By Alex Besen
I am a member of the younger generation preparing to vote in my second U.S. presidential election. Watching Brexit play out propelled me from nervously following election coverage to becoming outright terrified that we could conceivably hand control of this country to a man who has run on a platform that scapegoats particular ethnicities as the cause of our current troubles, and preys on public fear of them.
Now, friends and family have told me that I always assume the absolute worst. But is such a thought really that big of a stretch now? After all, America has been pretty ideologically similar to Britain in the post-WWII era. To aggravate matters further: pundits, pollsters, and the media predicted the Brexit vote completely wrong. So the current election polls we’re seeing in the news could be way off the mark too. In fact, I dare say if we voted today, Donald Trump has a real chance to be our next president. And what’s really frightening is that sentiment may not change in the next several months unless people wake up, smell the danger, and choose to exercise their right to vote.
From a young age I learned about the consequences of letting an individual who ostracizes particular groups gain control of a major Western power. Last I checked, the Declaration of Independence says we’re endowed with the rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” As an American citizen, I feel the presumptive Republican nominee endangers these “Unalienable Rights” for my family and me, and I cannot support him under any circumstances. I was fairly certain that I would vote for Hillary Clinton, even as Bernie Sanders earned the infatuation of all my friends. But I will definitely vote for her to put a stop to Donald Trump.
Now my Sanders-loving peers are very quick to judge me for that mentality. They claim a vote rooted in fear is not democratic, and that I’m only serving to prolong a broken governmental structure. I concede that our two-party system is inherently flawed, but I would like to present two counterarguments to the anger that certain populist candidates are currently harnessing.
First off, it’s foolish for my generation to solely blame our parents and grandparents for our current predicament. After all, we are partially to blame. Our turnout in recent midterm elections is laughable. By not voting, we have repeatedly sent a message that we don’t care who gets elected to offices outside the presidency. Consequently, we forfeit our right to complain. Secondly, you cannot fix a system like the federal government by starting with the presidency and hoping that’s enough to sway everyone in lower offices. That’s the same tired “trickle down” mentality that our generation is supposedly protesting in this election.
Our youthful energy and excitement needs to be redirected toward the people writing the bills: our Congressmen and women, our Senators, and our state legislators. Remember, the whole House of Representatives is up for reelection as is one-third of the Senate. Should you choose not to vote, you resign yourselves to a fate chosen by someone else. Look at the youth outcry in response to the Brexit vote. Don’t you think you’ll have the same regrets if you let Donald Trump get swept into office? I sure know I will.
And to tie this all together, let me simply say this: Republicans will fall in line with Trump if he’s elected, even if they do so begrudgingly. While some have had the backbone to come out and publicly declare opposition to him, the vast majority still have not. These politicians care most about staying in DC. And they cannot do that if they upset their constituents by going against The Donald. Which means if the Republicans keep control of Congress, Trump’s ridiculous-sounding policies stand a legitimate chance of becoming law. That’s where we need to step in.
We’ve moved past the point where logic and reason will work against Trump and his ilk. They are driven by raw emotion. Not to mention, with the criminal amount of media attention Trump received, his so-called message for a long time was the central one reaching the average American. This means our best weapons are our votes, but we have to wield them effectively. So I urge you all to take a look in the mirror and think hard about this election over the coming months. It may not be the easiest decision to make, but a Trump presidency is too steep of a price for us to pay not to.
Alex Besen is a former Chappaqua resident. He graduated in May with a degree in Biomedical Sciences from RIT and currently works for the University of Rochester Medical Center.