The American media and the progressives (but I’m repeating myself) are jumping on the “let’s lower the voting age” bandwagon in the aftermath of the Parkland school massacre, having found among the school kids there some passionate advocates for gun control.
"The real adults in the room are the youth from Parkland, Florida, who are speaking out about the need for meaningful gun control laws."
— CNN (@CNN) February 20, 2018
Teens between 14 and 18 have far better BS detectors, on average, than “adults” 18 and older. Wouldn’t it be great if the voting age were lowered to 16? Just a pipe dream, I know, but . . . #Children’sCrusade?
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) February 19, 2018
Truth be told, no school massacres are necessary to prod the debate onward. In the UK, the momentum for the change is building in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, carried overwhelmingly by older voters (and where 18+ failed to vote in sufficient numbers, despite having a right to do so). In Australia, Labor’s Bill Shorten has already came out three years ago in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 (“Mr Shorten said if people aged 16 and 17 could drive, work, pay taxes, join the military and make their own choices about medical treatment, they should also be allowed to vote.”).
The left loves the idea of lowering the voting age for the same reason it loves open door immigration – it means more votes for the left. Too hard to convince the existing electorate of your arguments? Easy; simply change the electorate by stacking it with fresh voters who are bound to support you – most migrants come from collectivist and communitarian societies and are naturally attracted to the left; most young people are naive, ignorant, easily-swayable, or idealistic (take your pick), again making them inclined to support progressive or radical ideas (I have written about the Millennials’ love affair with socialism here and here).
What’s in it for the right? Not much. Is that an argument for opposing the reform? No, but it’s a reason to and an explanation for the opposition. It’s the same with immigration; economic and social pros and cons aside, you can’t expect the right of politics to cheerfully support unrestricted migration if it means an electoral suicide.
As far as I’m concerned, the question of reducing the voting age from 18 to 16 is not a simple one, because such a legislative action should entail across-the-board consistency in all other areas relating to competency. Sixteen is already the age of consent, so if you reduce the voting age to 16 too, there are other areas to adjust:
Old enough to vote at 16, old enough to…
…purchase and consume alcohol and tobacco products
…engage in commercial sexual activity
…take, send and receive nude images of self or others
…purchase firearms and ammunition
…drive a vehicle and operate machinery
…be treated as adults in the criminal justice system
…join armed forces
…be qualified for military draft
…consume entertainment previously classified as “adults only”/18+
It’s pretty simple – you can’t pick and choose what ages you want for what purposes; if you assume that a 16 year old is old and mature enough to be granted full democratic rights, it means a 16 year old is old enough to die defending them – and, less extremely, enjoying the benefits as well as bearing the responsibilities of the earlier adulthood.
The current quest for teenage voting is somewhat ironic, considering that the real adulthood seems to be getting pushed further and further back. The Millennials are the generation that otherwise refuses to grow up, both in terms of objective indices (independent living, work and career, marriage or serious relationship, parenthood, etc.) as well as psychological factors (child-like snowflakishness that requires safe spaces and codes to protect from micro-aggression). An unkind person (i.e. not me) might suggest this is an argument for, if anything, actually raising the voting age.
Want to vote? Clean up your room first and then wash the dishes.