2017 was a wild ride with numerous natural and weather disasters, the #MeToo movement uncovering dozens of sexual harassers and the new era of the Trump administration. While many of us may either be exhausted from all this news or ambivalent about it entirely, we still have to be ready for what 2018 has in store. Here are some political trends and events to look out for this year.
1. Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering
Gerrymandering is the division of election districts in a way that will favor a particular political party. It keeps blue district blue and red districts red, eventually affecting the entire state's political swing. It is a huge concern because it allows politicians to design the boundaries of districts that will secure their seats in power, and it also fuels the partisanship that has so toxically infiltrated our politics. There are two cases awaiting decisions before the end of the Court's term in October, and these rulings are even more important because the midterm congressional elections will be occurring in November. Therefore, the rulings on these gerrymandering cases could greatly affect the future of our political landscape.
2. Midterm congressional elections
The Republican party currently has the majority in both the House (239 seats) and Senate (51 seats). All 435 seats in the House are up for grabs, with an additional third of seats in the Senate. Historically, the President's party has lost an average of 32 seats in the House and two in the Senate, which means that it's highly likely that the Republicans will lose their majority control over Congress in the midterm elections. But why should college students care? Well, Congress has the power to decide on issues college students care deeply about: net neutrality, student loans, Obamacare and more. Even leading up to the elections, we can expect to see vital races shaping the domestic political conversation and the President's behavior and actions. These actions come back to affect us all as Americans, making it important news for us to keep up to date with.
3. The future of the #MeToo movement
The past year's #MeToo movement exposed dozens of men in power as long-time sexual predators. Many were fired from their jobs and shunned from their industries, with dozens of women coming out with stories of sexual harassment. However, the future of this movement is uncertain because of the varying opinions on how best to proceed for change. College campuses are the perfect breeding ground to ignite and continue movements, but society has a reputation from jumping from one social issue to another. Will we continue to see the conversation about sexual harassment? What will the feminist movement look like in 2018? This is especially important for female college students who are at high risk for sexual assault, therefore students should pay attention to the results of this trend in the coming year.
4. Mueller investigation on the Trump administration
The specially appointed investigator Robert Mueller has spent most of the past year investigating the Trump campaigns ties to Russia. Two Trump officials confessed that they lied to the FBI about their Russian connections already, and major figures including Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump himself are under investigation. If more major players in the Trump administration are taken down, we may see an early end to the Trump administration. Whether or not you're hoping for impeachment, the fate and integrity of this investigation can possibly shape the future of American politics.
5. The state of American democracy
The Trump administration is in the process of undermining democracy by consistently attacking the news media, attempting to put incompetent judges who happen to be his friends in the judicial system, and eroding the public's trust in government institutions. It is highly likely that this will continue in 2018. I had the fortune of sitting in on a talk by Yale Professor Timothy Snyder where he discussed his book On Tyranny. In it, he said that if a popularly elected authoritarian regime is to resisted, it has to be done in the first 18 months. If we start the countdown from election day, time is running out. What will social justice movements do? What will our politicians do? What will we as college students do in the coming year to protect our rights?
No matter your political affiliation, I hope you look at 2018 as a year to begin or continue caring about politics. We are in a vital period of time where the legitimacy of America's democratic institutions are at risk, and it is up to us – the next generation of leaders – to decide what we want to do about it.
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