Gen Z is notoriously marked for its commitment to community activism and volunteerism, even with a record of low voter turnout. College students who comprise much of the generation have led the fight for and remain stakeholders in social justice issues that contextualize their lives.
In the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Gen Z rallied to our nation’s capital in the name of holding our tainted democracy complicit in the brutal killing of 17 innocent lives. We’ve seen this same voting bloc unite to propel Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal and call for mass political accountability in the grave absence of climate change policies — a catastrophe that they will bear witness to. And most recently, this past summer Gen Z mobilized a moral reckoning in our nation and at the heart of our state’s capital.
These young voters are now shunning their previous history of low political efficacy and shattering early voting numbers at a record pace in battleground states like Florida and Texas. Yet, in the midst of this, the young electorate that is known for its radical progressivism is now facing the harsh reality of partisanship emerging.
College campuses are microcosms of the human experience that meshes those from all walks of life. Kids from the suburbs leave their shields of elitism and are now roommates with those who may not have a network apparatus to climb. Those raised in conservative households are now group project partners with those who are faced with the need for contraceptives and reproductive rights. In a utopia, these experiences instruct students to harness a sense of empathy for those who may not have experienced the life they lived thus far. Unfortunately, this was not the unanimous experience many college students bore witness to this election.
While neither party is above reproach or touts a history pure of problematic policies, college Republicans woefully align themselves with a ballot that places the lives hidden in the shadows of our nation at risk. Conservative students emboldened by an incumbent president to navigate the world from a place of privilege have increased divisions amongst Gen Z. Many of them contend that pro-life, the censorship of news, increased funding of law enforcement and “draining the swamp” is the best course of action for a nation beset by injustice.
For left-leaning young voters — though covert elitism, misogyny and racism still exist among them — parsing and compartmentalizing how privilege burdens those less fortunate is at the crux of their political alignment. With lives on the line, and more frankly on the ballot, there is no true place of unity. Both college Democrats and Republicans have witnessed our government neglect crucial concerns to the margins of the political agenda, yet the latter still prioritizes individualism over collectivism.
In a few years, Gen Z will be navigating the political realm at a greater magnitude as many of us are bound to become public servants in municipal, federal and state governments. The old adage of crossing the aisle for the greater good is sure to arise, but can a common ground be found among two parties with polarity in thought?
There is a common terrain for college Democrats and Republicans; it’s a sacred ground of empathy to marginalized communities who will bear the brunt of our nation’s consequences. Even after the zeal for policy concern dies down, if we don’t collectively navigate the political realm like people on our campuses need access to reproductive rights, freedom from encroaching gentrification and an increase in community resources there will never be a sacred ground of peaceful coexistence.