William Shakespeare once said, “To be, or not to be? That is the question—whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them?”
Although Shakespeare’s iconic quote refers to the distinct relationship between life and death, the message communicated by his carefully arranged words can apply to the issues of one of today’s most intricate arenas …
… the battlefield of American politics.
Noted by many as a historical turning point for the nation, the ongoing conflicts associated with the 2020 presidential election have become a major talking point this year.
Many people believe the political race came down to one key concept: the political party they are affiliated with.
In the case of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, voting tends to endorse a black-and-white ideology. If you identify as Republican, you vote for Donald Trump. If you’re loyal to the Democratic Party, then Joe Biden is your man.
For the individuals who haven’t participated in previous elections (namely those identified as Generation Z), however, the concepts of party affiliation and voting can seem like an overwhelming decision.
Given that many Gen Zers are now legally old enough to vote and are more engaged in their political community than the generations preceding them, the political pressures currently faced by this age demographic have increased tenfold.
Noting the monumental role the younger generations held in this election, Pew researchers have affirmed that 1 in 10 eligible voters are Gen Zers, which is up from 4% in 2016.
In addition to their newfound eligibility, the events of this past year have found a vast majority of the Gen Z community in the perfect position to participate in the Trump vs. Biden race.
Because the coronavirus pandemic has caused many universities to shut down and transition to remote learning platforms, many college students find themselves back in the comfort of their hometowns … the very place they must be present in order to vote.
With the majority of Gen Zers being of age and now residing in their voting states, it’s estimated that this age group, in comparison to the other generation gaps (Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials) is capable of turning the tables of the election entirely.
With this monumental pressure hanging over the heads of their generation, some Gen Zers are no longer questioning who they should vote for.
Rather, they questioned if they should even vote at all.
Zachary Schulenburg, 19, is one of many young adults who felt the urge to step away from the voting booth and avoid the nation’s political crossfire altogether.
“I didn’t vote,” Schulenburg said. “I don’t support either candidate, and I don’t feel comfortable putting my name behind either one of them.”
Although he recognizes that a third-party affiliation is an additional option for voters, Schulenburg believes that, in a nation primarily divided into the categories of Democrat and Republican, the message sent by a third-party vote is far less powerful than the one sent by non-voters.
“There’s a value in not voting,” Schulenburg said. “That would probably open up somebody’s eyes more than X-amount of people voting third party, middle party or voting blindly for Democrat or Republican.”
Krystal White, 21, is another Gen Zer whose personal belief system played a significant role in her voting choice.
In contrast to Schulenburg’s reasoning, she believes that voting in national and local elections has a practical effect on the area she lives in and serves as an opportunity to bring awareness to her community’s needs.
“I felt like I had a duty to [vote],” White said. “I think as a citizen of America I want to utilize every aspect of my citizenship to honor God … which includes voting.”
Although White and Schulenburg hold opposite views regarding the concept of voting, both advocate that one should only vote if they are educated about the political arena and understand their chosen candidate's policies.
This being the case, it could be said that Shakespeare’s famous quote, in the eyes of Gen Zers, should be reworded as “to vote or not to vote—that is the question.”
By Brenna Brown