Millenials are antidote to Citizens United

As students return to the classrooms for a new semester, this may serve as a good time for us to reevaluate the state of the upcoming presidential elections, as well as our generation’s role in shaping its results. It has been a busy summer. As predicted, the effect of the Citizens United decision on the U.S. political process has compromised the will of the working-class majority in favor of the interests pushed forward by wealthy factions. A quick peek at the list of large donors will reveal how the rich have poured donations for select candidates in a frictionless manner, manipulating the roster of potential candidates and rearranging the order of importance among issues. Rest assured this has been a bipartisan trend that affects us all. 

It doesn’t take much to predict what comes next: unprecedented levels of campaign resources for the chosen few, as well as a proportionate increase in their abilities to damage the reputation of opponents through a barrage of propaganda. In bygone eras, such a situation would surely result in an insurmountable obstacle for candidates who oppose the interests of the rich or who, at the very least, place those of the common people on equal footing. 

Yet all is not lost. The members of those very same wealthy factions are surely guilty — either by ignorance or arrogance — of overestimating the influence of their money during the Internet age. Perhaps as a result of habit, seeing as how unchecked propaganda led to the manipulation of entire groups during the prior century, these shadowy individuals still cling to outdated methods of corruption. 

Readers would be prudent not to be discouraged by this onslaught of marketing tricks and should instead find it easy to spot the same ploys that have been sculpted by past successes of infomercials, used-car salesmen and Fox News, all of which so frequently led to the exploitation of their peers. This author's intention is not to dwell on the folly of past generations but to instead point to the role that young people will play in this coming election as the exception to the rule of traditional political publicity, characterized by unfathomable levels of private funding.

For the first time, “millenials” will represent the largest voting group in a U.S. Presidential election. This group is one that has come of age during the largest advance in communication since the printing press. Time and time again, we have chosen to organize ourselves through freely accessible channels of communication and have shown a resilient, if not somewhat rebellious, backing for unconventional (often illegal) distribution and consumption of media. This bridging of communication across geographic and demographic boundaries has allowed for cooperation on a scale never seen before, resulting in an organized will capable of blocking unwelcome legislation, supporting charitable causes and, in cases overseas, even toppling tyrannical regimes. When one voice can be broadcasted to vast numbers with a simple retweet, money loses its influence. In this sense, the free Internet has become a magnifier of opinions and an equalizer of factions. 

Activism at the individual level is thus more influential now and certainly more needed than at any point in the history of our nation. These are not exaggerated claims. Indeed, when combined with the fact that climate change is among those issues most vehemently opposed by these large donors, the stakes are likely even higher than the ultimate fate of our own Constitution. The money is already there and, as we shall soon see, the propaganda will follow. Traditional media will surely attempt to marginalize our positions and favor candidates. But if we stick to our preferred channels, and keep those alert that are most exposed to theirs, this may become a case of an unstoppable force and an immovable object. It is time we follow the footsteps of our own peers, who have developed a strong tendency of taking on the very industries that fuel these moneyed interests and who have shown that even small teams, with access to information technology, can take on large-scale enterprises and their excesses of capital spending. Upon reflection, readers will see that politics too can be disrupted.

Giancarlo Chaux is a former editor of The Daily Targum. 

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