Alexander: A Message For Our Disappointing Political Leaders

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Sydney Stam

(Graphic by Sydney Stam | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By CJ Alexander, Opinion Writer

 

In 2020, I started my college experience feeling optimistic, like I could change anything if I wanted to. I planned to study politics at the University of Utah, start a career on Capitol Hill, change the world around me through policy-making and eventually go to Washington, D.C.

Needless to say, I was incredibly naive. Now, I see how the world of politics actually operates. I see how politicians treat each other, how they worship party politics and how they cannot unify against important issues. The reality of the United States’ repulsive political climate succeeds in turning away young people from pursuing a political career.

Political leaders dissuade young people from entering politics. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene yells at and harasses people she doesn’t agree with, including school shooting survivors. Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona openly shares videos depicting violence and death threats to other representatives and the president. And Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota received a demeaning, expletive-filled voicemail after Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado accused Omar of being a terrorist.

Outside of our representatives’ treatment of each other, some of our political leaders don’t seem to care for their constituents. In 2021, Texas faced a powerful winter storm that left millions without power. In response, Texas’ Rep. Ted Cruz flew to Cancun with his family instead of helping his constituents.

Here in Utah, following intense sessions and discussions, lawmakers approved a gerrymandered redistricting map to the chagrin of Salt Lake City residents. And following the Oxford High School shooting in Michigan, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky shared an ill-timed family photo promoting guns.

These are our leaders, the people we are supposed to look up to and follow their lead. But these people are the opposite of encouraging. If anything, they’re disgusting.

Zooming out of individual politicians and their actions, our political parties aren’t any better. For one, the GOP can’t seem to truly connect with Gen Z voters. Their outdated traditions and headstrong ideals fail to measure up against issues dominating today’s youth, including racial injustice, gender discrimination and climate change. Young Republicans feel that the GOP isn’t focusing on the issues that matter, in turn disappointing and dispiriting them.

Democrats, on the other hand, try to appeal to young people by enlisting celebrities. Democrats also make empty promises regarding big-ticket issues, such as proposing student loan forgiveness and free education, then not following through. Neither of these parties succeeds in appealing to youth and connecting to core issues we care about. Their attempts to draw us in are questionable, but it’s their ultimate failure to follow through on committing to real change that keeps us away.

To usher in the next generation of change-makers, our current political climate, our leaders and how they approach issues all need to change. A good way to revamp our political sphere is to abolish the two-party system in American politics. According to a 2021 Gallup poll, 62% of Americans support the idea of a third party, as they feel their current parties do a horrendous job of representing their constituents.

Our current two-party system forces Americans into a binary choice of either blue or red, both of which believe they’re the true America. The two-party system traps constituents who feel isolated or ousted by these party-ideals. By abolishing the two-party system, more people can get involved in politics, fair representation will increase and gerrymandering will be minimized. New Zealand provides a prime example of the multiparty system, where minority governments and groups are fairly represented amongst the dominant political groups.

We can also address and call out our representatives, especially when they fail to meet the expectations set by constituents. We can’t allow representatives to do the bare minimum when it comes to fighting for ourselves and what we want. To make constituents feel heard, representatives should start supporting legislation and policy initiatives driven by the people.

Representatives should also try reaching out to the communities they serve. They should work side-by-side with grassroots campaigns and activist efforts, including student activism. Gen Z activism is spearheading change, starting with our homes and schools.

If representatives tap into this drive and foster positive political careers, our future will be a little brighter. However, if our political leaders continue with the current problematic and distasteful political system, our nation will remain at a standstill against issues that matter.

If we want a future with more voices and perspectives, our leaders need to better prepare the next generation of legislators and representatives. Instead of pushing us away, they should encourage us as the future of politics and the nation. Instead of reinforcing negativity and incivility, our leaders should show more empathy and compassion. And instead of pretending to care about their constituents’ needs, our leaders should listen when we ask them to change or do something. It’s our representatives’ job to listen to us — not their political parties.

 

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@CamdenAlexande1