Politics: it’s historically a word that many shrink from, envisioning slippery old men sitting comfortably on their thrones atop the one per cent and dictating what the rest of us should do with our money – or lack thereof. I’ve been reprimanded for talking about politics at the dinner table before, as though it is something far removed from the ordinary person and something that will make everyone queasy as they digest their roast beef.
However, what is politics at its most basic level? The answer: it is the art of decision making between people.
When you’re deciding which cafe to go to for Sunday brunch after a ladies’ night out, that’s politics. When your family is arguing over where to go on holiday, that’s politics. We all engage in it, every day, without even realising.
What do youth voters want?
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Of course, when most of us talk about politics we aren’t talking about brunch; we are referring to people and events on a national, international and global scale that seem very far removed from us. The reality is that these political events have very real, and often long-lasting, impacts on every ordinary person’s day-to-day life. After all, politics is decision making, and at the upper levels it is decision making about what our societies need.
This is why voting is so important. In exercising our democratic rights and casting a vote, we are choosing what we think our society needs. All political parties and candidates present their versions of solutions for what they believe to be society’s most pressing needs.
Often I have heard and read of people bemoaning the system; decrying every available option for not being the perfect solution, and deciding that their only choice is to not vote.
I recently read an article where a young voter listed the reasons why he wouldn’t vote. In his words: “If I do not vote then I cannot be responsible for the actions of people in positions of power. It is those who participate in the system that are responsible for the outcomes.” This is simply untrue. Not voting is still a choice for a side – whatever side is the majority. Every vote not cast, is a vote not cast for those in the minority. Particularly in a centrist democracy like that of New Zealand, not voting is equivalent to voting for the status quo.
The youth demographic in particular does not have a high turnout, both in New Zealand and abroad. Last election, three out of five eligible young voters did not turn up to vote. As a young voter myself, I would not say this is for lack of engagement with politics. Nearly everyone I know has some sort of opinion on New Zealand politics and actively engages with it.
However, the problem that is prevalent amongst a lot of voters in New Zealand (but particularly the youth), is that they search for the perfect candidate or party whose policies all 100 per cent align with their individual views of what society needs.
The truth is that what each of us considers to be the most important issues facing society is based off our individual experiences with the system, as well as our upbringing and environment. It is highly unlikely we will find a politician or a party whose views match up perfectly with our own.
Therefore, the best way to choose how to vote is to pick a few issues that you consider to be the most pressing ones facing our society today, and vote for the party or candidate whose policies will best address those issues. If you truly cannot find a party with any policies that appeal to you, then step forward and create your own – it’s the beauty of having a multi-party democracy.
Personally, my biggest concerns are education, mental health and healthcare so these are the issues I will be voting on.
Politics doesn’t have to be inaccessible, or reserved for the elite.
If there’s anything Trump has proved to the world, it’s that voters do matter. Exercise your democratic rights this election, and vote for what you believe society needs.
– Stuff Nation