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Introducing the Teen Vogue 2020 Youth Voter Committee

As part of Vogue's #TeenVote2020 project, 12 young people will be its sounding board for all things related to the presidential campaign.

As we approached 2020 at Teen Vogue, thinking through our plans for one of the most important presidential elections of our lifetimes, we knew we wanted to do something outside of the usual election coverage noise. We noticed that pundits and politicians often talk about the importance of the “youth vote,” but ultimately don’t pay much attention to how young people feel about presidential elections, much less politics and the social issues that matter to them. Millennials and Gen Z are rightfully angry about the unequal, divided, rapidly warming world that’s been handed to them, and they are passionately invested in making it better.

We decided to go straight to our readers. Late last year, we sent out an application to see who wanted to be part of our first-ever Youth Voter Committee. We were overwhelmed by the response — hundreds of you applied. You really care about this election and have a lot of thoughts. It was not easy, but we narrowed down the list of applicants to 12, and we know you’ll love this terrific group of demographically, ethnically, and politically diverse young people. Between now and November 3, they’ll serve as our sounding board on the debates, the primaries, the candidate dustups, and much more.

Meet the inaugural Teen Vogue Youth Voter Committee here, in the first piece of our comprehensive #TeenVote2020 coverage, which we’ll be rolling out all year.

January 20 was the anniversary of the day Donald Trump was sworn in as president. We asked our committee what they were doing during his inauguration, and what has defined the Trump era for them.

What do you remember about the day Trump was sworn in?

Syd: “I remember watching Trump’s inauguration and feeling an extreme sense of dread. I think at one point I started crying. I knew that with his presidency, people belonging to marginalized communities were going to have a much more difficult life. I had just come out as queer and had just started to question my gender, so I was feeling really scared about what being LGBTQ+ would mean during Trump’s administration. Everyone told me it was going to be okay, but I knew it wasn't going to be okay.”

Ruth: “In my morning AP government class, I distinctly remember watching President and Mrs. Obama walk down the White House steps for the final time. Despite typically being the outspoken Black female liberal in the classroom, that day I was deflated, in disbelief, and disgusted knowing who would be their successors. The inauguration ceremony itself was during senior lunch.... My sixth period Bible teacher pulled up the livestream of the luncheon on Fox News, and had Trump's swearing in projected onto the SMART Board for the entire 50 minutes of class.”

Kiden: “I didn't watch it; I was too disappointed. I do remember the day he won though. I was at my dad's job for a watch night — he works at Harris Stowe State University. The whole night was filled with laughter because no one believed that Trump would win. When he won, I broke down in tears and some of the college students made fun of me, not because they were fans of Trump, but because they didn't understand that it was a big deal that he had won.”

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What has your experience been like under the Trump administration?

Hanna: “Trump’s presidency did not create hate, as many believe, it simply unmasked it. Anti-Middle Eastern and Islamophobic sentiments have run rampant throughout the country for quite a long time before Trump came into office. However, Trump’s blatant attacks on Muslim people encouraged silent racists to raise their voices.... The largest normalization of outright anti-Muslim sentiments came from Trump’s travel ban.… The thought that my own family would not be allowed to come to the U.S. was heartbreaking. It felt almost dystopian to me.”

Syd: “As a disabled, nonbinary lesbian, my life under the Trump administration has been pretty abysmal. I’m drowning in medical debt and I am truly scared that after so many years spent coming to terms with who I am, I will have to go back in the closet. What really struck me the most was when he decided to ban transgender people from the military. I have no interest in serving, but being banned from existing in a public space was just a truly horrifying moment for myself and so many others. Under his administration, I have just felt so dehumanized by himself and others who feel emboldened by him to hurt LGBTQ+ people.”

Jillian: “My involvement in politics escalated greatly during the Trump administration: A year after his election, I found myself preparing for a run at state chairman of the West Virginia College Republicans, after holding the organization together from lower on the executive board and starting to follow more and more conservative social media accounts. The president's tax cuts, deregulation... the confirmation of federal judges and two new Supreme Court justices, and the renegotiation of NAFTA have been the highlights for me. The president on a personal level is absolutely not ideal.”

Ilhan: “The president’s behavior online and in person just screamed immaturity to me. I simply couldn’t believe that we have a president who would tweet how he’s feeling every two seconds. It felt like this country has regressed immensely from Obama.”

Ava: “Coming of age under the Trump presidency, during one of the most important developmental stages for my personal politics and view of government, I have grown ashamed of my country, distrustful of government institutions, and interested in increasingly leftist views on politics.... Under the Trump administration, I have been unable to visit my family in Iran and have been constantly worried about their safety. I have not once felt that this president has acted in my best interest as a citizen under his administration.”

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What have things been like for those in your life? Is he popular in your state or town? Do people you know and love support him? Has that caused tensions for you in any way?

Ophelia: “My parents are the kind of people who are always watching Fox News and talking about politics, and it can get really exhausting, especially since I cannot ever really be truly vocal about my opinions. My parents consider themselves to be open-minded people, but they really are not. They do not even like it when I try to talk to them about Trump because they do not want to hear anything negative! Trump has caused a lot of tension in my life for me with my family.”

Julissa: “Being around undocumented and documented folks, there is tension about policies the president has tried to pass. California is a sanctuary state and the president has tried to take that away.... Undocumented families fear family separation or deportation. Folks don't even want to leave their home out of fear of ICE agents.”

Denisce: “While Trump may be semipopular in Texas, he is definitely not welcome or supported in South Texas. The Rio Grande Valley has been a deeply blue Democratic stronghold for years. I do, however, have a few uncles and cousins who are Trump supporters. I don't understand how they can support a man who so eagerly wants to deport their noncitizen spouses, siblings, and parents. Some may claim they support him for economic reasons — while earning minimum wage. Minimum wage in Texas has not changed for the past 10 years, remaining at $7.25. None of them can really explain why they support Trump, and it has created distance and resentment in our family.”

Kanyinsola: “I’m from Franklin County in Columbus, Ohio, which is predominantly Democratic. I’ve been constantly surrounded [by] Democrats in school and work. In many ways I would say I was sheltered; I was always around people that had the same ideologies as me. But I remember one day, during my senior year in high school, my school visited Upper Arlington High School for a program. I saw a "Make America Great Again" hat for the first time in my life. I couldn’t understand why someone would even want to wear a hat that represented so much hate. That hat for me represented Charleston and Ferguson. It represented the death of so many Black bodies. So it didn’t quite make sense to me how someone could walk around wearing the hat with pride.”

Annie: “Everything has felt uneasily volatile under the Trump administration. It's in part due to Trump as a person, but also the part of America that Trump enables.... Trump is in office for a reason. Americans are angry at the system, and anger is a difficult and dangerous thing to direct properly. It just feels now that everyone's anger — no matter their political leaning — has just become that much more explicit, and I'm worried for what the coming year holds.... We are all fearful that America as we know is collapsing irrevocably.”