Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Wake up and smell the coffee. It’s going to take a miracle to avoid a Trump versus Biden presidential election. And we need to prepare for the worst.
The first primary election is about one month away. Polls show President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump as the clear frontrunners for their parties, even with their individual approval ratings underwater. And those numbers haven’t budged — even with a frivolous impeachment inquiry looming and more than 90 indictments.
Realistically, I don’t see a plausible path to victory for any of the candidates who haven’t been president before. The United States is too entrenched in its two-party system and both frontrunners are raising substantially more money than their opponents. Time is also running out for new candidates to throw their hat into the race, as filing deadlines have come and gone.
Understandably, young people are disillusioned by this, which is partly why they’re eight percent less likely to vote in 2024 compared to 2020. Americans — particularly Generation Z — need to face this reality now by acknowledging that Biden or Trump will likely be elected president next year.
People unwilling to accept this and plan to “protest vote” by voting third party or abstaining would only help Trump. Gen Z’s willingness to abstain from voting for Biden may doom the very issues they value on socioeconomic and social justice reforms.
Gen Z is active in the political realm in various ways. Just like preceding generations, young people have taken to the streets to elevate their voices on matters important to them. Gen Z also utilizes social media to reach larger audiences about its causes.
While these activism efforts are effective at amplifying voices en masse, they stop short in actually choosing representation. The only way people can guarantee that their voices are heard by elected officials is through voting.
A Harvard poll shows young people who are inclined to vote third party or abstain altogether would help Trump. Since most of the independent and third party candidates have liberal platforms, it’s likely those candidates will siphon votes away from Biden.
Gen Z must start seeing the bigger picture. The outcome of this election has major ramifications on our future. Critical policies such as the Affordable Care Act and student loan debt forgiveness could be repealed if former President Trump were to win re-election. Saddled with debt and high healthcare costs, young Americans could forget about economic security as they enter the workforce and establish financial independence.
There are also serious national and international security implications under a second Trump presidency. Expect the upward trend of white supremacy and far-right violence to continue along with authoritarian regimes winning wars in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
At the end of the day, the fundamental purpose of voting is to elect people who will best represent our values. We’re never going to fully agree with our elected officials, but we expect them to share most of our interests. By not voting, though, we risk losing what we care about by getting stuck with a leader who has none of our interests at heart.
Civic engagement might mean that some young people will vote for Trump, and they have every right to do so. But with the vast majority of Gen Z leaning liberal, the net gain for society would be much greater if they choose the candidate who best represents their values and has a feasible chance of winning.
Hunter Craig is a senior public policy major. He can be reached at email@example.com.