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BEST Political Engagement of the decade: Surge in Local Activism + Voter Turnout

From our BEST Culture of the decade feature:

Political engagement ebbs and flows over years and even generations, but the latter portion of this decade has seen a pretty significant shift in activism both nationwide, and right here in Champaign-Urbana. While a backlash due to another political party overtaking the White House is pretty typical — we certainly saw it in the Tea Party movement following the 2008 election of Barack Obama because you know, racism, I mean socialism — the response to the utterly unexpected (though maybe not in hindsight) election of Donald Trump unleashed a wave of people participating in increasing levels of political involvement. From the Women’s March to airport protests over the Muslim Ban to March for Our Lives to climate rallies, we saw versions of these national events playing out in C-U. In the past three years, many more people have called their Congressperson, knocked on doors for candidates, ran for office themselves, and/or showed up at the offices of elected officials who wanted to take away healthcare, loosen gun regulations, and fall in lockstep with every horrific presidential policy (cough cough…Rodney Davis…cough cough).

Midterms are notorious for low turnouts not just here in Champaign County, but nationally as well. Last year was an exception. A big exception. Overall turnout in the county increased from an average of 54,530 voters in the past four midterms to 80,112 in the 2018 midterms. An even more exceptional occurrence was the flood of student voters resulting in exponentially larger numbers at every campus precinct

The student turnout most certainly made a difference in the blue sweep of county offices, most of which had been long-held by Republicans, which led to a good amount of grumbling from local Republican voters (you can read more about that in last year’s WORST column). 

It sucks that it took the election of Racist Shitbag (fun fact: this is what my phone autocorrects to when I type “Trump”…thanks to my spouse) to kick some of our apathetic asses into gear, but here we are. (Julie McClure)

Photo by Sam Logan

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