EDITORIAL Let the games begin

It’s starting.

With Presidential elections more than six months away, politics are beginning to invade UM and other college campuses around the nation.

Recently, Miami-Dade County Mayor and Democratic senatorial candidate Alex Penelas came to speak to students, as did Congressman (FL-20) and Democratic senatorial candidate Peter Deutsch. On Monday, Senator and expected Democratic nominee John Kerry (D-Mass.) kicked off his “Change Starts with U” college campus tour.

To paraphrase it in UM terms: the storm is here.

Politicians have realized that college students have the potential of being one of the most powerful voting groups in the country. As a whole, we remain a relatively untapped source of voters that politicians have not been able to reach, at least not yet. Campaigns like MTV’s “Choose or Lose 20 Million Loud,” “Rock the Vote” and UM’s own “Get Out the Vote” intend to grasp the attention of young voters, informing them and registering them to vote, regardless of party affiliations. MTV’s campaign, for example, aims to get 20 million young people to vote in order to be a deciding factor in the election.

In the past, many college students were uninterested and unaffected by main election issues: Social Security – we’ll have plenty of working years to save up for retirement!; Medicare – isn’t that something for old people?; taxes – what taxes? Mommy and Daddy pay for those.

It’s easy to take refuge in the minutiae of our daily lives (classes, meetings, TV shows) and believe that things are all right and problems are “elsewhere,” never close to home.

This time around, however, the campaign issues are nearer to our hearts: gay marriage, funding for college, people our age going to war… we’ve even taken some interest in Social Security, now that it appears we will have to deal with its burden.

Currently, some members of our age group seem to be fed up with party politics and the “politics game” and feel all politicians are conniving thieves and liars. Others find it annoying to change their registration to absentee voting. However, these excuses are not good enough.

You can whine and moan about the current government, past governments and future candidates, but if you didn’t vote – if you didn’t even attempt to make a difference – then you’re not entitled to complain.

Put yourself in the shoes of college students in other countries, where votes are lost to corruption and questionable political institutions, where presidential candidates have been in prison or where citizens don’t even have the right to vote. They would be thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in American elections, where institutions are trustworthy, votes count and all candidates are equally qualified to hold the office of President.

Unfortunately, UM students are often accused of being apathetic and apolitical. We would hate to believe that this is true. Hopefully it’s just that in an evenly split campus, politically-speaking – much like the country itself – students simply keep their opinions to themselves. Now, however, is the time to voice them.

If you want change, this is your chance to request it. If you’re happy with the way things are going, this is the moment to express it.

Put down the beer, stop IM-ing and get off your ass. Register to vote. Read the newspaper. Listen to press conferences. Look up the candidates’ web pages to get informed. Follow politics for the next few crucial months.

You have no excuse.