Recession, other factors pull FHS teens into political arena

Recession, other factors pull FHS teens into political arena

Members of the Kettering community come to Trent Arena to vote in the 2010 election on Nov. 2.

Generations of American teens have gone through high school without really taking much notice of the government or politics. Sometimes, however, unsettling circumstances spur young people to get involved in the political process even before they’re old enough to vote.

Many Fairmont students appear to be paying attention because of the recent deep recession and by concerns about the financial future of the country. As the November 2010 elections grew closer, many teens found themselves taking sides in the debate about what the country – and Ohio – need to do to be strong again.

Ohio has lost 400,000 jobs since 2007, which has boosted the unemployment rate to 10 percent. Fairmont parent Susanne Morgan isn’t one of the 10 percent that is jobless, but she says she’s still been impacted. “The recession has affected me because of the increase in the cost of food. I’ve had to cut back on the amount of groceries I buy and come up with creative meals at home,” Morgan said. “Also, travel has been decreased and isn’t a priority anymore. I was planning on going on several vacations but was not able to this past year.”

Money has been an issue for many people, and even those who have jobs have had to worry about friends and family who are suffering hard times. “The recession hasn’t affected my immediate family too much,” said sophomore Kerrianne Ryan. “But it has affected my aunt and uncle who live in Beavercreek. They lost their jobs working at GM and NCR.”

Senior Tony Cannon is another Fairmont student who has been indirectly affected by the recession and has seen what it has done to Ohio cities. “I know a lot of close friends who have parents who’ve lost their jobs, and it’s really devastating to see that,” he said.

But Cannon still has hope things might change in the long run under President Barack Obama. “I think a lot of people are frustrated because they’ve realized it’s not just going to change in an hour or a year,” he said. “It’s going to take a long time to recover. I think Obama has done a good job with what he’s been doing, and I think if everyone just gives things time, they will see progress.”

Party lines and election results

While the recession has contributed to student interest in politics, it’s not the only factor.

Sophomore Indigo Monbeck has decided that he is leaning toward the liberal-Democrat side. “I think the Democratic Party has more ideas for change, such as rights for gay people and other minorities,” said Monbeck. “I also agree most often with what they have to say about America.”

On the other hand, senior Taylor Bingaman says she identifies more with the conservative-Republican side. She believes the main reasons for her political beliefs are because of her parents and the way she has always been against Democrats’ policies. “My dad is very conservative, so I think that might have influenced my siding with the Republicans,” she said. “I’ve always been against abortion and my beliefs have always matched up with a conservative person.”

Because of her conservative leanings, Bingaman says she was happy with the outcome of the 2010 elections, in which many Democrats lost to Republicans and some who align themselves with the conservative Tea Party movement.

Cannon, however, believes the wave of conservatism in the 2010 election was largely based on a reactive impulse to Obama’s policies, not necessarily on knowledge of the issues. “I was not really content with the election because I saw a lot of Republicans come in. I feel this happened because people saw that things in our country weren’t going well with a Democratic president,” said Cannon. “I think people wanted to try voting for Republicans to see if there was going to be a better outcome.”

Fairmont gets involved

One thing that’s certain is that there’s no age requirement to start getting involved in politics. Teenagers can do many things, such as encouraging people to vote, attending political party meetings, putting political stickers on their cars, wearing voting buttons or even giving money to help a campaign.

Monbeck has already started to do some of these activities. He belongs to The Ohio Model United Nations, in which members pick a country of their choice and become a “representative” of that country. The Ohio Model United Nations hosts a conference in Cincinnati where members talk about a variety of issues that can or actually have happened in their countries. These issues include health care, war and natural disasters.

Monbeck says he’s glad he chose to be a part of this opportunity because of the experiences he gained. “I’ve learned so many things including how government works. I’ve also realized that sometimes it’s difficult and time-consuming to get things accomplished for good causes,” he said.

Other Fairmont students got involved in “Youth at the Booth” on Election Day at Trent Arena. They were in charge of looking up incoming voters’ names so they could give the voter the slate to put in the electronic voting machine. Students earned money, but they also experienced what it’s like when someone goes and votes.

Social Studies teacher Karla Mabry, who coordinated this opportunity, thinks students have become more involved because of the recent economic issues. “Last year I had only one student participate in working at the booth,” she said. “This year, I had about 10 students choose to do the event.”

Bingaman has found several ways to express her choice to be a Republican. She’s attended several fundraiser rallies for conservative candidates, has met several of Ohio’s leaders, and has been to two Tea Party meetings.

Bingaman feels getting involved and seeing part of the political world has been a great start for her political journey. “Going to the rallies has taught me a lot because you hear so many speeches and get to see how things work and how they run,” said Bingaman. “I also thought it was really cool going to the Tea Party meetings because it’s different when you’re actually there rather than hearing and listening to things on the news.”

How do Firebirds like their tea?

For all its media attention and influence in recent elections, many students still wonder what the Tea Party really is. Despite its name, the Tea Party is not a political party but more of a political movement that grew in 2009, largely as a reaction to many of Obama’s economic policies. Tea Party members’ values generally encompass fiscal responsibility, limited government and free market. Most Tea Party members align themselves closely to the Republican Party.

Cannon has strong feelings about the Tea Party and an explanation for his beliefs. “I feel the Tea Party is a just a splinter group of the Republicans. I feel they’re just really conservative and think the Republican Party is getting too liberal,” he said. “They seem to be having somewhat of an impact on the political scene, but I think they will eventually die off.”

 While Republicans are typically the strongest supporters of the Tea Party, it seems that not all Republicans actually do. Junior Rob Schroeder, who is a Republican, thinks the Tea Party organizations are legitimate groups, but he doesn’t agree with what they’re trying to change in the government. “I feel the Tea Party’s publicity actions need to change for the better because there is a mainstream view of them being racist,” said Schroeder.

While some disagree with the Tea Party’s political actions, others side with them on changing the current government size. Ryan agrees with their ideas because it follows her values. “I really like the Tea Party,” she said. “They’re trying to get the Senate and mainly the House to start thinking about everyone and how we’re being affected by the government right now.”