Rory Britt ’17
The United States has been through what is one of the most divisive, wide-reaching, and media-driven elections in recent memory. The two major candidates stand with the lowest approval ratings and the highest disapproval ratings in American history. The Republican, Donald Trump, is called misogynistic, bigoted, violent, and unstable, while the Democrat, Hillary Clinton, is thought to be ruthless, untruthful, unhealthy, and a corporate shill. For someone just tuning into the election, they may wonder how on God’s green earth the US decided that these would be the best candidates for the job. For that answer, one must go back in time.
The date is November 5th, 2008, and Barack Obama has just been declared the President of the United States, beating out his rival John McCain. The Republicans have suffered a crushing defeat as Obama promises many liberal reforms and change from the Bush years. Many Republican voters feel disillusioned with their party, and the seeds of what we see today are planted in the form of the Tea Party and the continuing rise of Fox News. Still, at that time, social media is just starting to catch on, and along with it, many conservative voices have new platforms to voice their anger at Obama, and they use them effectively. Over the next several years, especially during the 2011/2012 election, the rancor picks up and the attacks on liberals catch on to a very large audience; Democrats also begin to utilize social media as a way to mobilize the masses to vote and to disseminate their ideas to a wider audience. Fast forward to 2015; The Affordable Care Act has been passed, which is a huge blow to Republican legislators. Race relations have been especially shaky after Ferguson, and Republicans have taken both the House and the Senate, causing gridlock with the Obama Administration resolute. A much more open and accepting youth exists now than did even 10 years ago. The rise of socialism and neoliberalism has come in the form of pushing for increased government intervention in people’s lives, stronger abortion rights rulings, pushing for less corporate influence, stricter gun laws, and increased taxes. All of this has angered traditional Republicans and has inspired many fringe liberal groups.
To Republicans and Democrats, 2015 is a tipping point. For the last 4 years of Obama’s presidency, the polarization in not only Congress but social media and the news has driven people farther and farther towards either the right or the left as they see their ideological base as the only way forward. This shift towards more radical ideological bases has happened to both parties for sure, with the huge upheavals of the status quo in the form of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. While the more centrist establishment Democrats succeeded in crushing Bernie Sanders’ movement, his ideas on trade, the minimum wage, and free college, still heavily influence the policies and the candidate (Hillary Clinton) that the Democrats have put forward.
The Republican establishment has not been as lucky. Due to eight years of a Democrat in the White House, the financial crisis of 2008, the move away from coal, and a general dismissal of the “silent majority”, Republicans, especially white, blue-collar Republicans, have reacted radically. Unlike the Democrats, who were able to stop the populists in their party, the Republicans could not, and their attempts have only strengthened the support for the outsider, Donald Trump. The most Republicans to ever vote in a primary came out to vote for this man, who in polls is regarded by 59% of the country as “unfit to be president”. He has come to represent what is described as the Republican voters’ last chance to bring America back to more Conservative roots based in the Reagan Era.
So while neither the majority of Republicans or the Democrats are happy with the current state of their party or the candidates that they have chosen either directly or indirectly, they are stuck with them. No one party is the more radical one, no one party is responsible for the way the world is today, and no one party will be damaged by the results of this election; we are all responsible for the choices we have made, and now we must live with them. It is because of our actions in the past that have led to the climate being perfect for the kind of showdown that is seen today. Nobody is to blame but the people, for Democrats have chosen a candidate whose relationship with truth and transparency is at best ambiguous, and the Republicans have chosen a candidate that has little idea of what he is doing and who he is even attacking when he speaks. All that we can hope for is that when the election results come in, that the transition of power is peaceful. In this election cycle filled with surprises, even that isn’t a guarantee.