent Record!”) The Centers for Disease Control would put those wasted West Nile Virus dollars to work eradicating the zit plague. The Environmental Protection Agency would be assigned tasks such as “Please, do something about my mom’s new boyfriend’s aftershave.” Lady Justice would remain blindfolded, but dropping her gown would make for some wicked awesome sexting!
Opponents of the lowered voting age fear a slippery slope of ever-younger voters. Yeah, do we want a campaign season where candidates furtively pass out folded notes that ask, “Do you like me? Mark yes or no”?
I was not reassured by the high school junior who promised me that 16 was as low as it would go. (“My 14-year-old brother’s ‘social engagement’ will remain having his face shoved into my armpit!”)
One thing propelling the rethinking of age restrictions is the eloquence and passion shown by young activists in recent months. A message of “My adolescent brain may not be fully formed, but my opinions sure are!” has a lot of politicians and businessmen shaking in their boots.
But older organizers comfort themselves with the thought, “I’m glad they hate guns. They’d SHOOT us if they ever figured out how we’re manipulating them!”
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.” Opinions expressed in this column represent those of the author only and do not necessarily represent those of the newspaper.