Vivek Ramaswamy, one of Donald Trump’s Republican primary challengers, is one of the few politicians I know of who has tried to court a group of voters he actively wants to disenfranchise. On one hand, he has developed a pitch to young people disillusioned with politics. On the other hand, he has proposed a plan to raise the voting age to 25, making exceptions only for those who serve in the military or pass a civics test. It was an odd strategy from the beginning, made odder by his choice to rap along to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” at a campaign event in Iowa. Fortunately, Eminem, out of his abundant mercy, quickly decided to put an end to this unnatural fusion of hip-hop and far-right politics.
My relief at the end of Ramaswamy’s rapping career, however, came with an unsettling realization: what does his plan to raise the voting age to 25 say about what he and the Republican Party’s opinions toward young people? After all, even before the 26th Amendment, the voting age was 21, not 25. What’s with the extra four years? Are we so much more ignorant of our country, our world, and our civic responsibilities than the people of 60 years ago?
Let’s—just for the sake of argument —say we were as stupid as the Republican Party thinks we are. Whose fault is that? Which party has time and time again supported taking money away from our public schools? And who has thus hampered our ability to teach civics to our students? It’s certainly not young people. It just seems odd to punish us for not having the resources other generations had—and arguably squandered.
At the very least, I wish Ramaswamy would have been a little more consistent with his civics test requirement. Why not try it on 30-year-olds and 40-year-olds? I’m curious whether they would do so much better than us. Why not 50-year-olds, why not 60-year-olds? Better yet, why not all voters? Civic disengagement is not a new problem. In fact, more than a few of Ramaswamy’s own supporters might find themselves disenfranchised by such a test (maybe he should tell these likely voters not to vote for him in the primary).
But I digress. Civic education is the solution, not disenfranchisement. Alexander Hamilton was either 18 or barely 20 when he wrote his famous pamphlet The Farmer Refuted, and Madison already had an established political career by the time he was in his 30s. Who’s to say that Hamilton should have waited another five to seven years after writing The Farmer Refuted to vote? And who’s to say that Madison should have had to both serve his country and take a civics exam to exercise his rights as an American citizen?
Putting that all by the wayside, another more important question emerges: what should young people do about the Republican Party? As I see it, the 2024 election presents us three options: either vote for the party of Trump and Ramaswamy and youth disenfranchisement, vote for President Biden, or vote for Cornel West or someone else. As to what choice you will make, dear college student, that’s up to you: after all, unlike some people, I trust your good judgment.
But here’s my take, for what it’s worth: I am certainly not voting for the party that wants to disenfranchise me. That would be political suicide. More than that, though, I would do everything I could to make sure that party does not gain the power to take away my power. If only out of pure spite.
I don’t know how you are voting, and I won’t ask. But I am voting for President Biden. It’s as simple as the choice between choosing and not having a choice at all.