Election season is upon us. From now until the general election this November, Americans are going to be deciding who will lead our communities, sates, and country next. From local, state, to federal level elections, every issue on the table and every vote matters. The unique aspect about the democracy we live in, is that all citizens can exercise political power by choosing the individuals they would like to be represented by. We are truly fortunate to live in a society where people are free to hold the views they want concerning any issue or candidate. However it is important to be mindful of the fact that because our society welcomes public discourse concerning political issues, we all have to be willing to compromise with one another and find common ground. And frankly I believe that is lacking amongst politicians and the electorate alike, especially students.
Currently, we live in an era of divided government, meaning that no certain party has controlled both the legislative and executive branches of our nation’s government for an extended period of time. Due to this division, legislation is sometimes stalled and delayed in getting passed. We, the electorate have entrusted our public officials with the responsibility of working to get initiatives and laws passed to better our society, not be elected to office just to cause a stalemate between the major parties. This mindset of party disagreement has unfortunately transferred over to many individuals outside of the government, which only furthers the divide.
This is not just a trend between the Democrats and Republicans, but within both parties as well. Take the presidential primary elections for example; I have encountered a wide range of students at my school who like different candidates for different reasons, but are quick to respond with resentment or disgust at simply the mention of another candidate’s name. The divide within a party is even more severe than a divide between party ideologies.
It’s imperative that in this election cycle, students who may be voting for the first time take a strong look at their party’s candidates and different platforms and choose a candidate that best reflects their views. At the same time, first-time voters need to take the time to acknowledge different candidates in their party who are vying for the presidential nomination. This is important to do because what may occur, is the front-runner candidate might adopt some of the stances of other candidates who drop out in order to better represent their party come November.
When it comes to local, state, and national policies, students should look to candidates who are going to fully represent their party’s values, and also candidates who are willing to see differences in the opposing party and work to find a bipartisan solution to contested issues. Instead of immediately responding with distaste and loathing towards another party, take a look at the issues at hand and the different party’s stances; you might learn something about an issue you did not know, or at least understand the context better.
I am not writing this to scold my peers or act like a pretentious millennial who thinks he has politics figured out; believe me I don’t. I am writing to reach out to my fellow students who may feel polarized about a certain issue and or candidate. Instead of refusing to examine other candidates or party platforms, students should take into account their views and then take an in-depth look at other candidates in their party as well as the opposing party before making a conscious decision to vote. That right there is probably the most important aspect of voting; it’s a conscious decision.
Like I said earlier, voting is the easiest, most effective way for citizens to exercise political power. We must get to the point where the electorate is aware off all of the issues, candidates, and platforms at hand. That way, everyone will be willing to engage in a civilized public discourse with other citizens and politicians alike, and then maybe, just maybe, the legislative and executive bodies of our government will be able to become less divided and fulfill their duties in effectively serving and representing Americans.
Lead Image Credit: hoover.org, Illustration by Barbara Kelley