Young people don’t turn out to vote.

Young people are politically apathetic.

Young voters just don’t care.

These maxims are intensely disheartening, but they are unfortunately fairly applicable to the modern American political system. Only slightly more than half of 18-29 year-olds currently turn out for presidential elections in the US, and in midterm elections, the figure is even lower. Obviously, for a democratic system that prizes and depends on voter turnout, this is a major problem.

Fairfield University was scheduled to host a senatorial debate on October 25 and a gubernatorial debate on October 27. One could hardly imagine a more respectful and nonpartisan atmosphere, particularly for an event sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Although statewide races in Connecticut are nearly always widely viewed as safely Democratic, the debates nevertheless had the potential to galvanize Fairfield students into political participation. Perhaps direct contact with prominent figures like Senator Richard Blumenthal and Governor Ned Lamont would have even inspired an above-average number of Fairfield students from out of state to vote in elections in their own states.

But no more. On October 18, students who had reserved tickets to the debate were informed that it had been canceled due to “candidate non-participation” on the parts of both Blumenthal and Lamont. 

I hope that the reason for this “candidate non-participation” is not the shrinking lead of both the governor and the senator in polls as of late. Naturally, in Connecticut, both races are still widely classified as likely or even safe Democratic victories. I personally agree with these predictions wholeheartedly, no matter how much the polls might wobble. Rather, what bothers me is the idea of these politicians withdrawing from a public forum simply because the debates might not aid their chances of being re-elected.

This issue is not unique to Connecticut, nor is it a partisan one. Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) recently took his opponent Herschel Walker to task for not appearing at their second scheduled debate and shirking his obligation to the people of Georgia. I, for one, am very much in agreement with the senator on this issue—no person who hopes to represent a constituency should be fearful of subjecting themselves to their constituents’ scrutiny.

To be clear, as a resident of New Jersey, I do not purport to tell the residents of Connecticut which candidates deserve their votes. As a 20 year-old Fairfield student, however, I feel slighted by these candidates who apparently do not feel that the political engagement of young voters is worth their time and outreach. I just hope that if 18-29 year-olds are once again lethargic on November 8, Blumenthal and Lamont will do more than shake their heads at the sight.

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