By: Grace Engelman
Last week, I attended the 6th Congressional Candidate Forum at Kentucky State University along with a few other KSEC members. As a part of KSEC’s Political Working Group, I feel a personal duty to not only keep tabs on Kentucky politics, but also to ensure that the concerns of young Kentuckians are a part of our political dialogue. Most of the 6th District Congressional candidates were in attendance, including Democrats Jim Gray and Reggie Thomas. While the forum was certainly informative, it was a reminder that we, the public, are often unable to control the political narrative. Not only was the audience prohibited from taking photos or videos; audience members’ opportunity to contribute to the discussion was limited to submitting notecards that were drawn at random. I had gone into the forum with the hopes of contributing to the discussion. Instead, the event seemed to be more for the candidates’ stump speeches than it was for the voters. Politics is no longer a dialogue between voter and candidate; it feels as though the electorate is being talked at, not talked to.
This is a common theme in today’s political climate. Sure, many of us may be able to cast a vote. But, only the media and the politicians themselves control the narrative. In my experience, every candidate event is just another opportunity to outline their platform on social welfare or the pension or the budget or taxes. All of these issues are obviously important, but they are not the only issues that concern Kentuckians.
As a young Kentuckian, I would like to know these politicians’ plans for coal severance and a just transition; I would like to know how they will take action to mitigate the effects of climate change; I would like to know if and how they plan to address the growing socioeconomic inequality faced by millions of Americans. When these candidates do discuss the environment, they say that it must be protected, but very little is said on how we will take action to save our planet. When they do talk about the rights of people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, women, and other oppressed groups, they go on about equality, but rarely do they offer specific policy proposals to promote this equality. We won’t settle for the mere mention of “environmental protection” and “equal rights” when these candidates won’t propose actual political solutions. It is time for us to demand our voices to be heard, to make a place for ourselves in today’s political discourse, and to change the narrative. It is time that young Kentuckians have a seat at the table. We will no longer be ignored.
The Young Kentuckian is a blog of the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition where youth share their work and ideas for Kentucky's bright future.
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