Elect politicians who represent, not alienate, the American people

As August began, many Case Western Reserve University students likely tried last ditch efforts to relax before the year began. But if you were busy swimming, you may have missed something that all CWRU students should have paid attention to: the Republican Party’s first Presidential Primary Debate.

Cleveland may not have been on the mind of those who don’t live near campus, but for the nation’s and world’s media, there was nothing more pressing. Despite this, for those who paid attention, there was clearly an underlying disconnect between the debate’s candidates and the American people.

Some of the candidates presented certain ideals that are quite honestly appalling and dangerous for America’s future. Misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, homophobic and intolerant comments are simply unacceptable. Imagine if these attitudes were perpetrated on our campus. Just as we saw last year with the responses against those who belittled the #webelonghere movement, there would be an immediate outcry. Candidates running for public office do not become popular or electable by alienating others. A lot of GOP politicians need to sway away from these tendencies, by not attacking and performing “witch hunts” against people, such as immigrants, even if they happen to lack legal status. To do this would be a repeat of what occurred in the 1950s, when Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy went on an indeterminate rampage to detect communists and communist sympathizers. It proved disastrous for his career and for the United States.

There were some clear instances when the debate’s candidates were out-of-touch with the American people. Policy wise, many candidates lacked specificities. Some of America’s most pressing concerns were never even brought up, namely: climate change, the proliferating rise in gun violence nationally and soaring economic disparities. Programs that our government needs to implement, particularly those that galvanize all Americans, are common sense ones. Ensuring that Americans have the opportunity to prosper and move up the ladder is key.

Promoting such policies that provide the best quality of education to every American child protects people from the senseless violence caused by firearms, enables the United States to reduce pollution and keeps the environment healthy—those are the kind of bold, innovative ways to mitigate some pressing issues in the United States. Just as we worry about ISIS and other foreign powers, domestically we should be just as concerned about white supremacists that still encourage hatred and exclusion.

One of the takeaways from the 2012 presidential election was that addressing the U.S. as a community triumphs. Excluding people from opportunities and treating everything as an “us versus them” problem is marginalizing. This was demonstrated especially by Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012, exemplified by his “47 percent” gaffe. You cannot expect to become a public official by simply representing jingoism and non-inclusiveness.

If there’s one phenomenon that I realized from this debate, it’s that our country remains deeply divided. Yes, the news and media have been telling us this for at least the past decade. But it became tangible to me, something that was observable. The “united” in the United States of America is becoming ever so fractured. Promoting policies that empower the average American and help everyone achieve the American Dream appeals to the public and wins elections, not the opposite. Embracing the principle of bipartisanship, something that seems nonexistent in the federal government currently, is healthy and necessary to move our country forward.

To win when the general elections comes around, the GOP needs to be strategic and not nominate a candidate who simply panders to certain bases in the primaries when it comes to issues that affect most Americans. That’s the only way it stands a chance.

The party also needs to realize Ohio’s importance. Analyses show the Buckeye State has essentially determined the presidential winner in every general election since 1964. Cleveland, the home city of the first debate, the 2016 Republican National Convention and CWRU, will be a pivotal “stomping ground” to determine our nation’s next president.

The lack of active participation in the future of our country is undoubtedly troubling, especially among millennials and our generation. Our generation is far more tolerant on issues such as same-sex marriage, LGBT rights and so on; increased leadership from us would be invaluable to the nation. At CWRU, a few students have already been proactive in this engagement at the level of our community when they conceived the Undergraduate Diversity Council, now a voting member of the Student Executive Council. We need to stay informed and use our vote to make significant change in the right direction. Research the candidates, just as CWRU emphasizes research in your field of interest. Read the news one to two times a week. Stay civically engaged. An America where everyone “has a fair shot” is one that resonates with me most—and I’m sure this applies to the majority of Americans, which includes CWRU students as well.

Josh Lehrer loves politics, but jokes that he could never be a politician because he’s too honest and sensitive.