In 2004, I went to an outdoor rally for former President George W. Bush in Albuquerque. I remember that I was cold and that my dad bought me hot chocolate. I have no idea what Bush talked about. But I remember writing in my Barbie diary that it wasn’t fair that 8-year-olds couldn’t vote. I couldn’t wait to be 18 so I could support Bush just like my parents.
On Tuesday, you may have voted like your parents, or completely the opposite of them. Even if you didn’t vote in the primary, you’re either wondering what position to take in November or considering not voting at all.
As you start to make that choice, understand that college is a time to question the things you were told as a child, but there’s no shame in choosing to vote like your parents.
A U.S. and UK study in the British Journal of Political Science shows that if parents are politically active, children are more likely to also be politically active. However, those who were raised to be politically active are more likely to change their political views because of new social contexts and new issues.
So if your parents didn’t talk about politics often, you probably don’t feel as comfortable talking about them. It’s a shameful feeling to realize that you may be voting like your parents instead of voting with reason and thoughtfulness.
But if you want to be reasonable, consider two reasons to vote like your parents.
Your parents taught you right from wrong.
Your parents are the ones who taught you how to manage your piggybank and share your toys. Now that you’re in college, you’re learning about social justice and financial responsibility. You care about tuition, debt and the homeless.
All of these things add up to your political opinion. Your parents taught you core values. As you learn more about life in college, you may find that your parent’s party affiliation fits better with those core values. Or the reverse may be true, and you may find the opposite party fits better with your core values.
For example, say your parents taught you to share with others and at the same time they upheld strong conservative politics. After studying in college, you may find that conservative policies such as low taxation allow you to give more to the homeless. On the other hand, you may find that a liberal policy of community healthcare fits better with the core value of sharing.
Parents are not perfect. But college is a place to explore the truth about what your parents taught you.
Your parents pay taxes, provide for a family and contribute to the workforce.
Unless your parents have special circumstances, they’re probably part of the American workforce. They care about employment, education and healthcare. These things may not seem important to you as a 20-year-old, minimum-wage earning, Whataburger-eating student.
But in 10 years, the Whataburger might hit you with some borderline diabetes, and suddenly healthcare is going to be much more important to you. The way you vote now will determine polices for the day when you have kids, a dog and a house. So there’s no shame in choosing to vote the same way your parents do because your future self may thank you.
Sometimes I still feel like an 8-year-old with a Barbie diary – way too excited about politics I don’t understand. I do have things to be passionate about and so do you.
So whether you choose left or right, take what you’ve learned your whole life, trust in your values and go fill out a ballot. There’s no shame in voting the same as or differently than your parents. Now, if you’re still writing in a Barbie diary, I guarantee that shame will last forever.