Somehow, we’re already nearing the end of summer 2020. This year has brought a devastating pandemic, catastrophic economic recession, and an uprising for racial justice, and we’ve still got months to go. Now, on the brink of an unknowable fall, schools are reopening around the country, and the election cycle is poised to pick up speed.
We asked our Teen Vote committee what the events of this year have meant to them on a personal level, and how they see them shaping the United States in months and years to come.
Editor’s note: These responses have been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
How do you think the pandemic will shape U.S. politics going forward?
Hanna: The pandemic showed many politicians’ true colors [regarding] compassion for U.S. citizens. Going forward, I think the reactions of different politicians to the virus will strengthen their hold on their bases. Ultraconservatives that have been pushing for reopening and ignoring the effects of the virus to prioritize the economy will praise ultraconservative politicians for doing the same, while progressives will praise progressive politicians for their criticism of these attitudes.
Ruth: Everyone has said that we’re fighting two pandemics: COVID-19 and virulent racism. The latter has been ailing this country since its inception, and is simply manifesting itself more overtly — evident in COVID-19 statistics, racist dog-whistle tweets about suburban neighborhoods, and recycled voter suppression tactics. With calls from Trump to delay the election amid the pandemic, I’m deeply concerned about voter turnout, accessibility in getting to the polls, folks sharing information (or misinformation) regarding mail-in ballots, etc. Our political paradigm will never be “the same” or “normal,” and honestly, it hasn’t been for a very long time.
Syd: I feel like I saw a lot of people radicalize toward prison and police abolition very quickly last month, and I saw more people from my own state getting involved in protests than I ever have (which was awesome). One thing I have seen that has worried me is the amount of misinformation about COVID and topics like abolition and defunding the police that have been circulating around Twitter and Instagram. I worry that people are not critically reading and checking sources.
Kanyinsola: Unfortunately, because of how inefficient leaders have dealt with this pandemic, minorities are at a significant disadvantage and die at higher rates in many states. Even when a cure is found, Black and brown bodies will be the last to receive it.
Kiden: I think people will be a lot more critical about who they vote for because the sheer ignorance of our government officials is baffling. I think more people will go out to vote and get involved in politics to ensure that nothing like this will happen again. A pandemic is unavoidable, yes, but the way it has been handled is avoidable, and there are no excuses for it.
Jillian: This is already reshaping behavior for many people, from being more cognizant of essential trips to how often we touch our face. Masks are going to be a new normal for the foreseeable future.
On a personal level, how has the pandemic changed your life?
Ruth: I’m a rising senior who will be graduating with a journalism degree in the middle of a recession, i.e., not an amazing combination. After hustling for the past three years to [try to] have a stress-free senior year, I won’t be able to take part in senior festivities and traditions, and I’m doubtful that I’ll have a graduation ceremony. I’m trying to make the best out of it and to pivot and swivel, come up with at least three contingency plans post-graduation, etc. I just cannot shake the fact that all of this could have been prevented. All of it.