The candidates are old, but the stakes have never been higher for young Wisconsin voters in a presidential election

Roys Biden Trump

(Bottom left) Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) believes young Wisconsin voters should look past the ages of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump—and focus on the tremendous impacts, positive or harmful, they would feel as a result of one or the other winning a second four-year term in the White House.

By Bonnie Fuller

May 29, 2024

State Senator Kelda Roys lays out all of the gains that young adults stand to lose if Trump beats Biden in November.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are both old, but that does not mean they are identical. The two leading candidates for president have wildly different policy priorities that would affect Wisconsin’s young voters for decades to come, which is why state Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) wants those young voters to pay close attention to the campaign.

Roys, a mom and stepmom to five daughters, is sounding the alarm to young Wisconsin voters who don’t feel motivated to cast a ballot in November’s presidential election. Roys said she understands their lack of enthusiasm for candidates who are ages 81 and 77, but she wants them to hear her out.

“I get it. One of the things that I think is hard about politics is that it’s easy to vote and be active if you’re really inspired or you feel a strong alignment with one candidate, right? You’re like, ‘yes, I’m super excited to go vote for that candidate and I’m going to talk to my friends about it’,” Roys told UpNorthNews in an exclusive interview.

Nevertheless, she urges young people to get over not having their perfect candidate in 2024, and instead look at where Trump and Biden stand on specific issues that they care about so they can see for themselves why the stakes in this election are actually as high as advertised.

Roys also warns voters not to waste their ballot on a third-party candidate with no hope of winning the presidency, people like anti-vaxxer Robert Kennedy Jr, Green Party nominee Jill Stein or independent Cornel West.

“We don’t have a multi-party system. There is no chance of electing a third-party candidate (for president), and all it does is act as a spoiler,” Roys said. “In our two-party system in these national elections, it is a choice of harm reduction.”

Instead, Roys urges young voters to select between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates based on who would be a better choice for their generation, even if they don’t agree with that candidate on every issue. That’s because the winner will affect their lives in many consequential ways, from whether they can access abortion, birth control and IVF; have clean water to drink, live free from gun violence, and can continue to speak their minds freely without fear of political retribution.

Roys herself admits she doesn’t agree with Biden on everything, but “he has been a steady leader and he is going to bring me closer to the issues I care about like reproductive freedom, like climate change, like gun safety laws, like having a fair economy that works for everybody, even consumer protection laws, [and] student loan debt relief.”

“That’s what I’m going to vote for,” Roys said, “because if Trump is elected, it’s going to cause devastating harm to many vulnerable people. And it’ll hurt me too because I will lose my reproductive freedom.”

Roys, whose 26th State Senate District includes parts of Madison around the state Capitol building, points young voters to the vastly different visions and plans for America that Biden and Trump have shared.

Trump has said repeatedly that he is proud that he “killed” Roe v. Wade by appointing the ultra conservative justices to the US Supreme Court who overturned federal protection for abortion after nearly 50 years.

Roys warns young Wisconsinites that if elected, Trump doesn’t even “need Congress. He can enact a back-door abortion ban by using a law already on the books, like the 150 year-old Comstock Act.”

The 1873 Comstock Act, which Trump could selectively enforce, would prevent any drugs or surgical equipment used for abortions and miscarriage treatments from being shipped across the country—even to or from states where abortion rights remain protected. And that “will bring any access to abortion to a screeching halt across the country,” Roys said.

Wisconsinites already had the experience of living under a perceived abortion ban for a year because of an 1849 law which went back into effect after Roe was overturned. [A legal challenge to the law remains active and on appeal after a Dane County judge ruled the arcane language in the statute was not intended to apply to elective abortions.]

In contrast, Biden has promised to make Roe v. Wade the law of the land if he is re-elected and gets a Democratic-controlled Congress. Wisconsinites are part of that process as Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin seeks a third term and as Democratic candidates try to retake the House of Representatives in battleground districts that include three in this state.

Roys, a former executive director of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) Pro Choice Wisconsin, said access to abortion care isn’t the only reproductive right that young voters could lose—as right-wing elected officials and judges have targeted in vitro fertilization (IVF) and even the right to access birth control.

In contrast, Biden is a defender of all these rights as are Democrats in the US Senate who have tried to get a vote on the Access to Family Building Act, a bill that would protect IVF access nationwide. A Republican senator blocked it from getting a full Senate vote.

Young voters should use the overturning of Roe, said Roys, to also appreciate the role of a president in nominating and appointing justices to the US Supreme Court and throughout the federal judiciary. A second Trump term would mean he can add more ultra right justices and judges with lifetime appointments who could take away more rights that many young people may take for granted.

“It doesn’t matter that he (Trump) is only in office for four years because the judges he puts on the bench will probably be there until I’m dead,” Roys said. “He’ll appoint people younger than me to the judiciary for these lifetime appointments.”

Climate change is another of the top issues of concern for many young voters, and Roys calls Biden “the most pro-climate president in the history of this country” by pointing to his successful passage of the $800 billion Inflation Reduction Act, packed with initiatives to roll back climate change impacts and replace the country’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels with cleaner, renewable energy sources.

The Inflation Reduction Act is described by Roys as “a multi-generational commitment to sustainability, to addressing the harms of global warming and pollution, and to remaking our economy and our society in a way that will allow us and future generations to really flourish. And it’s very exciting, but that could all come to a screeching halt if Trump is elected president.”

In contrast, Trump, who has called climate change “a hoax” multiple times, recently promised top oil executives that he would end all of Biden’s environmental regulations and climate policies—if they were to raise $1 billion for his presidential campaign.

Trump’s only other stated environmental policy is to “drill, baby, drill,” including in wilderness areas that Biden has protected.

This is a man who’s not only a climate denier, but somebody who thinks that the problem with our fossil fuel subsidies is that they’re not big enough, who wants to kill green energy, wants to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate clean air and clean water,” Roys said. “Doesn’t think the government has any role here.”

The state senator wants Wisconsin’s young people to think about how Trump “would basically turn us into a third-world country completely dominated by pollution.”

“Given the energy the United States uses, it could really doom the planet, and so we all have a responsibility as Americans, I think, to say we can’t let this happen. We can’t let America go from being a leader and force for good in the climate movement to being the worst player on the planet.”

Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accords, which committed the US and other global partners to hold the rise in the earth’s surface temperature to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, in order to avoid a climate catastrophe. Biden re-entered the agreement on his first day in office.

On the subject of gun violence — another serious concern of young Wisconsinites — Roys gives “huge credit to Gen Z and millennials because they have totally transformed the politics of guns in just a decade.”

Roys wants Gen Z’ers and millennials who have lived through active shooter drills at school and even massacres at schools and colleges to ask themselves whether they want to abandon Biden and re-elect Trump?

Biden was the first president to pass federal gun safety legislation in 28 years, against heavy odds, with the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and would do more if re-elected with a full Democratic Congress. He has begged Congress to pass an assault weapons ban that he could sign into law. And after the Kansas City Super Bowl parade mass shooting in February, Biden pleaded for Democrats and Republicans to come together.

It is time to act,” Biden said. “That’s where I stand. And I ask the country to stand with me. To make your voice heard in Congress so we finally act to ban assault weapons, to limit high-capacity magazines, strengthen background checks, keep guns out of the hands of those who have no business owning them or handling them.”

In contrast, Trump recently told his supporters that “we have to get over it and move forward” after a shooting at an Iowa high school that left one student dead and seven wounded.

As president, he actively gutted existing gun safety laws and protections and has promised that if elected, he will roll back every one of Biden’s gun safety policies.

Roys also blames Trump “and his judges” for being an “arm of the gun manufacturers’ lobby. They’ve taken positions that are so extreme on gun rights that have nothing to do with the Constitution, much less historical context,” she said.

“Trump has shown us exactly the kind of judges that he will appoint … they have struck down any type of responsible gun safety legislation. So that remains a huge threat.”

Finally, Roys urged young Wisconsinites to consider whether they value democracy itself. Trump has said he wants to be a ”dictator on day one.”

Trump has threatened multiple times that he wants “retribution” against his political enemies and opponents, members of the press, and even Americans who disagree with his actions and policies. He plans in his blueprint to govern, Project 2025, to use the National Guard against citizens who protest, even peacefully.

“I mean the idea, that Americans could be scared to express our political beliefs, that our freedom of expression could be limited,” she says.

Roys believes, based on Project 2025, that Trump “wants to bring about authoritarian rule in this country.”

“They want to clamp down on dissent. They want to make people who speak out against their plans—they want to make people like me targets. They want to scare us into silence. They want to attack and discredit the press so there’s no check on their power, and this is not something I ever dreamed of. These are the plans that are public. You can actually read about Project 2025.”

Young Wisconsin voters have a stark and momentous choice, according to Roys.

“I’m really excited to vote for [Biden]. He has been a transformational president, and he’s old, but that man has gotten more major legislation through Congress than any president in modern history,” Roys said.

“The legislation that he has enabled and signed is going to transform this country for the better for our generation and generations to come. And that kind of record of accomplishment and the brilliant, thoughtful progressive people that he has surrounded himself with …I am just very, very excited about the prospect of him being able to continue the work.”

Author

  • Bonnie Fuller

    Bonnie Fuller is the former CEO & Editor-in-Chief of HollywoodLife.com, and the former Editor-in-Chief of Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, USWeekly and YM. She now writes about politics and reproductive rights. She can be followed on her Substack at: BonnieFuller1.

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