They say time flies when you’re having fun, so it’s no wonder Election Week 2020 felt like it lasted a full year.
When the first polls closed at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3, Americans nationwide had already been anxiously glued to their phones, computers and televisions, but we’d have to wait nearly a week for the 2020 Presidential Election to be called. No matter who you voted for, this one was a nail-biter. And though we have always been criticized for not paying attention to the news, us kids were no less anxious than our parents.
The oldest members of my generation, Gen Z, are about 25 years old; only seven years’ worth of us could vote in this election. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us didn’t care.
I come from a very politically-engaged family. I can remember watching the results of the 2008 election on the TV in my apartment in downtown D.C. and hearing my father whoop and holler when Barack Obama was declared the winner. I was taken to his inauguration, wrapped in as many layers as my father thought was necessary for a five-year-old at the end of January. Ever since I can remember, election nights — primaries and midterms included — have been special nights at my house. I haven’t missed a single one since the day I was born.
As something of a “fun” experiment, I kept a log of how I followed this year’s election results. I recorded nearly every action I took in the Notes app on my phone. The log, in full, is as follows:
What I learned, though I knew it in the back of my mind, was that I spent nearly every waking moment since the morning of November 3 staring at forecasts, results and any type of media that was following or commentating on the election. When I wasn’t doing that, I was chatting with my friends over the phone, FaceTime or text about the results. Even my schoolwork, which admittedly was reduced that week for a number of reasons, took a backseat because of how anxious I was to know the outcome.
But political awareness isn’t limited to teenagers in the nation’s capital. Through social media, I saw teens across the nation, and even across the globe, become invested in this year’s election. I took part in many text exchanges with kids from many different states and countries. I scrolled through hundreds of social media posts that were made to inform voters of each candidate’s policies, entice people to vote or recap any updates on the race. Teens like myself who were too young to vote in this race produced a good amount of these messages . Why were we so invested? Because the results of this election affect us just as much as they affect any adult.
In the weeks following the election, I have let myself detach a bit from the news, though I haven’t stopped paying attention completely. I continue to read the alerts on my phone and keep an eye on Twitter to monitor the Trump Administration’s response to the election results which, no matter what side of the aisle you sit on, was objectively hectic. For the first day or two, however, I celebrated Biden’s victory. My father and I woke up at 5:30 a.m. the next morning, bought a newspaper with the results on the front page, and headed to the National Mall to see the sun rise over the Reflecting Pool while sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Of course, after the first week of jubilation, it was back to work. I focused my attention on the fallout over the results, from the Trump Administration’s delayed start of the transition to the certifications in key states of the official vote counts. I also gave my attention to the upcoming Senate races in Georgia, which I wrote an article about for my school’s newspaper. And finally, on Monday night, I glued myself to my television for one last presidential race result as Joe Biden was declared the winner by the Electoral College.
My generation paid attention to this election because we care about our future. If we couldn’t vote, we could help others vote. We signed up to work phone banks and at polling places. We helped others decide which candidate would best serve the United States and its citizens by using the internet, a place that has only become even more familiar to us over the past year, to educate ourselves and pass what we had learned onto others. We provided friends and family with reliable campaign resources to make judgments of their own. We posted graphics of each candidate’s policies on our Instagram pages and made informational videos for our TikTok accounts. We made our futures brighter by influencing the results of this election in any way possible.
I am immensely proud of the work that teenagers did during this election. We didn’t let our age stop us from making a difference. When I vote for the first time in the 2022 midterms, I will know that my generation is making a difference, no matter how old we are.