Nashville — If you’re Gen Z, you might be following national politics. But as young people, it’s important that we don’t forget about local politics, either.
The Dobbs decision, for example, started at a local level in 2018 before it escalated to the Supreme Court of the United States in 2021. This goes against the common misconception that local elections don’t matter. In Nashville – which is at a pivotal point in its long life, what with its uncontrolled growth, transportation/housing issues, lack of gun laws, and relationship with the state —local elections and Gen Z who can and can’t vote in them, matter more than ever.
As Nashville goes into its mayoral election, Gen Z voices are more prevalent than ever. So, what is the importance of local elections to, on, and by Gen Z?
For starters, let’s cover the importance of voting, especially in local elections. High school senior Wyatt Bassow, who registered to vote soon after his 18th birthday, said, “I think it’s our duty as Americans and a privilege. It’s not a choice, it’s a need. If we don’t vote, we aren’t doing what we can. Change happens at a local level.”
As young people, we have to understand that we are inheriting this world. The importance of things such as voting is immeasurable and the Gen Z vote will change the world. Bassow also referenced a recent quote from Tennessee Three member/TN State Representative Justin Jones. Rep. Jones referred to our generation as the “find out” generation.
Bassow said, “We hold so much power with our friends and our social media presences and we’re able to just go ‘find out.’”
It’s also important to consider the magnitude of these elections. For this question, I spoke to a few mayoral candidates in Nashville. One candidate, state Senator Heidi Campbell, said that Tennessee is among the worst states in terms of voter turnout in the country. She also said that Tennessee might not be nearly as Republican as we all have assumed, just because so many Democrats feel like there’s no point in voting. Especially when it comes to the new Gen Z voters, there’s a feeling of hopelessness when it comes to overcoming the TN state supermajority. Campbell seemed like she didn’t just think it was possible, but rather completely achievable — the Democrats just need more voters in the polls.
Another graduating high school senior, who plans to play lacrosse at Sweet Briar College, Ava Buxton said, “If you want to make change and impact policies, you have every right and ability to go and talk to (your lawmakers). You have to vote for the people who are willing to listen to you.” And this is true — your vote matters and you have to make sure that the people in office are serving the people, not themselves. This is why it’s up to Gen Z to advocate, march, volunteer, and otherwise voice our thoughts. Gen Z is inheriting the world and it’s important that there’s a quality world left to inherit.
If you’re wondering how to get started in politics, look no further. One Gen Z teacher, Serena Pao, said, “No step is too small. One conversation does matter and can really influence the people around you. People are sometimes scared of saying the wrong thing with good intentions, so we need to help educate each other in a compassionate manner, but get angry when it’s needed.”
Campbell, referring to the masses who descended on the Tennessee Capitol after the shooting at the Covenant School, said, “Going up to the legislature religiously the past session is really the first thing that I have seen the entire time I’ve been in the legislature that moved the needle. The reason we have a special session for gun laws is because of the kids who stood in those hallways and sang songs, fighting for harsher gun legislation.”
There are so many ways to get involved as Gen Z. This responsibility has fallen to our shoulders and so we must call or email our legislators, attend marches, and start conversations. We are making changes and strides every day and must continue with a careful thought to local politics, too. As Bassow said, “Change starts down and moves upwards.” We directly elect our state legislature, no matter if you’re in Nashville or Sacramento — with the power of our Generation in hand, it’s time to make a difference.