The status quo doesn’t appear out of thin air.
It is a result of a culminating series of policy decisions and actions.
The corruption in Birmingham City-Jefferson County politics didn’t magically appear with the election of former Mayor Larry Langford.
Wheeling and dealing is the name of the game, no matter what the level of government.
And it’s hard to change the game when you have a lot of heavily invested players.
American youth take issue with this.
Whether it is in the populist strain of Bernie Sanders’ rhetoric or the nationalist rhetoric of President Donald Trump – discontent with corruption and self-serving logrolling is apparent.
It isn’t confined to only youth.
Youth are, however, seemingly the most frustrated.
Many throw their hands up and disengage from politics, conceding that their vote won’t change the status quo.
It is apparent in embarrassingly low voter turnout rates among college-aged individuals.
Voting is not enough.
The quality of the people we vote to elect into office make the difference.
If the candidates we have to choose from don’t meet our standards, we should be the very ones stepping up to run for office.
This past month, Mayor-Elect of Birmingham Randall Woodfin proved the impossible.
Only 36 years old, Woodfin successfully unseated a seven-year incumbent who has spent more than 30 years as a well-known and connected figure in Birmingham politics.
Again, this did not just happen out of chance.
He defied longstanding power structures and relationships by engaging citizens with their government, democracy and community.
He is now mayor-elect because he ran an engaging, honest campaign in all 99 Birmingham neighborhoods.
It isn’t just happening in the largest city in Alabama.
Across the country, state and municipal elections had a series of firsts this past week.
The first Sikh mayor in Hoboken, New Jersey and a Liberian refugee elected mayor of Montana’s capital Helena are two of many successes that are part of what has since been dubbed “the blue wave.”
Diversity is important in all respects, but age encompasses a myriad of identities and youth engagement moves us toward building a coalition of and with citizens with mutually shared and defined goals.
Youth ought to have a say in the decisions that will shape the world they live in.
The unfortunate reality of a political system rooted in incrementalism is that it takes time to find recourse for ill-advised policy decisions.
Put simply, my generation will be dealing with a world that is shaped by the decisions our elders are making.
Any attempts we make at recourse will also not be felt for years to come.
Not only is there an ethical imperative for youth engagement in elected politics, but there is also a logical one.
My generation, alongside those immediately preceding and following it, have grown up during a unique period of time in human history.
As a result, we possess a unique understanding of the interconnected, complex issues in the world and nation.
New problems demand new solutions formulated by minds who understand what is at stake.
If older generations think all we can worry about is our avocado toast, we have the agency to prove we are capable of so much more than artsy Instagram photos.
And that success is not mutually exclusive with enjoying social media.
Youth are commonly derided for our unbridled optimism.
It is shown in statements like, “If you’re young and not a liberal, you don’t have a heart. If you’re old and not a conservative, you don’t have a brain.”
No matter your political ideology or party preference, politics is a realm that requires optimism.
It requires grand vision and ambition to make the impossible, possible.
Diversity in age contributes to policy decisions that are balanced in optimism with a healthy dose of realism.
As “naive” as we may be, we will ultimately be the ones at the helm of the ship.
I urge youth to run for office and shape the world we desire, rather than waiting for the ship to sink.
The views expressed in columns do not reflect the opinion of The Auburn Plainsman.