Election season is always too long, too nasty and too contentious for most people, and it is often very hard to feel like you have a place in either party or in our electoral system at all. Too often it becomes about the cons of one candidate instead of the pros for another. As a 20-something college student, it's been my distinct pleasure to hear both sides of just about every argument (albeit often heavily slanted toward the right with a strong guilt trip that my actions are somehow ruining our country).
It is compelling to note that those aged 18-24 constitute 24 percent of eligible voters. This group is one of the largest constituencies in the country, clocking in at 46 million strong. We are more numerous than seniors (39 million) and Latinos (21.5 million). However, we have some of the lowest turnout. Apathy runs high in my generation, and my mission has been to encourage more of my age demographic to vote.
No other group of voters works at such a high rate of minimum-wage jobs (in 2011, 49.5 percent of those 16-24 worked at or below minimum wage) with the fewest benefits (in 2008 and 2009, almost 40 percent of those 18-30 had no insurance), represents the average military member (the average age of our armed forces is 29.7) and receives such little representation in government.
That changed in 2008 when 24 million of us voted, catapulting President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party to a landslide victory over John McCain. Our numbers flipped states like North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico in Obama's favor and fundamentally changed the electoral landscape that year. We also monumentally changed the Democratic Party to become the only party that has the interests of youth at heart.
When we elected Obama, the greatest ally that young Americans have ever known entered the White House, and the Democratic Party became the party to lead America throughout the 21st century. Democrats understand women deserve equal pay for equal work, student loans are far too costly, predatory credit card practices threaten students' financial security and people like my partner and I deserve to be treated fairly.
As evidence of Democrats' commitment to youth, please see the following list of actions for your reasons to vote for Democrats on Nov. 6. Remember, in your car, the "D" is for drive forward, the "R" is for reverse:
In 2009, merely weeks after being inaugurated, the very first bill Democrats passed and Obama signed into law was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to move forward the promise of equal pay for equal work.
A huge bipartisan coalition passed and Obama signed the CARD Act, which prohibits credit card recruitment on campus and predatory reward schemes for college students to protect against dishonest practices aimed at cash-strapped students like me.
In 2010, Democrats passed and Obama signed into law major student loan reform to move forward the promise of an affordable college education. This legislation included doubling funding for Pell Grants and capped income-based repayment at 10 percent of income. Now anyone who enters public service (nurses, teachers, firefighters) can have all loan debt forgiven so long as they pay their bill on time for 10 years.
Also, Democrats passed and Obama singed the aptly named Obamacare, which allows students to stay on their parents' insurance until they are 26 and guarantees that premiums will cover contraception and other family planning services to move forward the idea that family and education aren't mutually exclusive.
Democrats (with the help of several Republicans) lead the charge to repeal "don't ask, don't tell" and pave the way forward for countless of our LGBT neighbors, family and friends to serve our country openly.
The choice is clear for all young Americans: Let's re-elect Obama and move our country forward.
Turner C. Bitton is the president of the Weber State College Democrats and vice chairman of the Utah Federation of College Democrats.