I’ve lived through only four presidential elections. I remember sitting on my parents’ bed in November 2008 watching the results come in. I was too young for politics to have any direct, tangible impact on my life, yet I sensed the momentousness of the occasion. From my limited grasp of current events, I could feel the negative mood of the country. There appeared to be a need for change. Any change.
(Editorial disclaimer – this article is part of a series of millennial-penned pieces that articulate arguments for candidates that appeal to them. These arguments are only published if they’re well reasoned, respectful, and cited. That is part of OPE’s mission – to give young writers that platform. It isn’t available in many other places. Proceed knowing that.)
Eight years have passed, and one lesson stands out: Change, for its own sake, is not a panacea.
Let’s consider the basic facts: America is divided socially, politically, and economically. Congress is stagnant. The economic recovery, if one can call it that, has been painfully slow. Millions have dropped out of the labor force. The poverty rate continues to hover around 14.5%. With the rise of ISIS and Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, the world is perhaps a more dangerous place now than eight years ago.
It is no wonder there is so much anger. And it is no surprise that many voters, old and young alike, are drawn to candidates who promise drastic change.
Here’s the problem: It’s not realistic.
Although I, too, am disillusioned with the political process, it’s not going anywhere. On November 9th, 2016, Congress will still be polarized. Unless the new president wants to assume dictatorial powers, his or her plans will be subject to congressional approval. Think of it this way: even a president with unorthodox or extremist views is going to have to moderate. Is it worth being sucked in by their empty rhetoric in the first place? Is it worth letting them feed off our anger to their own advantage?
I, along with millions of millennials, have reasons to be disenchanted and even afraid. Consider the world from our perspective: we are entering adulthood in the midst of a fragile, uncertain, and still recovering economy; we are entering adulthood at a time when America has no clear sense of either its role or objectives in the world; and we are entering adulthood in an extremely divided country, seemingly without core ideals to coalesce around.
So in sum, here is our predicament as primary and caucus season sets upon us. As in 2008, the domestic and international situation is precarious. As in 2008, the mood of the country is decisively angry. As in 2008, Americans on both sides of the political spectrum seek change. What is to be done?
We can let our anger guide us. We can seek shelter in grandiose promises. We can make ourselves dependent on those candidates who touch a nerve, who provide a convenient narrative of unfairness and decline. We can, in short, let our passions dictate our vote.
This election, I intend to support Senator Marco Rubio. His message does not nurture pessimistic notions of American decay. It does not pander to pure anger. While acknowledging we have been on the wrong path these last few years, Senator Rubio has consistently urged hope in a revived America in lieu of incessant despair. More specifically, his policies are reasonable and not weighed down by partisanship. His proposed child tax credit will ease the burden on families. His plan for K-12 education will expand opportunities for all American children by promoting school choice and charter schools. Finally, his foreign policy will reassert America’s role as a world leader and support global prosperity through free trade.
Senator Rubio’s vision of a “New American Century” embeds the specifics of his policy in a clear, positive vision of what America can be like, what it will stand for, and what principles will give it a sense of direction in what is still a new, challenging, post-Cold War world.
Now that election season has arrived, my appeal to fellow voters is this: there are legitimate reasons to be angry. I’m upset and disheartened, too. But in the end, anger is a dangerous guide, and history bears this lesson out.
So as the campaigning continues, I ask only that our anger is put to constructive use.
Let’s show that in one of America’s most uncertain periods, she can rally around someone with a clear, positive, and consistent vision of what America can be and of what principles and policies will guide it.
Featured portrait courtesy of Gage Skidmore.