Why Millennials must rescue the nation from extremism
In November of 2008, I joined many of my friends and peers in casting my vote for Barack Obama as President of the United States. I wasn’t a card-carrying Democrat or die-hard liberal, but I agreed with the then-candidate on a lot of things: We needed to change our interventionist foreign policy, reform our healthcare system, fix immigration and most importantly restore some resemblance of unity to our fractured electorate. In his acceptance speech, Pres. Obama challenged Americans to avoid falling back “on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”
The President has made significant progress on some of these issues, but at an enormous cost to our nation — we are more divided than ever. With the Republican Party poised to sabotage him anywhere possible, Pres. Obama had to resort to extreme political maneuvering to fulfill his mandate. After years of constant party-line votes, the political situation in the country is so polarized that it is truly toxic.
Just think about a few of the examples: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was widely criticized by his fellow Republican politicians and constituents for accepting a hug from Pres. Obama following Hurricane Sandy. GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio is constantly attacked by fellow candidates for signing on to a bipartisan immigration reform bill. Indeed, these types of attitudes have become increasingly common, serving as an incentive for politicians to align themselves with the extreme factions of their parties.
With the primaries slowly (and painfully) winding down, the bulk of the reasonable candidates have been phased out, and we are now left with a number of very troubling possibilities. The most concerning of these is Donald Trump. I’ll go on record and say that I do not think Donald Trump will win the presidency. In reality, the most likely candidate to win November’s contest will be Hillary Clinton (if Trump is nominated) or Ted Cruz (if Trump is not nominated).
However, “The Donald,” in the most disgusting and transparent way possible, has seized upon the discontent in the two-party system by labeling himself an “outsider.” However, instead of putting himself above partisan politics, Trump has achieved this status with incendiary and spectacularly naive rhetoric that “establishment” (i.e. real) politicians cannot and would not employ. The reason establishment politicians don’t use this rhetoric is because it is stupid — from building a wall on the southern border to imposing tariffs on Chinese goods, it makes absolutely no sense.
Yet, because he can say practically anything, he’s been able to mobilize the most vulnerable GOP voters to prop up his nomination. Now, the only thing stopping him from securing the party’s backing is admitting that 9/11 was an inside job. It reminds of me the scene in the movie Independence Day where dozens of people gather on the roof of a high-rise building in NYC to greet the invading Alien spaceship. They become mesmerized by curiosity as the ship slowly begins opening up and then … *BOOM*. They’re annihilated by the Aliens’ laser.
Apples and Oranges
With the rising popularity of politically oriented news networks like Fox News or MSNBC, we’re constantly bombarded with one clear message: you’re either one or the other.
- You’re either a Democrat or a Republican.
- You’re either for guns or against guns.
- You’re either for job growth or for the environment.
- You either support our outrageously expensive private healthcare system or advocate for a single-payer universal healthcare system.
The rapid adoption of social media has made this even worse. We are able to isolate ourselves in ideological bubbles — only consuming content or interacting with people that share our political views.
This is especially true in rural areas with homogeneous populations. In the small Texas retirement community where my mom lives, most households use Fox News as background music. People forward ridiculous chain e-mails bashing Hillary Clinton and share phony Facebook posts about fictitious new Obama gun regulations.
They find it unfathomable someone would ever support the Democrats — maybe because everything they know about them they hear through the Megyn Kelley grapevine. Liberals can be just as bad.
This is all our fault.
Our generation should know better. Despite social or religious differences, many Millennials share similar views on some of the most controversial issues. From gay marriage to immigration, surveys tend to find that most people between the ages of 18–33, even those who identify with opposing political parties, agree on most social issues. Still, we’ve witnessed this snowball over the last eight years and have done nothing to stop it.
When you take these powerful “hot button” issues out of the equation, it becomes clear that our generation is fertile ground for a third party. The Democratic and Republican parties are the product of a broken system that actively promotes extremism as a means to its continued existence. We can, and must, create and support a party that unites Americans behind smart solutions to our most pressing economic and societal problems.
So, how could this look?
The convoluted nature of the shit we’re up against requires a technocratic approach to policy. We need to set aside our differences to concentrate on issues that legitimately threaten our ability to remain a competitive player in the global economy. This means ideological compromise at all levels.
By discarding outdated notions of “right” and “left,” a third party created by our generation would recognize that the merit of government intervention is completely dependent on the context and quality of its execution.
Below are a few possible solutions to serious issues affecting our country. However, unless we change the fundamental structure of the party system, they’ll never see the light of day.
Obviously getting all millennials, the nation’s largest demographic cohort, to agree on the above issues would never be possible. That being said, we have to create a better alternative — the current two-party system does not represent the values of our generation. No amount of re-branding will change that.