The December Hot Topics program featured a vibrant panel discussion that included observations about the decrease of digital outreach in the mid-term elections, the American oddity of categorizing "women's" issues as such, and the urgent need to remove the influence of big money from the political process.
With a diverse panel made up of former Presidential candidate Pat Schroeder, Rollins College student government leader Laura Berk, and UCF political science professor Terri Fine, the discussion focused on future opportunities and areas of focus for the LWV. WKMG anchor and League member Lauren Rowe moderated the program and kicked off by taking and posting photos of the event to Facebook in real time. While doing so, she noted, "If I was 16 years old, we would have been finished with this five minutes ago."
On the topic of social media, Berk noted that most students don't access traditional news sources such as newspapers and television news at all, relying instead on news apps (for iPhone or iPad), Facebook and Twitter. She noted that while students may be informed by these sources, they don't necessarily lead to a depth of understanding or involvement in issues. At the same time, she noted the need for a constant and accessible flow of information in order to keep the attention of younger citizens.
Dr. Fine noted that younger citizens also have a radically different view of citizenship itself. While older citizens look at it based on a sense of duty and interact with the political system through traditional engagement like voting, younger people look at citizenship through the lens of "engaged citizenship," which is likely to include working for causes through volunteerism, raising awareness about issues and extensive interaction through technology/Internet. She noted the need to expand our assessment of what political involvement really means in light of the next generation's means of engagement.
Throughout the discussion, Schroeder was clear on the need to address the influence of big money in the political process. She noted that the current cost for U.S. Congress races is $4M, which must be raised by candidates every two years in order to maintain their office. She also raised concerns about the devolution of politics to entertainment saying, "For all of us who care about this country, we have to clean this mudbath up."