Today marks the end of an exceptionally drawn out and turbulent presidential election cycle. For most of us undergraduates on the Hilltop, this is the first time we have been eligible to vote for a presidential candidate. For many of us, it’s also the first time we have been so attuned to an election — on such a politically active campus in the nation’s capital, it’s nearly impossible not to be.

I’ve had my ear tuned to the political current for quite some time. But this is the first time I have been able to cast a ballot in a presidential election. Today, I will vote, proud and excited that I can finally execute my right. Yet I do so also with fatigue and disenchantment from the campaigning I have witnessed for over a year now. I am not alone in feeling this way.

Democrat or Republican, most agree that rampant negativity and the large role money has played in this election have been disconcerting and frustrating. It seems as if the candidates spent more time pandering to donors and chasing after money than communicating with the voters. According to the New York Times, Obama had raised $934 million and spent $852.9 million as of September. Romney had raised $881.8 million and spent $752.3 million. We do not yet know the final fundraising and expenditure numbers for this election cycle, but already the amount of money spent by the candidates has exceeded the nearly $1.7 billion spent by Obama and McCain in 2008.

No set of presidential candidates in any previous election has ever spent more money on advertising than Obama and Romney have. Of the money raised, the Obama campaign has spent $347 million on advertisements, while the Romney campaign has spent $386 million. With such large sums spent on advertising, one would expect that the result would be a well-informed electorate. Rather, this spending has created an electorate frustrated and dismayed by pervasive negativity. Of those advertising expenditures, 85 percent of the ads aired by the Democratic camp and 91 percent of those aired by the GOP have been negative.

It is a shame that so many young voters will walk away from this election with a bad taste for politics in their mouths. It would be easy for voters to wash their hands of this dirty political battle, forget and move on. I challenge you not to do that.

The fabric of our electoral system and political culture is not unchangeable; it can and should be tailored to the needs and expectations of its participants. The tone and character of our candidates, campaigns and elections are within our control. It is a simple matter of supply and demand.

Money has become the key indicator of a candidate’s strength, particularly in the primaries. That is understandable, especially in situations like this year’s Republican primary, in which there were so many candidates in the field that money was the most easily distinguishable variable for comparison. It’s a well-accepted fact that easiest is not always best, and that is most definitely true in this case.

Demand more from the media. Expect more information about the candidates themselves. Do not accept judgment made on the unfair basis of fundraising. Money is not necessarily correlative to support. Insist on a broader approach to reporting on campaigns.

Break the vicious cycle of negativity that our political culture has fallen into. Candidates run these ads because they work. The ads work because the voters are compelled and convinced by them. Don’t be.

Look for the positive in each candidate. This does not mean look only at the good things. Rather, size up each candidate for his or her own merits and demerits. If you insist on making your assessment by seeking out such information, the candidates and campaigns will give it to you. After all, candidates want your vote, and they get it by satisfying you.

The negativity and the influence of money in our current political culture are unacceptable. We, as young, educated members of the electorate, have a unique ability and opportunity to fix the faltering political culture that is being passed into our hands.

This is not a partisan issue. It’s an American issue.

Be the change you want to see. Turn your frustrations into positive action. Raise your expectations, and the quality of our politics with rise with them.

Hannah Miller is a junior in the College.

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