It may not be the ’60s, but 2018 is shaping up to be a year of protest and redemption. Students across the nation are leading the way, speaking out against gun violence in schools. These protests have already inspired action as large corporations, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart distance themselves from assault weapons and gun sales for those under age 21. One student suggested that unless the Florida legislature improves gun safety laws, people should take their spring break dollars to Puerto Rico instead. The Legislature responded by rejecting an assault weapons ban by a vote of 20-17, even though 62 percent of Florida voters favor the ban.
Teachers took on the mantle of resistance in West Virginia, going on strike to protest poor wages and inadequate health care access, forcing the closure of all public schools in the state for more than a week before they won their salary demand of a 5 percent raise. During the strike, the teachers wore bunny ears in public in reaction to Governor Jim Justice’s remarks that they were “dumb bunnies” for not listening to reason. The teachers are some of the lowest-paid in the country, but their persistence paid off.
Insults by elected officials aren’t limited to the Florida governor’s mansion, as others have reacted with scorn when the peasants dare to challenge their authority. Recently, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch demonstrated what he really thinks of the majority of voters who support the Affordable Care Act, telling an audience at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank, that it was “the stupidest, dumbass bill that I’ve ever seen. Now, some of you may have loved it. If you do, you are one of the stupidest, dumbass people I’ve ever met.” Later he apologized for the remark, calling it a “flippant, off-the-cuff comment” and a “poorly worded joke,” but a video of his speech clearly shows him reading from a prepared text.
Of course no one rivals our insulter-in-chief when it comes to mean and nasty commentary, as evidenced by the revealing of his nickname for the Attorney General he personally appointed, “Mr. Magoo.” But while the President dithers, obsessed by his insular world of cable news, the lack of civility is diverting us from the real damage being inflicted upon the nation, from Jared Kushner’s stunning corruption to the tax reform legislation that continues to reward the rich and increase income inequality.
It’s pointless to try to change the minds of the voters who continue to support President Trump and his administration after all the events of the last year; they can’t be convinced the emperor has no clothes. Instead, we should turn our attention to demographic groups that traditionally under-vote, especially in mid-term elections.
An obvious target is young adults, who are becoming increasingly political in terms of protests but often don’t follow through at the voting booth.
Universities are now monitoring their students’ civic participation and encouraging competition among campuses for voter registration and showing up at the polls. Organizers are reminding students they are allowed to vote in the communities where they attend college, although they must register at their local address. Just 18 percent of college students voted in the 2014 midterm election, so a major increase in this demographic could make a world of difference in 2018. And more effort is going into pre-registering high school students who will turn 18 before Nov. 6.
Filing for office closes March 16 at 5 p.m., setting the field for the June 12 primary elections with interesting races in Nevada’s U. S. Senate seat, gubernatorial contest, and at least one local legislative office. A lot can change in a midterm election. We can prevail just by showing up.