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Political engagement goes beyond banter

[caption id="attachment_15426" align="alignnone" width="300"]hofstra-chron Photo courtesy of the Hofstra Chronicle[/caption] I walked into the Boland Cellar on Monday night, Sept. 26, hoping to find a few people watching the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Much to my surprise, there was a group of at least 30 people gathered. After all, young people supposedly don’t care about politics. “Make her have a seizure!” someone called from the back of the cellar. Flickers of laughter filled the room, followed by more jokes and a series of profanities directed at each of the candidates. Clinton mentioned that Trump has yet to release his tax returns. Trump responded by mentioning Clinton’s deleted emails. “Shots,” a student said. When NBC’s Lester Holt asked the candidates about race, moans filled the room. The same happened when criminal justice reform and women’s issues came up. As the debate came to a close, I focused my attention more closely on the people around me. Students were losing interest. Someone came in with a box of doughnuts. The sound of crinkling chip bags echoed. A girl fell asleep against the wall. I started to wonder what brought all of these people down here on a Monday night when there was a football game on. They were clearly interested, but not enough to pay attention for the entire debate. If the students weren’t interested in the debate, they wouldn’t be watching. Towards the end, though, they really weren’t watching – it was just background noise. I don’t necessarily agree with the stereotype that young people don’t care about politics, but I think that some of them don’t put a lot of effort into really understanding what is going on. The students in the cellar had turned on the debate, thrown insults back and forth, and only truly seemed engaged when Clinton and Trump did the same. I think for many young people, this is being involved or “caring about politics.” It’s not. This is needless banter that doesn’t push the conversation forward. This does not help to advance a discourse on policy. It’s easier to mock than it is to understand policy. It’s easier to laugh than to discuss police brutality. It’s easier to tease than to converse about abortion. I get it. I really do. That doesn’t mean that I’m letting my fellow millennials off the hook. They need to get involved. They need to do their research and ask questions. They need to care, really care, about what candidates say. Young voters need to weigh what’s being said against their own opinions. They need to have opinions. More than anything, young people need to know that taking the easy way out, or “throwing shade,” does not equate to adequate political discourse. After all, if the future of this country doesn’t pay attention to controversial issues, who will? Isabel Soisson is a journalism major from Philadelphia. She can be reached at


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