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How To Destroy The Wall

If we want to create social change, we must first start in our communities.

Photo+from+the+Women%27s+March+on+Washington%2C+where+over+one+million+people+attended+%0A
Photo from the Women's March on Washington, where over one million people attended

Photo from the Women's March on Washington, where over one million people attended

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Photo from the Women's March on Washington, where over one million people attended

Alli Woodard '18, Staff Writer

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It has been six days into the Trump Presidency, and for many people, the outlook of the United States is not great. Already, Trump has signed multiple executive orders, ranging from lifting the pause on the Dakota Access Pipeline to commissioning the infamous “border wall.” The media has been a firestorm, with discussions and debates about censorship and immigration policy. If this is only week one, what should we expect for week two?

It is hard, for many of us, to not feel anxious and distraught with the current state of the country right now. It seems that so much of the progress of the past eight years has been completely undone, and we are left to pick up the pieces. Only these pieces are so shattered that it is merely impossible to know where to start. Marches and rallies across the globe have been only the beginning, with several more being scheduled for the future. Bringing people together to march for justice is one of the prime examples of the democracy that we are so fortunate to have, but they do not go far enough. How many times do you have to chant before people start listening?

Accepting the outcome of the election is an unfortunate truth that we must live with. Both sides of the aisle can agree that the electoral college needs to be revised, if not completely dismantled. At the same time, however, re-creating the process of elections is virtually useless when people do not vote. In this past general election, only 60% of eligible voters went to the polls. Although this turnout was slightly larger than the 2012 general election, is it the turnout of the midterm elections and the primary elections that are startling. Trends shown by the United States election project indicate that midterm elections have only around a 40% turnout.

When asked why he did not vote in the primary election, Mohammed Chowdhury, a senior at Elmira College said that was unable to make it to the polls that day. Another student, who asked their name to not be published, said that they did not vote in neither the primary nor the general election because, “none of the candidates were appealing to me.” Both of these answers correlate with trends that political scientists have been studying for years: millennials have a poor turnout rate compared to the preceding generations before them. Scholars point to an array of factors, with the most salient being lack of partisanship.

Whatever may be the reasons that millennials do not vote, it still does not highlight one of the most dangerous voting behaviors of the American electorate: only about 27% of people vote in their local elections; this number fluctuating dramatically depending on the municipality. Local elections get far less media coverage, and for many people, they go unnoticed. Local elections, while they may seem insignificant, are the most important elections that we vote in.

This is not to say that Presidential and Senatorial races are insignificant, but we cannot put local elections on the backburner. The backbone of this nation are its people, and when the people do not vote, we all collapse. When Donald Trump ran on a platform that he was an “outsider,” many people felt strongly compelled to support him. It was easy to overlook some racist rhetoric from his campaign, simply because people were fed up with the “political elite.” Yet, Donald Trump was–– and still is–– a billionaire. Does that really represent the average American?

Stopping the infiltration of the political elite does not happen by electing businessmen who cannot give you the definition of the word “fact.” It happens when we work to elect the people in our community. When communities thrive, people thrive. Change does not always have to be marching on the capitol steps. The most prominent change is the one that we grow at home. We cannot overlook the actions of a corrupt government; we certainly should not overlook what has happened in the past week–– but we must also not overlook our school board members, our city councilmen, or our state senators. These are the people that will listen to use directly and will advocate for us… but we must elect them first.

Things may seem scary right now, but we cannot sit back and wait for the system to fix itself. Barack Obama said it best during the 2016 Democratic National Convention: “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.” These words could not be more relevant. It does not have to be hard or inconvenient to take part in local affairs. It is not just through voting, but attending town hall meetings, writing to your state senators, reading your local news (most newspapers have apps now)–– this is how to not feel hopeless. Let us continue the marches, but let us also begin to take charge in our communities, and build from the ground up. Communities build bridges; not walls.

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