Fewer young Americans are getting into politics, a study has found, and that has lawmakers concerned for the nation’s future.
“A healthy democracy relies on a steady flow of young people into politics to tackle our country’s pressing problems,” says Mary Benneto, professor of political science at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the lead researcher on the study. “The findings we release today are a wake-up call that our nation’s increasingly negative political environment is driving away our best and brightest.”
One profession in which the trend line is moving in a positive direction is professional wrestling. The study found a 15 percent increase in the number of young people going into careers in the pro wrestling industry over the last three years. That increase is almost an exact mirror of the decrease in new entrants to politics, which has seen a 16 percent decline in the same time period.
Jason Barton, 23, a graduate of the University of Maryland who goes by the name Hell Razor, is a newly minted professional wrestler who says he was planning to go to law school and eventually run for a seat in the Maryland legislature, but he decided politics was too tawdry. “When I looked at what I might do to raise the level of discourse in this country, I decided professional wrestling was far and away a more dignified field to pursue than politics,” he says. “Jumping into a ring in tights and jackboots and grabbing your opponent by the hair and pretending to bash his skull in with your forehead is just a classier way to make a living than insulting people and talking about your genitalia as a politician. I guess I’m old fashioned.”
Ashleigh Semmes, 24, dropped out of an MBA program at Stanford University to pursue a career in extreme cat fighting, a woman-on-woman variant of male professional wrestling. “As a cat fighter, I try to punch and kick another woman about my age in front of an audience of mostly men,” she says. “We wear tight shorts or bikinis to show off as much of our bodies as possible and when the match is over we trash talk each other. It’s just a much more dignified thing to do than, say, run for a seat in a state legislature or Congress or, God forbid, president. I could never bring myself to say the things politicians say to get elected. I mean, I could do it, but I’d hate myself in the morning. At least now I can take pride in what I do.”
“We have a crisis,” says Benneto. “No one can blame our young people for wanting to protect their dignity by avoiding politics. We owe it to them to elevate the political discourse in our country so we don’t keep losing our future leaders to more high-minded professions.”
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