PDP: Speak Up! Speak Out! [What’s Happened to Our Political Parties?]

Section: Embracing the Life of the University

As a new college student at the third most prominent school for social-events-that-normally-incite-police-involvement in the state of Michigan, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ve been attending my fair share of parties. Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, and Green, for the most part

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Speak Up! Speak Out! panels are held from 7-9pm in the University Center Auditorium.

– and from 7-9 pm at the University Center this past Wednesday, a couple of my comrades and I attended the first Speak Up! Speak Out! civil discussion panel of the year. The topic for the discussion revolved around possible outcomes for the upcoming Presidential election and some of the variables involved with each
of the candidates’ platforms.

As a Washingtonite myself (a completely self-created label), I would love to see the day we resort to having two (or more) presidential nominees without any specific party allocation. I believe the idea of having two parties with relatively set values separates us as a people and creates a very toxic ‘us-versus-them’ mentality between rivaling groups. However, this election year, we have some very prominent political figures who adhere quite loyally to their traditional party values. We began the meeting by viewing one video of each of the four viable candidates for the upcoming Presidency, presented by our panel moderator. I had assumed they would be basic summations of each candidate’s platform, but most were self-approved pro-candidate endorsements. Hillary Clinton’s video came off as a bash on Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric, while the former’s presented some of his values. A comment the candidate made in his video actually surprised me, though was wont to impress. Before this event started, I had no knowledge that Trump supported the LGBTQ+ community. It’s not a forgiving trait – especially since he still opposes marriage equality – but it’s a start.

The following panel featured Kyla Stepp, a student and teacher of American Politics; Jeremiah Castle, an individual concentrated on Media and Religion in Politics; Chris (surname unknown), an undergrad Majoring in Political Science; Ed (surname unknown), Journalist and Reporter; Jason Taylor of the Economics Department; and Victoria (surname unknown), undergrad, the President of the Young Americans for Liberty. I must say that the one thing I regret about attending this presentation was that I failed to bring a recording device. I cannot write as fast and as much as Castle talks, and he had some of the most interesting information to provide during the event.

The ‘rules’ for discussion were simple. Our moderator vocalized that, “Oftentimes, strong language is too loud to be heard by individuals who would otherwise be convinced,” while the projector behind him reiterated his point with a similarly topical quote from Alexander Hamilton:

“In politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.”

The Federalist #1

October 27, 1778

Student advocates for civil discussion joined him onstage at that point, and presented the idea that qualms and laced language stifle productive and educational conversation, and explained that it would be best to simply respect others’ differing opinions. It sounds like an idea that all should adhere to easily, but I guess adults still have to be reminded.

Then, the discussion began!

We began with a plea by one of the audience members (who might as well have been me, because I’ve had the same question floating around in my mind for awhile as well): is voting for a third party candidate really ‘throwing away’ your vote?

As was expected, the responses varied. Ross Perot was cited as the most successful independent presidential candidate America has seen, and was used to support the argument that yes, Gary Johnson or Jill Stein had the capability to rise exponentially in the polls, while others called out the instability of a political system that expanded past two parties. Two interesting points eventually were made: the first, that Michigan is a predominantly Democratic state and that if it were an assumption the day before November 8, 2016 that Hillary would win the electoral college, a third party vote would not – as some say – count as a vote for Donald. The second point was more thought-provoking and should be brought up as a topic for discussion within website threads, political discussions, and every day conversations.

Is voting third party a privilege?

The privilege we’re talking about here is white privilege. Because white individuals don’t have to worry about the consequences of a Trump Presidency. Because as a white person, I can vote my beliefs and values, even if they are not with the contrasting nominated party, without fear that my vote will ‘count’ for the other guy. Because I was born white and do not run the risk of being pegged as a ‘random check’ in an airport because of my skin tone/of-middle-eastern-origin last name or have my citizenship questioned. It’s an inquiry that the panel couldn’t really answer, but I do believe that it has substance.

Other questions throughout the event covered the effect media has had on the way candidates are choosing and are able to run – with Trump being the first media-created candidate and the American population only knowing of him because of his cataclysmic appearances, “on Prime Time television,” as Ed stated; whether the polarization of our politics will further separate our country – at least 45% percent of the population will feel unheard; and if we have a chance to unify after all of this is over.

A lot of the challenges above were answered timidly, in ways that showed that no one could set their finger confidently on a definite, evidence-based prediction. Most responses were qualified; the sort of ‘it really depends on…’ comments. I’m very satisfied that, in attending, it solidified the fact that we don’t know where our country is going politically and are therefore more invested as a generation (we, meaning Millennials and Gen Y). Most of us are aware of how important it is for us to be able to vote, we’re becoming more aware that just the simple act of sending in an opinionated letter or email to your local/state/federal politician(s) can make an impact, and we do care about our country’s state of affairs. I won’t dare to say more than any generation before us, but the majority of us are completely aware of our potential and ability to influence the world we inhabit – and I’ve only met intellectual individuals who are dead-set (no pun intended) on going about the entirety of that business peacefully.

The next Speak Up! Speak Out! event will revolve around the Domestic Policy of the candidates  (OCTOBER NINETEENTH OCTOBER NINETEENTH WHAT DAY? OCTOBER NINETEENTH IT’S A – YOU GUESSED IT JUST LIKE LAST TIME – WEDNESDAY), and I’m very excited to attend. This past Wednesday really allowed me to get a taste of what people with differing views can get done when they respect each others’ opinions – no matter how radically conservative or liberal they may be – and taught me even further that the louder you yell, the quieter you’ll sound to those who don’t want to hear you.

Much love,

Quinn ❤

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