Forum

Why social issues still matter in this presidential election

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Kyle Henson wrote an article for The Tartan last week, “Economy must be top issue for young voters,” that emphasized that it takes no leadership or skill for politicians to take a stance on social issues. The article also made the case for young voters to vote based solely on the economic issues of the nation, since social issues will remain stagnant due to the ineptitude of our country’s politicians.

Henson asks if we are naive enough to make any issue more important than the economy and our future job prospects. While I agree that the economy is one of the most important problems facing the country today, to disregard social issues and other obstacles plaguing the nation as secondary to and entirely dependent on our financial future is equally naive.

Additionally, while it is easy to criticize politicians on both sides of the aisle for their lack of action, it is by no means reason to disregard the personal or public stances of all politicians on social issues as irrelevant or inconsequential.

First, I’ll address the current political landscape. I share Henson’s discontent for politicians who don’t follow through with promises on which they run their campaigns, and for a Congress that is entrenched in partisanship, endless repeals, and little compromise. But to shrug off President Barack Obama, presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and the entirety of Congress as completely passive and unable to take a stance on social issues is ignorant.

It is a far cry to say that Obama and Romney share the same view on marriage equality. Henson claims that, “Both want to leave it to the states to decide if same-sex couples can get married,” yet Romney’s campaign website states that the Republican candidate will “champion a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.”

But this might all be hot air, since how often does legislation on social issues come to fruition? Henson can only recall Congress’ measure to “declare pizza a vegetable” (which wasn't what happened, but that’s beside the point) as an example of our legislative branch’s recent achievements.

I’d like to jog his memory with the Congressional repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) in 2010, a landmark for gay rights in the U.S. The repeal of this unconstitutional segregation is only the start of a movement for equal rights for all Americans. To say the status quo on social issues isn’t changing is utterly false.

If DADT or marriage equality doesn’t personally affect you, this past summer Congress passed a bill that prevented subsidized Stafford loan interest rates for students from doubling to 6.8 percent for this academic year.

Some may see this as an economic issue, but I see it as a social issue. The country has an ethical imperative to help students gain access to affordable, high-quality education, which more than anything else will help bring the nation out of any turmoil or crisis.

Social issues are far from a stagnant arena. Many baby boomers in politics on both sides of the aisle are stubbornly entrenched in their beliefs and viewpoints.

But soon they will have to make way for our generation. I believe our generation of political leaders will be more open-minded, more willing to listen to and consider the opposition, and less shackled by an aging, two-party, black-and-white view of the political system.

Secondly, I’ll address the prioritization of economic issues for young voters. Henson cites an article from the Associated Press that says 53.6 percent of college graduates under the age of 25 are jobless or underemployed. However, that same article states that in 2000, well before the Great Recession and Obama, that percentage was at a low of 41 percent.

An increase of 12.6 percent is nothing to scoff at, but it provides more context to the situation.

Regardless, Henson’s argument hinges on this claim that, “If you can’t pay for an abortion or your same-sex wedding, it’s not going to happen whether it’s legal or not.” It’s overly simplistic to think that every aspect of our society must take a backseat to revenue and expenditures.

Henson fails to realize a crucial aspect of this nation and its citizens. It’s not the economy that drives and sustains America: It’s people. It’s the values and passions that get us out of bed every morning to follow our vocations. Through our virtues and actions, we will leave behind a legacy to our children — hopefully a legacy that we’re proud to stand by.

The true cost of modern times on future generations won’t only be the burdens of our economy: It will also be how we faced injustice, ignorance, and oppression.

On Nov. 6, my vote will be for the candidate who is best aligned to act in accordance with my beliefs on all issues. Young voters: I have the utmost confidence in you. I implore you to vote likewise, whether I agree with you or not. Don’t let others dictate whom you should vote for or what you should base your vote on.