Popular Candidates on Both Sides Shun Respectability Politics


photo courtesy of Flickr user Alex Hanson

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at Iowa State university

Madeline Old, Staff writer

For the first time in my life, I’m scared about the outcome of an election. In 2008 I was in first grade and didn’t really pay attention. In 2012, I was confident at some level that Obama would win. But at the moment, it looks like anything could happen.

“Respectability politics” is about keeping the establishment going, something the voting public doesn’t seem to want to do this year. We’ve had eight years of Obama and eight years of Bush before him, and neither of them reduced America into a smoking pile of rubble or created utopia. But this year?

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both seem to relish the prospect of throwing over the establishment. I feel the Bern as much as the next teenager, but I admit I’ve seen him compared to Trump in his extremism. And, let’s be honest, in his hair. Extreme candidates polarize people, which means if someone extreme wins, everyone is going to feel strongly about it.

Some might say there’s nothing to fear. Every new thing that happens is feared by someone as a sign of the end of the world. Later we look back and laugh at people who complained that the world was going down the toilet and children were disrespecting their elders back before world maps displayed seven continents.

And if you’re more cynical and less nihilistic, you might rest assured that Congress is so gridlocked nobody will be able to get anything done, whether it’s helpful or harmful, no matter how extreme the next President is. The next Commander in Chief won’t be able to pass a single radical bill. Fine. Not everyone can C-section bills like Lyndon Johnson.

But Congress is only as divided as its members, and it’s an elected body just like the office of President. The people who go to the polls to elect Donald Trump as President might well choose someone from the same mold to represent them in the Senate. That utopia or pile or rubble the candidates promise just might come to pass, so to speak.

Whichever party you favor, this election could be either a devastating loss or a euphoric victory. It all hangs in the balance. And for better or for worse, that’s change we can believe in.