Regardless of their differences on other issues, Americans should share valid concerns about young people’s retreat from the political process. And in a column on our Commentary page last week, Debra Saunders persuasively linked that troubling trend to an appalling ignorance of basic history and civics among far too many U.S. students.
Voters from ages 18 to 29 comprised only 13 percent of the total in last November’s midterm election after making up 19 percent of the electorate in 2012. Even given that presidential elections predictably draw the biggest turnouts, that’s a steep drop.
But low voter-turnout rates among under-30somethings aren’t the only sign that too many young adults are letting their elders decide crucial issues of elected leadership and public policy. Assorted studies and surveys show young Americans’ interest — and trust — in our system of self-government in sharp decline.
No, they haven’t learned enough about civics and history. But they have fallen for the pervasive notion that their political participation can’t make a positive difference.
However, the new mayor of Indian Head, Md., doesn’t buy that myth. He’s 19-year-old Brandon Paulin, who after running on the slogan “New vision, new way,” recently won that office by a large margin.
Mr. Paulin told The Washington Post that he broke into politics as an 11-year-old speaking up at a town council hearing about drivers failing to obey rules about stopping for pedestrians.
The political science major at the College of Southern Maryland added that he enjoys writing policies that “people like and can agree on — even when not everyone has the same view on things.”
That’s a worthy aim for any public official of any age.
And even Indian Head residents who voted against Mr. Paulin should wish him well on reaching this goal that he expressed in the afterglow of last week’s triumph:
“I’m pretty confident I can keep the balance between being mayor and keeping my grades up.”
Now if we could just upgrade U.S. students’ history and civics knowledge.