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February 22, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Don’t be afraid to say ‘NO’bama

It feels as though I am under some fairly intense peer pressure these days, and it stems from an unlikely source.

No, it’s not about taking drugs, underage drinking or fitting in with questionable social groups. It’s hardly about doing something illegal, but rather about an action that Americans should support.

I’m referring to voting – or, more specifically, the pressure I feel from those around me and the media to vote for Barack Obama.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited that others my age are excited about politics, and that my longtime interest in politics and current events no longer ostracizes me from the rest of my age bracket.

But unlike many of my friends, I do not plan to vote for Obama in the primaries next week, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s almost expected that all young voters who want to cast their vote are supposed to do so for this candidate only.

I’m the first to admit that I initially gave in to the hype surrounding Obama. When he made his announcement to run for president, I jumped on the bandwagon. My friends were all planning to vote for Obama; clearly there was something good about his policies and it was a good idea to support him.

The media had been reporting on the senator and his appeal with young voters since he was elected to the Senate in 2004, and he was “a voice for change,” something that was positive in my eyes.

As time went on, I realized that although I expressed excitement over Obama and his campaign, I had no idea why I had supported him. Investigating further, I came to realize that maybe I did not fully understand or agree with Obama’s campaign platforms.

I had blindly supported Obama, as if I had an obligation to do so based on my identity as a youth voter. Had I fallen victim to peer pressure because I put the opinions of my friends and what the media was telling me over my stances on the issues?

It’s not that Obama suddenly became a horrible figure whom I found impossible to support because my friends were so gung-ho for him, or because he was (and will continue to be) in the public eye constantly. Similarly, people shouldn’t vote for someone simply because they aren’t the most popular candidate, or to go against the grain.

What happened to listening to what the candidates were really saying and what their past records have proven, rather than what the media and our peers would want?

Freshman Maria Martinez echoed my sentiments. Obama “seems to appeal to young people for some reason, and [young] people look at me like I’m stupid or something if I say I’m not voting for Obama,” she said. Since when is this a one-person presidential race in which the candidate has been decided for nearly two years before election day?

This is a process in which people are supposed to support who they think will do the best job based on their own personal judgments, rather than what people in their circle of friends feel. “There is an 80 percent chance in the next election that I will tell all my friends that I’m voting for Barack Obama, but I will secretly vote for John McCain,” Liz Lemon said on “30 Rock.”

Is there a need to impress our friends by appearing to support one candidate over another? We’re all given the right to free speech, and if we wish to tell people who we are voting for, we shouldn’t have to lie to conform to social expectations.

This is not to say that Obama won’t bring about the change he is promising, or that his voters or detractors are ill-informed about what they are voting for.

I just can’t help but wonder if there are others who fell into the same trap of peer pressure I have, and may accidentally make a decision with their vote that they disagree with, based on social expectations.

When Tuesday rolls around, as Maria says, “votes should be on the candidates’ views on the issues, because that is what will really affect us in the long run.”

Fads can be both social and political, and whether it’s Obama or another candidate, don’t vote for someone because you are trying to conform or to go against what others say you are supposed to.

If I voted according to my friends’ wishes back in my elementary school days, we could be looking at President Britney Spears. The same principle can still apply today: Vote for who you truly believe in, not who others say you should.

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