Most of you may be a little confused right now and that I completely understand. For any of my regular readers/listeners, I am a nerd who reviews video games, movies, and throws in the occasional surprises here and there. But for those people who are in my personal life know that I am actually a graduate student studying political science. Movies, video games, and so forth is a passion of mine, hence the site, but my academic passions have always lied in the realms of political thought. I have done my best to ensure that I do not mix business with pleasure when it comes to this website in an effort to keep my academic pursuits and my leisure time separate. However, I now find myself sitting here reading/watching the news on a daily basis trying to assess the ramifications of this recent presidential election. It has vexed me greatly over the past couple of months and my colleagues in my department and my friends on Facebook have only been able to placate me for so long. So, I decided to put away the movies and video games for a night and discuss this current state of United States Politics.
I do want to stress, before I dive into this quagmire of presidential politics, that it is my intention to write this article as a political scientist. I have no goals or ambitions when it comes to furthering any party or any candidate. My personal political beliefs are irrelevant to the subject at hand. It is my goal to study these two parties and assess through my own academic lens, for what it is worth, the state of United States politics. So for the sake of this article, I will attempt to be as non-partisan as my opinions will allow. I will be critical of certain candidates. But do not mistake this for partisanship. My criticism will be strictly academic.
Also, I will stress that even as I am examining this topic as a political scientist, this is merely an article based upon opinion and should not be used for academic purposes. I simply want to make myself clear before I proceed.
Democrats: A Tale of the Apathetic Youth
At the time of writing this, two days after the March 15th primaries that saw Hillary Clinton sweep all five states thus further solidifying her position as the Democratic Nominee, I find myself looking on my fellow youth of America and seeing the face of apathy stare back at me. For years, the youth of America, or Millennials if you will, has been criticized for being a generation of apathetic and lazy brats. The elders that look down at the Millennials stating that they “cannot be free of their cell phones” or “you are just lazy and want everything handed to you.” There has been a war of resentment between the older generations and the new generation who have grown resentful of their elders constantly looking down at them when they were “the generation that invented the television” and “they decimated the United State economically and ecologically by their continued abuse of natural resources.” This generational battle has been brewing within the United States for close to two decades now.
The democratic race this year can be summed up as a war between the rambunctious youth and the stubborn elders. It is to nobodies surprise that Bernie Sanders has struck a cord with the youth of the United States. Across each of the primaries, Sanders has defeated Clinton in the 16-25 age demographic. The only state that Clinton was able to win the youth vote was in Alabama and Mississippi. Clinton, however, has won over the more conservative older members of the Democratic parties as well as a vast majority of Super Delegates who see Clinton as a much safer and more viable candidate. As of March 15th, Clinton’s nominations seems to have become assured and the youth has collectively accepted their fate.
What I find so fascinating about this Democratic election is the fact that one of the main criticisms lobbied at Millennials is how they just don’t care about anything. They are so lazy and they don’t want to work for anything. They are criticized for perceiving their votes as irrelevant. That their votes don’t matter. Who cares what they want in their politicians? They will just get stuck with the same bureaucrat with the same jargon. Elders retort that they need to vote, that their votes do matter, and try to push them to vote at every cost. However, this has been one of the first times where I have seen the youth of America, united in their resolve, stand up and state that they want a candidate. That they have found someone that they believe in. They are the future of America and they want to take part in this process. However, the elders, being the concerned parents that they are see Sanders as a terrifying radical and that they need to put the rambunctious youth back in their place.
I find it so odd that the American people, when faced with the possibility of eliminating their biggest criticism against the youth of the United States not back the horse being championed by future generations. In a way, the fears and criticisms of the youth of the United States has become reality as the older members of the United States have rejected their plea for a change in the status-quo and pushed their moderate candidate upon them.
I look upon my fellow brothers and sisters of my generation and they look back at me with tired eyes and melancholy expressions. Their is a sense of inevitability in the air as the apathy has set back in and the youth resign themselves to a life of having a generation ahead of them force them into a relic of the past “for their own good.”
Republicans: The Lost Party
The Republican party feels less like a battle of generations, and more of a battle for identity. The candidates have a sense of lifelessness to them as they watch as the people who support their party embrace a businessman and reality show host. This is not the first time that Donald Trump has run for President. However, this is the first time that he has, not only been considered a viable candidate, but the primary candidate. What I have gathered from the supporters of the Republican party is that they have grown apathetic to the politicians of their party and are demanding a person who is somehow outside of the party altogether.
The fact that Republican elites are terrified of Trump and do not want Trump as their President fuels his campaign. The supporters of Donald Trump are drawn to him like moths to the flame, hanging on his every word. No matter how much Republicans cry to their constituents that supporting the man will be their undoing, no matter how many racist, sexist, and horrific things the man says, all of these things that would be the death knell for another presidential candidate only boaster Trump’s numbers even more. It is truly something astonishing to behold, if not somewhat ominous as the shadow of the future looms over our heads like the Sword of Damocles.
Ever since the Presidency of George W. Bush, the Americans who support the Republican party have felt more like lost sheep trying to find their shepherd. Both John McCain and Mitt Romney were moderate Republicans who could potentially bridge the gap between the more right wing members and those who tend to find themselves on the fence. However, these campaigns were unable to defeat President Barack Obama and thus we find ourselves with candidates who have turned their backs on the moderates and looked towards the tips of the right wings.
It is because of this that Donald Trump seems so romantic to the Republican voters. He “speaks his mind” and he has a charisma to him that resonates with conservatives who see violence and bullheaded arguments as something that they want to see in their leaders. One of Donald Trump’s biggest criticisms is that everything he says is racist, homophobic, sexist, his policies seem terrifying, his diplomatic exploits could lead to potential wars, and the subsequent death of our youth fighting a needless war. But this only fuels the people who like Trump. They want a wild card, they want a person who will spit in the face of anyone who comes in his way. No matter who that person may be. They do not care if his business exploits are abject failures or the fact that he is the same elitist that sits in his tower and looks down on all the peons who are now voting for him. He speaks his mind and the people eat out of his hands.
Candidates like John Kasich and Ted Cruz try to fight back with logic, but only see more of their constituents switch sides to the billionaire from New York City.
Party Polarization and the Failings of the Two Party System
The theme of both the Republican and Democratic stories is the concept of apathy. Regardless of which party one supports, their is a feeling of apathy in the air and a loss of confidence in the powers that be. This has been a sentiment that has been a long time coming. Since 2000 and the birth of party politics, Republicans and Democrats have continued to stray away from the concepts of cooperation and compromise and have embraced the idea of party polarization. Now we find ourselves with two parties who are so entrenched in their own worlds that bi-partisanship has become a despicable word. Anyone who attempts to cross the aisle to make a bond with the other side is quickly met with derision from their own party members.
We see it in the way that they handle business. After the death of Justice Scalia, the Republican Party instantly stated that they would not accept any justice appointed by Obama, no matter who that person may be. They cite that the next President should choose the next Justice and that the President should not choose the Justice when they are about to leave office. They do not regard the fact that the President does have this authority and has historically nominated a Justice in their final year as office with little challenge. Whether or not you agree with President Obama or Mitch McConnell is irrelevant. What is relevant is the fact that this is the symptom of party polarization who are unwilling to yield to the other side. As Lewis Black once said, if a Republican and a Democrat watched a cat being run over by a tank, one party would claim that the cat was trying to commit suicide.
It is here that we see the failings of the two-party system that has been prevalent in American politics since its inception. One of the worst outcomes of party politics is the event that we find ourselves in now. Where we are locked in noticeable party polarization. In multi-party systems, this could potentially happen. However, when it comes to the two-party system, party polarization is not only a potential outcome, it is the ultimate goal. If these two parties did not oppose and challenge each other then we would not have democracy. We would have a one party state. In a perfect world, the two sides would take opposing political views and then create a compromise that works for both parties. However, now we find the case where the idea of compromise is almost unthinkable.
It is here that we see a cry for multi-party politics. It is in my personal opinion, that the place we see ourselves in now is the eventual outcome of being a two-party system. You have two sides that are unable to compromise because the concept of compromise is too terrifying to comprehend.
Where We Find Ourselves Now
We find ourselves now standing on a cliff overlooking a precipice of uncertainty. We have no idea where this road might take us. But it most certainly is not into a direction that will solve any of our problems anytime soon.
The theme of the Democratic and Republican narratives is one of tragedy. We watch these two mega parties become humbled by the American people who grow more and more apathetic every day. Republicans have given up on their party. They do not trust their politicians and see fit to elect a man that they do not truly understand. On the Democratic side, the elders of society have put the apathetic youth in their place. They have advocated prudence and rejected a man of change (with potential positive and negative side effects). They risk losing more of their youth to apathy as they let they push themselves forward in the hopes that the youth will soon learn from their rambunctious ways.
What I find so fascinating about this election, more than any other before it, is how these two parties seem to revel in fighting members of their own party and not their other party. I watch as Clinton supporters and Sanders supporters tear into one another. I watch as Republicans detest the concept of their other opponents. Trump supporters blast Cruz supporters and so on down the line. If anything, this is a sign that the American people are as divided as ever.
So all of this leads to where does this all lead us? The normative question that vexes all of us. What does the future hold? These continued cleavages could mean the birth of a multiparty system within the United States. Where we can see a support of moderate parties as well as more fringe parties on the right and left gain more traction. I would love to watch a Presidential election that features Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz. It would be truly representative of how the American people feel, divided.
However, on the other end, I know that those days may be far ahead of us and I can only subject myself to knowing that this presidential election is not the end of mass polarization in our legislative and executive branch, but the by product of it. I don’t know who is going to win this presidential election, but what I do know is that our problems have not ended, they have just begun.
I would like to thank you for reading this break from the norm from my website and humoring a graduate student who is using the mediums given to him to voice his political opinion.