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The Lost Era of Opportunity
By Nidhi Achanta
Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump: one of the most scandalous presidential races, the second time that the electoral college overwrote the popular vote, and the inciting incident to my political interest. In November of 2016, I was 9 years old and the night of the general election, I had swim practice. With my hair drenched and my stomach empty, I sat in front of the TV in my living room watching Anderson Cooper, a CNN TV anchor, tell me exactly what states were blue and which were red. Recently, a friend told me that all he remembered from the 2016 election was that he wanted blue to win because red wasn’t his favorite color but to me though, this day was different. Prior to November 8th, 2016, never once had I been interested in the political climate of the United States but probably due to my teachers' and classmates' buzz, I was all ears. The 2016 presidential election marked a new era, a bright one where women had the chance to be president, but also a dark one littered with controversy and petty bickering between politicians.
Today, 7 years later, has anything changed? We have our first female vice president who also happens to be half black and Indian. But, the most recent 2020 election was a dogfight between two elderly, white, and fairly privileged men. The era of opportunity presented by the 2016 election is gone and all it took was one presidency. This era of opportunity was a huge deal for me as a young child, the ability to have faith in democracy and politics, something foreign at the time. The ability to explore career options outside of the STEM field as a brown kid in an immigrant household also was tremendous not just for me but for girls across America. Until this point in my life, all I knew was blue and red - nothing more. November 8th changed that all for me. Blue became good, and red was bad. Two years later nothing changed except for the fact that blue was now bad and red was good. Two years after that, 2020 came around and I was adamant that blue was good and nothing else. In retrospect, my mindset reflected the politics that have raged throughout the last decade in America: the party polarization, the petty fights, and name-calling between politicians bled into my daily life. The chaos of the world made its way into my head along with many of the children around me.
Post-COVID, our classrooms were thrown into ones where party politics had real effects on our education and younger kids were expected to know and care far more than ever before. More recently, the state of Florida banning AP Psychology, California introducing therapy-oriented school curricula, and various introductions and reductions of specific types of literature in our country’s public schools goes to show that. This resentment and anger of the Washington D.C. adults is currently bleeding into the youth of America who unfortunately can do nothing but be subjugated to their whims. This is why voting matters and why New Voters is an organization that we need to put our faith and trust in. The only way we can get out of this loud, vicious cycle is to promote voting education and get young people to vote. Voting for more angry old white men isn’t doing justice to any more people in America and that has shown quite clearly since November 8th, 2016. The era of opportunity isn't gone, just forgotten, the only way to revive it is to remind people of it.