Two presidential candidates with Gen-z caught in the middle.
Two presidential candidates with Gen-z caught in the middle.
Jules Keranen

History repeats itself

For many Gen Z voters, this election cycle feels like a bland start to an anticipated voting path.

In 2012, we went to the ballot box in our school libraries to cast our vote for either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. We randomly filled out a ballot either based on who we heard our parents talk about more, who we thought looked nicer or whose name we liked more. A reflection of a much simpler time in American politics. 

In 2016, today’s high school seniors were 10 and 11 years old. The only things that concerned them were whether their mom cut the crust of their peanut butter and jelly for lunch or if they would get picked first for kickball. We went through our last year of elementary school with juvenile concerns, sometimes occasionally glancing up from our math homework to view the most current debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Others, like us, anticipating the first female president, teared up when she became the official democratic nominee at the convention, fearful of Trump being in office. We were scared without really understanding what Trump’s presidency would mean. 

“Building a wall” became a flippant joke at lunch tables, and “Who are your parents voting for?” was a common question at recess. Democrats and Republicans existed without a huge divide in the middle. But after election night, as I watched red creep over the map, I knew it meant something more. A picture of the same man that I had seen months before being exposed for making vulgar comments about women in a Hollywood Access tape on ABC was just elected to be the next president of the United States. 

 Eight years later, we are seeing a completely different world. In a world where women don’t have the right to their own bodies and angry citizens storm the capitol because they believe they are “defending democracy.” We have survived a global pandemic, seen cities burn in the 2020 riots, an alleged sexual assaulter get elected to the Supreme Court, rights stripped, families torn apart and more, all before we went to the voting booth. 

The class of 2024’s freshman year was anything but average. It was met with people dancing in the street come November because Joe Biden was elected president and the “Trump era” was seemingly over. Two months later, after school, we watched the terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol on our TVs. The place where democracy was upheld was being attacked because Trump believed and made his supporters believe that the election was stolen. Lies were spewed across social media from Trump and his supporters, creating a dangerous game for a generation that grew up online. 

In the present day, the halls of West High and the social media feeds of many students are filled with conversations about the upcoming election and who people are voting for. Many of these small talks, either in passing or more in-depth, have students saying, “I am not voting for either”  or “I don’t like any of the options. It feels like 2020.” 

There isn’t just one group of people or demographic making these comments about the 2024 election. People on both sides of the aisle are confused about why two “old white guys” are running for the same position that they did 4 years ago. 

With Gen Z growing up into having more positions in government and a stronger voice on the internet, why are these the only two options? Why do I have to pick one?

As a generation, we have seen many aspects of our world change before our eyes. According to a study done at Tufts University in 2023, some of the main issues that Gen Z is focused on in the upcoming election are inflation, abortion, minimum wage, climate change and gun violence prevention. 

These are not the same issues that Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are concerned with; they rank higher in health care costs and social security concerns. As the youngest generation heads to the polls, it is our civic duty not only to vote but also to vote for the issues important to us. 

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote against Donald Trump, but he won the electoral college, starting the Trump era. 

Gen Z is the generation that is supposed to change the world,  but from being a voter for the first time, with these as the options, it is easy to feel confused, upset and annoyed. You might think the issues on the table don’t affect you, or you believe each candidate is boring and ineffective, but it is vital that you go to the polls. If you think the issues don’t affect you, think about the women in your life who might have to make a choice to save their life and go to jail or to obey the law and die if Trump passes a complete abortion ban, which he intends to do. Or think about the classmates you have who rely on government assistance and funding to get access to healthcare and other necessities. Or think about the students that are gunned down in classes, some not far from West, as a result of the inaction on gun legislation at the federal level by Republicans. Finally, think about the earth and what we want for our future. For our grandkids and great-grandkids, we might be the last generation and hope for our world. 

So, choose the candidate who will represent and help America. The candidate will protect vulnerable populations and allow people to lead their lives in the manner they want to. Yes, it is annoying and repetitive, but don’t let your vote go to waste. Your vote matters to send a message to the old people in charge in Washington, D.C., and we as a generation, after many years of seeing the turmoil of our government across our social feeds and TVs, finally have a tangible piece of paper to say, “This is the change we want to see and who we want to make it”

Register to vote here.

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About the Contributors
Zoe Smith, Editor-in-Chief
(she/her) Zoe Smith is a senior and entering her third and final year on staff. She is so excited to be this year's Web Editor-in-Chief. Although you can usually find her in the newsroom; you may also find her on the soccer field either playing or coaching, working at Maggie's Farm Pizza, hanging out with friends and much more. If you can't find her she is probably petting a dog somewhere.
Jules Keranen, Entertainment Editor

(they/them) Jules is a senior and this is their second year on the West Side Story. They are the entertainment editor for the online publication. After school they spend most of the time with their cat, Baby, watching movies.

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