As the 2016 presidential election grew near, The VOICE surveyed Mercer students and found most weren’t very interested in politics, didn’t like the candidates, or were just pessimistic in general.

For example, Gahabree Gordon told The VOICE, “I think Hillary is going to win, but me personally, I’m not voting. I don’t think either one of them are good candidates. This is the first election I’ve been able to vote in, I was so excited to vote turning 18 years old and it’s like ‘I’ve gotta pick between them?!’ I can wait another four years. I’ll be ok. I’m expecting things to get worse but I’m praying for better.”

More recent reporting suggests that following the election, some portion of the student body has been motivated to participate more in politics.

The VOICE interviewed Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, who represents the college’s districts, to ask her her views on the current political climate and how it relates to college students.

VOICE: What role do you see young people playing in our current political climate? What can students do to advocate for themselves?

Watson Coleman: I think that students that are eligible to vote represent a huge floss of potential voters, and I think your voice can be best heard through voting. I also think that organizations on your campus that are designed to educate on issues can be very influential. It is really important to belong to a critical group…You are very important. You need to be reaching out to people like me…showing up and getting involved.

VOICE: What should students be focusing on with the new leadership in the White House?

Watson Coleman: I think this is an unprecedented time where your attention is required on so many levels, there are things that are happening at the available, there are issues that are very important that are happening out of the department of health, the women’s right to choose. There are things that are going to be happening in the Department of Labor that have to do with things like equal pay. There are things coming out of the Department of Justice, like your voting rights. This…requires people like me to not just focus on one thing, but stay alert on a number of issues and, stay as involved as I can. Same goes for all of you.

VOICE: How do you plan to best represent the interests of college students from our district?

Watson Coleman: I have been engaged in higher education, so I’m very much in tune to affordability in the state of NJ. I’ll be paying attention student debt, expanding Pell grants. I have always tried to support students who are going to school part time with subsidies. Accessibility, diversity, education: I try to stay close to college community.

VOICE: How does a member of a minority party in the House maximize his or her influence when the House rules (unlike the Senate) are designed to maximize the power of the majority at the expense of the minority?

Watson Coleman: You are speaking to the frustration we are all feeling right now. There are a number of things we are committed to right now, [like] seeking attention on resolutions, and [continuing] to highlight the role of Russia in the current presidency. We are committed, although we recognize that we don’t control the agenda and we don’t have the number of votes. What we do have is relationships and we try to energize people. Even perhaps with Republicans–if they weren’t so doggone scared of what the right wing would do to them– when they do exercise their heartfelt response to something, they’re not alone.

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Jasmine Santalla

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