“Why don’t they care?”
“I thought this was their time for change?”
These sullen musings periodically escaped from the minds of old men and slipped through the cracks of their half-smiles, only to bounce off the dimly lit rafters and empty seats of a downtown New Paltz bar, 36 Main.
The men were happy enough with the results of the night’s elections, yet were unable to rid their faces of the disappointment that comes with years of excitement almost always followed by underachievement.
I met these men at the SUNY New Paltz campus polling center earlier in the day, as they worked to support the “youth movement” as they described it, in terms of voting and participating in politics.
“I like to see young people participate in politics because they are the future, and if they are as complacent as previous generations, or even more so, who’s going to change this path of destruction and corruption we’re on?” said David Joyce, 62, of New Paltz.
After asking Joyce if he knew of any gatherings to watch the election results that night, he invited me to 36 Main, emphasizing the yearly tradition that the event is: Quiet drinking interrupted by the occasional grunt of approval or intense groan of displeasure. He also failed to mention that half of his compatriots would be tucked into bed before results were announced.
Nonetheless, the troops were still standing around as Joyce marched to the bar to melt away the stress of the past couple of weeks.
“I wish there was just some way to reach them, the college kids,” he said. “We called every registered voter on campus that failed to vote around 5 o’clock. Didn’t help. The numbers kept trickling in at the same pace.”
Despite being unable to provide official numbers from the day, and with nationwide numbers on age-based voting being unavailable until tomorrow at the earliest, the men were still certain that student voting has decreased drastically in numbers, especially since the election of President Barack Obama.
William Anderson, 68, wasted no time in attributing this local case of young adults neglecting their civic duties to a nationwide problem.
“You saw back in ’08, when kids were all excited that they could make history, [with a black president] they came out in droves to vote. Well guess what? History is made every day kids! If they went out to vote this year we wouldn’t have tea party guys like Rand Paul winning in Kentucky,” Anderson said.
After about an hour of the monotone, political droning about the tea party movement, and the hope they are placing in Maurice Hinchey (his status as a New Paltz graduate was mentioned only 73 times all night), they agreed to part ways until next time.
On my walk home from the bar, slightly sad and a little drunk, I came across a jubilant group of eager, well-spirited young women.
“Hey, what’d you guys think of the election results today?” I asked.
“Elections?” said one girl, dressed in a T-shirt with an American flag adorning her chest. “I didn’t know frats had elections, they’re like all secretive and stuff.”