Continuing the Discussion: The Future of American Politics

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What does the future of the two major American political parties look like? : A Conflicted Conservative


A portable voting booth (Photo Courtesy: Denise Krebs)

Which candidate deserves the support of millennials in 2016?

As a self-identified Republican, this election season has left me torn and disheartened. I am torn in the sense that neither candidate appeals to me but, more importantly, I am unwilling to accept a Republican presidential campaign strategy built predominantly upon fear of and hostility toward the “other” — essentially any non-white American.

It’s worth pondering why Donald Trump chose “Make America Great Again” as his campaign slogan. On the surface, this seemingly benign slogan hints at a return to some glorified past, but with the passage of time, Trump’s campaign has revealed itself to be a nauseating cocktail of racism, ignorance and misogyny. Perhaps his slogan began with a wishful belief that Trump could carry a hopeful, rather than derogatory, message. However, this campaign message does not fall on deaf ears and it would be wise to investigate possible reasons for the success of this slogan.

Perhaps economic concerns provided the foundation upon which Donald Trump built and sustains his campaign. Feelings of helplessness among certain segments of the population, precipitated by the ever-present, ever-expanding phenomenon of globalization, may have contributed to the conditions conducive for “Trumpism.”

Put simply, the unending quest by entrepreneurs and companies to “disrupt” and create new commercial models in the pursuit of ever-greater efficiency has created both economic “winners” and “losers”. Trump frequently blames the influx of inexpensive goods from China for the decline in American manufacturing. Against this backdrop, it becomes easier to identify Trump’s target audience as a collection of disgruntled, economically dislocated Americans for whom globalization has largely brought unemployment and/or reduced wages.

Within this context, Trump may have missed an opportunity to speak intelligently about both the positive and negative effects of globalization. Rather, he offers both an intellectually dishonest and highly provocative explanation for the harmful effects of globalization.

As such, he provided his electoral audience with the license to both verbally and physically attack anyone deemed an economic threat — namely Mexican-Americans. In Trump’s world, the infusion of Mexican-Americans into the American economy only brings pain and suffering.

Additionally, he indulged the misogynistic tendencies of some of his supporters by disparaging the physical appearances of women. In many respects, one can witness the worst of human nature at Donald Trump rallies.

At this point, the question naturally arises — how can the GOP “Make Itself Great Again” in the eyes of young voters? As a first step in the process, rather than disparaging immigrants, the Republican Party needs to welcome the addition of labor into the country as a vital source of entrepreneurial spirit and, by extension, economic growth. In particular, the party ought to embrace a policy in which work visas are awarded to foreign graduates of American university programs in a STEM field. It is possible that new companies will be formed from the fruits of these graduates, and in the process, create employment opportunities for thousands of young people.

Considering the Trump candidacy, reforming the party would be a substantial, though not insurmountable, challenge. However, by unshackling itself from the ideals of its current nominee, the party can begin to formulate policies based instead upon economic growth and the harmonization of social relations.


What does the future of the two major American political parties look like? : How the Democratic Party Can Increase Independent Youth Vote


(Photo Courtesy: Flikr)

The youth vote (which includes us, as graduate students) is vital in any presidential election, and the Democratic Party clearly has an advantage in this demographic. In 2012, Barack Obama won the youth vote with 67 percent of the vote, and these percentage points helped him to win the key states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The Democratic Party has continued to support many policies that are popular among youth. Environmental reform (and the belief in climate change): check. Marriage equality: check. Immigration reform: check. But more than that, Democrats often use rhetoric that speaks of a brighter future, rather than restoring America to a past that most young voters can’t remember living through.

That being said, there are still some who remain politically homeless, or who will vote Democratic but remain unsatisfied with the current nominee. Considering these two broadly defined, and perhaps overlapping, groups — disillusioned Bernie Sanders supporters and independents — there are a few policy proposals that the Democratic Party might implement in order to attract them.

The independent group is sometimes accused of being indecisive and lacking morals, but nevertheless factors heavily into the political process. In 2014, 50 percent of millennials aged 18 to 29 didn’t identify with a specific party. Some of these voters may feel betrayed by the ongoing polarization of political parties, or by the way special interest groups have taken over both Democrats and Republicans. There are some who don’t believe in excessive regulation but also believe in social justice, or those who care about the deficit and environmental issues simultaneously.

Sanders drew wide support from these Independents as well, and his campaign helps to demonstrate some overlap between the two groups. However, in the days after Clinton secured the nomination, Sanders supporters flocked to political parties other than the Democrats, as evidenced by increased monetary donations and political support to the Green Party. Although the majority of Sanders supporters are now planning to vote for Clinton, the party might strengthen its relationship with the group by focusing intently on the issues that most animated them to begin with. However, this approach may alienate other, more moderate factions of the party.

So what can the Democratic Party do to continue attracting the youth vote?

To attract the independents that are caught in an increasingly polarized world, it should work to become more moderate and centrist. This may take the form of continuing to promote socially liberal policies but having more moderate foreign policy or fiscal policies. Young people may not be as vocal about it, but many generally support reducing overall government spending or lowering taxes.

However, if it wants to attract the more liberal wing of the party (those who originally hadn’t supported Clinton out of aversion to her perceived lack of liberalness), this isn’t likely to be a winning strategy, especially among those who want to steeply increase taxes for the rich. In reality, the Sanders’ campaign may have highlighted certain grievances within the Democratic Party — namely an intense dialogue on economic inequality — but compromise in this regard may be necessary in order to govern.

Recognizing the concerns of the independent voters will ultimately prove a chance for the Democratic Party to recommit itself to compromise and to assuage a group of people who have legitimate concerns about their own future in a global world.

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