Extend political engagement beyond election season

Brooks Johnson

As the the election came to a close, so did a lot of student interest and involvement in politics. The weeks of political fervor came and went, and students who were swept up in the political process are likely to lessen their political activity.

However, this shouldn’t be the case. Elections cannot serve as benchmarks for political interest. They shouldn’t be capturing our political attention for only a few weeks. Students must avoid politically disengaging until the next cycle. If anything, the end of elections should encourage greater political engagement from both the winning and losing sides, and help promote the candidate who won or formulate a plan and platform to seek a challenger.

“There always are drop offs in excitement following elections, but because this election energized both sides so much, that should be even more of an incentive to remain politically involved,” said Zachary Price, a government junior and the interim vice president of TX Votes. “If students don’t stay aware of politics during non-election seasons, they run the risk of becoming uninformed about issues that will directly impact them.”

College is often the time when political activity among students reaches its peak, offering the most opportunities to become politically involved. A lack of political involvement should never be a reality. UT students have many options to remain politically engaged on a local level. Austin offers a list of open city council meetings that can be attended by residents, and through attending, students can learn about what’s happening in their city.

“It isn’t enough to just watch the news and view politics as static now that the elections are over,” Price said. “Looking up your state legislators, interning at the capitol and testifying on student-related issues such as sexual assault or fixed tuition are all ways to hold your officials accountable and stay engaged in politics beyond election season.”

No age group has made going to the polls more of a chore than millenials and those in the pre-professional stage, which is the majority of UT’s student body. However, in producing midterm voting numbers unmatched in Travis County history, as well as the forming of coalitions and marches throughout the year, it is clear that civic engagement among UT students is alive and well. But it shouldn’t end in the coming non-election months.

Dormancy is the enemy of any movement, especially those that aim to make a difference. However, simply because there is no active election does not mean these methods of civic engagement must end. Rather, students must view these elections as building blocks for the future, creating periods of using the time between elections to work towards bringing about desired changes.

“Even though the election didn’t turn out quite the way some of us had hoped, there’s no doubt it has rejuvenated political discussion and involvement at UT,” said Joseph Reed, a chemical engineering freshman and first time voter. “If we as students want to keep up the momentum, we have keep doing these rallies, marches and demonstrations.”

With opportunities offered in Texas’ capitol building during sessions such as legislative and district office internships, UT students have the unique advantage of being within blocks of those who represent them. Students can interact directly with those who govern us.

Issues such as the fight for LGBTQ rights, stricter or relaxed gun control, the availability for women to have abortions and decreased funding for public education are all topics that are just as relevant to UT students now as they were prior to the election, and the need for students engagement, discussion and involvement in these issues remains as necessary as ever.

Johnson is a journalism freshman from San Francisco, California