Running Away From an Ideological America
We are more than a year away from another national election. Nearly twenty candidates have already declared, and more are about to make the leap. Each candidate claims to have a bold vision for America, each candidate claims that they can do better than the status quo, and each candidate claims that our best days are ahead of us. As a recent high school graduate, and as a concerned second generation American, I am writing this to urge you to be terrified of these claims.
While most of these assertions are well intentioned, increasingly our candidates are catering their policy proposals to appease the demands of radical right and left wing groups such as the Koch Brothers, labor unions, the oil industry, and many, many more. Pragmatism, or the desire to seek consensus on policy has been erased from today’s political class, only to be replaced by dangerous ideological debates meant only to serve as brief thirty second talking points. Frankly, substance in our elections has ceased to exist. Take this as an example: in 2012, former Governor Mitt Romney repeatedly claimed that he would create twelve million new jobs in his first term and would bring the unemployment rate to 6%. Unfortunately, we never heard how he would do that. Or when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared her candidacy for president, many pundits expected her to distance herself from the veil of inevitably, and to an extent, she did. Saying, “Everyday Americans need a champion. I want to be that champion,” it seemed to be the advent of Hillary 2.0. However, reality has been much different than expectation. After months on the campaign trail, we have heard no substantive proposal about how Ms. Clinton intends on being “that champion.” We have not heard her clarify her relationships with Wall Street, we have not heard how her foreign policy differs from that of President Obama’s, and we have not heard her weigh in on any of the current debates happening in Congress. However, Ms. Clinton isn’t the only one at fault. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, in an interview with Fox News, argued that the economy has actually gotten worse. The truth is that the economy has grown for 63 straight months, the private sector has created over twelve million new jobs, and unemployment is at 5.5%. Furthermore, markets have surged and inflation has remained low. For the young American watching Jeb Bush argue against reality, Bush’s 30 second false testimony becomes what that American accepts as the truth.
Earlier, I mentioned that we must be terrified of bold claims made by politicians. I firmly stand by that statement. Too often in the age of 24 hour news, these bold claims go unchecked, and inevitably evolve from being unchecked claims to validated facts. We must also refuse to accept a candidate who assumes a veil of inevitability. Being above the civic process, and running solely on your family name is antithetical to a participatory democracy. Lastly, we must stand steadfast against ambiguous statements about a candidate’s ability to move this country forward; those sales pitches sound inspiring in fifteen second video clips, but what matters are specific and detailed policy proposals. My advice to the thousands of graduating seniors this year who will vote for the first time is this: don’t be scared. Don’t be scared to counter what you’ve always been taught, don’t be scared to investigate the issues yourself, and most importantly don’t be scared to call out lies when you hear them. The only way you can do that, however, is by actively seeking out new information. Seek out new information, and then take action. Take action by joining a campaign you agree with, take action by talking about the issues with your friends, and lastly take action by at least thinking about these issues and challenging your own beliefs. I guarantee it’ll make a difference.