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Friday, Dec 1, 2023

Crossing the threshold into action: How Middlebury can do more this election

Middlebury College values students’ civic engagement. The community prides itself in having the second-highest voter registration rate of all U.S. colleges during the 2018 and 2020 elections. Many students have well-formed opinions about modern issues crafted in classrooms, club meetings and conversations with friends. Yet we recognize that some Middlebury students condemn bi-partisan politics and despite their strong values, are uninterested in participating in the two-party system. Understanding politics and crafting opinions is hardly productive if students don’t take concrete action towards them. 

The progressive values at the center of our community, particularly reproductive justice and climate action will not become a reality if students do not vote for Democratic candidates at the local, state and national level. 

In July, the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision left a mark on the Middlebury community. Since then, Middlebury students have rallied on the local level to codify abortion rights into law. Recently, we hosted a rally in support of Article 22, a ballot measure which would codify abortion rights in the Vermont Constitution. This amendment would not only have local impacts, but would be revolutionary on a national scale. Although we all call Vermont home during the school year, many Middlebury students live in states where total bans on abortion have already gone into effect since Dobbs v. Jackson. More students live in states with legislatures which could pass total abortion bans, if Republicans win a majority in November. 

  Similarly to their passions for reproductive justice, many Middlebury students are vocal about their passion for environmental issues. Environmental values of outdoor recreation and climate awareness are what draw many to Middlebury in the first place. Energy 2028 signs, stickers and posters are proudly displayed, students opt for vegetarian, low-impact diets and climate anxiety is a term used in day-to-day conversation. These values, however, are too often left on campus. Middlebury’s environmentalism must manifest itself in tangible political action. 

This summer, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), allocating an unprecedented $369 billion towards fighting the climate crisis, into law. This fall, our nation saw devastating hurricanes strike Puerto Rico and Florida, a reminder of how deeply we need the IRA, and more. 

Yet, if Republicans win a majority in the House of Representatives next week, it’s possible the House will weaken the IRA by investigating sources of funding and making grants more restrictive which would effectively mute several of the legislation’s important impacts. On a local level, elected officials in towns and cities throughout the country will have the power to decide how the IRA takes effect in their communities. Republican legislators are thus less likely to invest in local sustainable infrastructure funded by the Act and less likely to pursue the competitive renewable energy grants it offers. For that reason, voting for environmentally conscious candidates from the top to the bottom of the ballot carries significant weight for our future. 

Because the future of our planet and reproductive rights are on the line Nov. 8, we must turn out in record numbers for Democratic candidates that support these issues. Eighteen-to 24-year-olds have the lowest voter turnout of any age group in the U.S. We know that generational change in our government is required to solve issues of reproductive justice, the climate crisis and the many other issues we face as a nation. In order to see this change, though, young people must vote. We cannot continue to argue for change unless we take action to see this change as well. 

To those who have already voted, in person or by absentee ballot, we thank you for your civic engagement. For those who haven’t, it’s not too late. If you’ve received an absentee ballot, educate yourself on local, state and national candidates and then send it back as soon as possible. If you weren’t able to request or receive a ballot, you can still vote in Middlebury at the Recreation Center from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 8, thanks to Vermont’s same day registration policy. 

If you’ve voted and feel compelled to do more, College Democrats hosts multiple weekly phone banks for Senate candidates in swing states. We urge you to phone bank or text bank with us. If you’d like to do so on your own time, it can take as little as five minutes to set up on Activate America, a website with dozens of phone banks to choose from with times to fit any schedule. Take advantage of the opportunities that come with living in a small community: attend rallies, meet local candidates and educate yourself on local issues.

No matter the outcome of this election, it is essential to stay involved: stay informed, hold elected officials accountable to their campaign promises and keep pressuring them to do more. 

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed are those of individual students, and do not reflect the views of The Middlebury campus or Middlebury College. 

Maggie Bryan

Maggie Bryan '25 (she/her) is the Senior Arts and Culture Editor.

Maggie has previously served as Arts and Culture Editor and Staff Writer. She hails from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is double majoring in French and Environmental Policy. This spring, she will be studying abroad in Paris. During her free time, she can be found running on the TAM or teaching spin classes in the FIC.