Apathy: The real risk a Trump presidency poses to democracy
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Assumedly addressing young people, President Obama said this month that “this is the most important election of your lifetime.” In my mind, Mr. President, there’s still an argument to be had that your election in 2008 was the most important election in my lifetime, as well as those of many fellow Americans.

But — let’s assume that you are indeed addressing me and my fellow millennials — to call this election the most important in our lifetimes is setting the bar really low. Actually, it’s depressing.  

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Framing this election as a binary choice between progress and backwardness highlights the damage that the race is causing to future political discourse in our country. Even if (when) Trump loses, the worst has already been done.

The juxtaposition of the perceived politics-as-usual candidate and the insolent lunatic more prone to a temper tantrum than my five-year-old cousin merely confirms the biases of most people in my generation and serves to hinder the future prospects of our democratic system. It confirms their negative perceptions toward Washington and politics in general.

There has been a growing consensus that politics does not affect our daily lives. That the electoral college renders any individual’s vote useless unless you live in a swing state. That nothing gets done in Washington, and that the preferences of the average American don’t matter.

That the people in power don’t actually effect any change as they rotate in and out of the revolving door to positions of power in the private sector. So really, who cares who gets elected? The president doesn’t have that much power anyway, right?

By confirming all of these sentiments in the eyes of the generation that will be the next in power, Trump, and those who have and will vote for him, can congratulate themselves on precipitating the destruction of the Republican party. The fact that this fearmonger somehow obtained the nomination of one of our major parties only reaffirms young people’s negative perceptions of politics.

Trump proves that you don’t need to do your research, or even rely on facts, to participate in politics. If this idiot can rise to the top, it’s no wonder that nothing is getting done in Washington.

More importantly, Trump and his enablers in the Republican party have damaged the credibility of any would-be future conservatives. Now any of them who might want to engage in a genuine debate about reforming the tax code is written off by default association with what is perceived as the backward Republican party.

My conservative friends who would otherwise contribute to a genuine contest of ideas have nowhere to turn when this is the individual that their party puts up for election to the highest office. And no matter how much you claim that Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Buttigieg releases list of campaign bundlers Reject National Defense Authorization Act, save Yemen instead MORE supporters will bandwagon with you in this election, Donald, we won't.

You’re not inspiring young people; you’ll probably just be the butt of our jokes until our grandkids are reading about the fleeting threat you posed to American democracy as a bigoted demagogue in their textbooks. In short, the Trump phenomenon only confirms the biases of all those in my generation who were turned off by politics in the first place. It encourages apathy by making a mockery of politics and all those who participate.  

Secretary Clinton, for her part, has made a genuine effort to frame the election around the issues, but that’s a difficult task when one of the debates can literally be turned into the script for an SNL skit without any significant departure from reality. I won’t get into the details, but it’s an absolute disgrace that in the greatest country in the world we have to watch a bleached orange man-child blurt out blatant untruths on a global stage and still entertain the possibility of him gaining access to the nuclear codes.

Let’s recognize that this is not an election where the future of our country was deliberated over in an actual debate. This is not the most important election of our lifetimes, it’s a situation in which we have to make the only choice we have.

This is not to downplay the significant accomplishments of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMore than 200,000 Wisconsin voters will be removed from the rolls Trump is threatening to boycott the debates — here's how to make sure he shows up Trey Gowdy returns to Fox News as contributor MORE. And our election of the first woman president would indeed be an historic feat. Likewise, I am positive about the future of America, and agree that it is already great.

I have great faith in our people, including our ability to withstand the tides of divisive forces far more powerful than Trump. But let’s not pretend that this election is something that it isn’t. To call it the most important election of our lifetime is giving Trump too much credit. He’s confirming all of the worst fears of the generation that needs to be the most involved in ensuring that our future will be even greater than the present.

I, and many other young people, will get out there and vote for Hillary Clinton on November 8th. But we shouldn’t be happy that these are the circumstances in which we’re doing so. Come November 9th, we have to get back to the issues.

I admit that I’ve really enjoyed watching the edits of Trump footage by Vic Berger since the Republican debates began last year. But to see this election as a source of entertainment exposes us to the real danger to the future of our democracy – apathy. I’m confident that Hillary Clinton will take us in the right direction, and hope that she has the opportunity to partake in a genuine debate on the issues in 2020, whether her opponent identifies as a Republican or something we’ve never seen before.

Lowe is a Master's candidate in the Asian Studies program at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.


 

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