Even though the next presidential election is still over a year away, it is already dominating much of the American conversation. This election seems to be a particularly lively one. It is hard to witness the shenanigans of candidates from both parties without forming a rather bitter opinion of American politics. Lawrentians have certainly formed a very strong view of the current political climate.
The main emotion expressed by students was disappointment about the polarizing nature of our system. “It’s f—ed, because bipartisan politics polarize everybody,” said junior Gabe Peterson. “It doesn’t allow for specific voices that don’t necessarily fit within a political party to be heard … I think the fact that money has such a large role in the campaign system, and that so much money is being poured into the media … makes it impossible for anyone to say what they mean to say without connotations or the way that things are spun.”
Senior Heidi Thiel felt similarly frustrated over this divide, saying, “I think the biggest problem we have is that it’s just so divisive that there are only two parties and that they refuse to work together. It really just divides our country and everyday people.”
Sophomore Shelby Hader elaborated further on this point, saying, “I guess I’m upset as well, one on how we can never work together on either side … [but] also about how we don’t care about other people in this country. It’s just dog eat dog, and I wish that could change.”
It is not just the lack of cooperation between both sides that has students upset, but the legitimacy of the candidates in this particular election and how politics seem to have turned into entertainment. Peterson continued, “I think the worst part of this s–t-show is that certain people who I don’t feel are valid candidates — certain extreme candidates — are getting so much attention while the most logical candidates are put on the back-burner because what they’re doing isn’t outrageous or extravagant.”
Senior Shannon Grant also expressed a great deal of concern and anger over the fact that “we’re already planning [the current election] so far in advance and it’s already become part of our news cycle. It’s really upsetting, particularly how many Republican candidates we have, and it’s clearly something we use as entertainment now. While I think political satire is very important, the fact that politicians and people who are in positions of power have become the joke themselves is really scary.”
Sophomore Flo Van Lieshout felt like a lot of the important issues are being lost in this political theater. “I think that I’m disappointed that the lives and opinions of women are not being more clearly expressed, and I wish that there was more of an emphasis on that right now. I also think the general education level of people who are watching these debates and voting for Donald Trump really concerns me.”
Yet even some of the most vocal students asked still have faith. “I think I’m an optimist, so I have hope,” said Peterson. “I have hope for this election because I’ve worked on an election in the past and we won, so I’ve seen what can happen.”
In the midst of various sound bites, we seem to have lost sight of things like the many local elections coming up at the end of this year. These could end up making big differences through small change, and they warrant a measure of hope for the future in a very confusing time.