Widgets Magazine


Letter to my peers

To my fellow young adults,

Most of us tend to think that politics is either boring or entertaining. Donald Trump has been entertaining for a while; Hillary Clinton is pretty boring.

Would we even know the name of the current Secretary of the Treasury if it weren’t for the likes of Jon Stewart, John Oliver and SNL to keep us somewhat engaged? (Do most of us even know the name of the current Secretary of the Treasury?)

We generally don’t vote. Of all age groups, we have consistently held the title of lowest turnout in presidential election years, and we have even lower turnout in non-presidential elections.

But we’re not alone in our lack of civic participation. Even the grown-ups generally don’t vote. Sure, a few more of them vote than we do, but our country as a whole has generally low turnout, especially in non-presidential elections.

(Now, to be clear, we did vote in 2008. We helped elect Barack Obama president. He inspired us with his youthful vigor, his optimism, his message of hope and change … but then, we’d lost interest by 2010.)

It’s easy to blame today’s gridlock on the Republicans in Congress, but we put them there. We didn’t vote for the Democrats. In all honesty, did you vote in 2014? Probably not.

So when we complain about the Senate threatening to not give fair consideration to Obama’s Supreme Court nominees, shouldn’t we be blaming ourselves?

Why aren’t we voting? Well, because politics is either boring or entertaining, but it’s not really that important to us.

Some of us say things to the effect of, “I’m not going to vote because I dislike all the candidates running. They’re all bad.”

Do you know why they’re all bad? Because we don’t vote (and because we don’t run for office).

But really, no matter how bad they all may seem, they cannot all be equally bad.

Government may be influenced by money, but it is controlled by the voters. If we want the politicians to respond to the issues we care about, we need to vote.

A vicious cycle only perpetuates the concept of “all bad” candidates when we find working in government unappealing. We don’t vote, allowing candidates we don’t like to take office; then, we dislike how the government is run by those people we don’t like; we form a negative opinion of government; and we think that we would never want to actually be a politician someday.

How many of your friends want to be a politician in the future? I can count a few of mine who want to be president one day, but future city council members, not so much. (Maybe the future presidents will be councilmembers as a stepping stone to something more glamorous.)

Some believe that government is just not the best possible path to address the issues they care about. They may have lost faith in government’s ability to address the most pressing issues. They may prefer to pursue activism, philanthropy, private business or a variety of other pathways to address those issues, and those are all certainly valid aspirations. Not everyone has to (or even should) run for office, but if you want to see change, you need to do something, and if you’re not going to run for office, at the very least, you can vote for those who do.

There are many, many people disenfranchised in the United States — affected by everything from voter ID laws in the South that target racial minorities to several states’ restrictions of voting rights for convicted felons. Those people can’t vote, and many are fighting to exercise their basic right to participate in the political process, while many of us freely give ours up.

Plato is credited with saying, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

Nearly every state so far in the 2016 presidential election has had lower Democratic turnout than in 2008, while at the same time, nearly every state has had record-high Republican turnout. There’s a revolution happening, but it isn’t being led by Bernie Sanders.

2016 will be a pivotal year in American politics. Let’s not hand our government to inferiors, and let’s especially not hand the White House to Donald Trump.


Contact Ruairi Arrieta-Kenna at ruairi ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Ruairí Arrieta-Kenna

Ruairí Alfredo Arrieta-Kenna (BA Political Science '18) was a columnist for the Stanford Daily.
  • Helen Hudson

    Mr. Arrietta-Kenna has written a BRILLIANT piece here, made more so by his relative youth. In fact, were he old enough, I would write him in on the ballot personally. His is a voice that needs to be heard. It might well lift the ‘Millenials’ from their clear and present apathy. If his peers are as ‘smart’ as some think they are, they would not only heed his advice but take it and run to the ballot box. Plato was right. Thank God Mr. Arrietta-Kenna is here to remind us of that all these many, many years later. Carpe Diem, Sir!!

  • marcus

    yup there is a mandate the voters are sending.. and it’s called Trump. despite the best efforts of the slanted media and the political class to derail democracy the American people have seen right through the BS. Trump supporters are called stupid, racists, wear mullets.. shop at Walmart, etc etc.. what many Americans sense is a certain condescending “we know better” liberal class superiority complex. and it’s backfiring in a major way. Trump will be elected the next prez of the US.

  • Walmart shopper

    I am at a los as to how you believe it is the “condescending ‘we know better’ liberal class superiority complex” that is trying to keep Trump down. Apparently, you have not been following the efforts of practically every elected Republican (with the exception of CC) to distance themselves from Trump’s candidacy. Your point however, that the “Republican” voters are sending a mandate –remember, this is still the primary season, so the entire electorate has not had a chance to evaluate Trump — is a valid one. I don’t believe that Trump is only attracting every Mexican bashing, Muslim hating, latent KKK member to vote for him even though he is not discouraging any of those groups. Rather, he has tapped into the frustration and anger people feel about the perceived failure of government and politicians to get anything done. I believe the columnist has made an excellent point here – if his peers sit around and fail to act, i.e. vote – they will get the government, and heaven help us, if Trump wins, the Prez (as you call him), they deserve. I hope they heed his call to action.

  • marcus

    if you’re at a loss.. you haven’t been paying attention and are seriously out of touch. which is my point exactly.

  • Walmart shopper

    Keep Trump down – you have to be kidding me, I want him to win the nomination. The hope is that he will bring down the entire Republican Party and return the Senate to Democratic party control this coming election, and hopefully the House also after a further round in 2018. Go Trump !

  • marcus

    like I said you’re seriously out of touch…along with many in the media with a very similar line of thinking.. who have predicted Trump’s demise all too many times.. you may be very surprised when Trump is taking the oath of office.
    Trump will expose Hillary like she’s never been exposed before along with Bill who is a sexual predator. Dems have a lot to worry about with Trump debating her.
    get out the popcorn because it’s about to get very interesting.

  • Walmart shopper

    It pains me to think that this is how you see Trump’s strategy – to “expose” Hillary – whatever that means, and to resurrect the “Bill who is a sexual predator” angle. Seriously, this is what you want from your presidential candidate ? How about a debate that discusses the economy, immigration, foreign policy, racial issues, healthcare, etc. etc. etc. I hope for all our sakes that the level of discourse rises above what we have seen so far in the Republican debates. However, it appears you are quite happy to see this farce continue through the general election.

  • marcus

    Bill has a pattern of using his authority to sexually abuse women…anyone else would be a convicted felon. It amazes me that liberals look the other way while they espouse women’s rights….no angle here just the truth. Say what you want but trump is the reason Republican turnout is up… He has energized the base. Hillary meanwhile is a career politician, liar and a joke of a candidate

  • Helen Hudson

    @ walmart and @marcus…can you seriously be Stanford students? You want Trump to win? A misogonystic, Mexican (and everyone else) hating, women demeaning, blowhard who has made all his money from screwing others? A guy who keeps throwing his wives away for younger women? A guy who basically think he is God? What happened to your brains? If this man actually receives the nomination you will be eating gravel & glass. He does not care one whit about anyone other than himself–and certainly not YOU peons. He will alienate everyone–all foreign nations– he comes into contact with and above all? He is an elitist, so ‘screw you’ is his motto. Sorry kids. Get your IQ’s back intact–or transfer to a state school. If you don’t know what REAL character is you have no business walking the halls of Stanford. This man is sick and at the people who support him, sicker. And for the record? Re-read Mr. Arrietta-Kenna’s column. You need to wise up or at least grow up.

  • marcus

    Liberal facists at it again inciting rioting at uic. thanks for making trump a defender of free speech. His poll numbers will go up.