Dems’ Message To Young Voters: ‘We Can’t Do This Without You’

What keeps two of Iowa’s state senators up at night?

Trump, for one. And climate change. A new generation of kids getting addicted to nicotine worries them. As does the never-ending news cycle.

Zach Wahls and Joe Bolkcom fielded questions from young people and adults alike at the NextGen Iowa Youth in Politics Forum Thursday evening at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City.

The two Democrats shared the issues that gravely concern them and left young people with a clear message: It might not be fair, but “we can’t do this without you.” 

When asked what keeps him up at night, Wahls quickly said, “Trump.” 

“I don’t know. It’s not like I’m worried,” Wahls clarified. “I’m just scrolling through Twitter. I can’t look away. It’s not healthy. This is not how the country is supposed to be.” 

“I feel kind of distracted right now. Not from this [forum] specifically, but just kind of in life,” Wahls said. “Trump keeps me up at night. Climate change keeps me up at night. I read that book earlier this year, ‘The Uninhabitable Earth,’ that really kind of shook me up a little bit in a way that I was not really expecting or prepared for.”

For Joe Bolkcom, it’s the news cycle that keeps him awake. It’s the chaos of the thing, he said.

But, it also depends on the night.

Last Monday at the Engler Theater there was a forum on vaping. A national expert presented some concerning data on the attempt to addict a whole new generation of high school kids to nicotine.

“That kept me up on Monday night, and what’s the policy response?” Bolkcom said. “There’s a lot to be worried about right now. I’m concerned about the election next year. We need to not only get rid of Trump, we need to put someone in there that’s going to get after some of these problems.”

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Jocelyn Roof, a University of Iowa student who moderated the discussion, weighed in on the conversation, saying she thinks about health care a lot at night.

“My step-dad has stage 4 terminal cancer,” Roof said. “It’s been something that’s on my mind a lot. And thinking about where that’s put my middle class family and how we have to ask for help.”

“[I think] about how unfortunate it is we have a Go Fund Me page because we couldn’t afford medical costs. I think those things keep me up at night,” Roof said. “And thinking, still, how fortunate I am to be someone who can still go to university, is still white, part of a majority identity and can still afford to do several things.”

“There are so many people who are less privileged than I, and I think about that a lot, too,” Roof said. 

In response, Wahls said: “You have a first hand view of how royally fucked up our healthcare system is in this country,” and encouraged Roof to stay active in politics so she can help fix the problems she sees.

He told the college students gathered that fixing the broken political system “shouldn’t be on you.”

“Unfortunately, your country is hurting right now,” Wahls said. “And you need to get involved. And we can’t do this without you.” 

Bolkcom reminded the crowd of students that being in politics is a marathon, not a sprint.

“Being in politics and being involved in civic life and paying attention to the decision making of the government, whatever level it is, it’s really a marathon operation,” Bolkcom said. “There’s a lot of short distances. We’ve got a race between now and 2020, but once we get done with that race the next most important election of our lifetimes will be right around the corner.”

“Don’t be discouraged if after this race — we’re going to win next year — but one of my concerns is … sometimes you get involved in stuff and it doesn’t go your way and you get frustrated and walk away. Don’t do that. Stay involved. And see it as a long-term participation,” Bolkcom said. “The word is run by people that show up.”


by Paige Godden
Posted 9/30/19

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