Talkin' 'bout my generation
Students engage with Nick Troiano, National Campus Director of Americans Elect, over a dinner discussion about voter dissatisfaction among both parties and the lack of democracy in the current nomination system. Lincoln Davidson
On Monday, Davidson was host to Nick Troiano, the National Campus Director of Americans Elect, a non-profit organization whose aim is to give American voters a third, democratically-elected presidential candidate in the 2012 election, chosen through the first ever online nominating convention. Nick discussed voter dissatisfaction with both parties and the lack of democracy in the current nomination system, and how these conditions gave rise to Americans Elect.
I had the pleasure of joining Nick and thirteen other Davidson students for a discussion over dinner prior to Nick's presentation. The first thing that surprised me was the quality of the food; apparently meals at Commons can actually be delicious. More significantly, the discussion sparked some of the best discourse I've heard on campus.
As one of my peers pointed out, political discourse is something that's severely lacking at Davidson. Perhaps it's because we're such a polite campus. We hate confrontation, and discussing politics is seen as inherently confrontational. What I saw around the table on Monday was far from confrontation, however. The discussion remained civil and respectful, with people chipping in on all sides. More importantly, there was a lot of consensus about what's wrong with the system and what needs to be done to fix it. I heard a lot of agreement that money in politics is a serious problem, that women are underrepresented, both in national politics and here on campus (of the fourteen students present for Monday's discussion, only two were women), and concern about the lack of civic understanding and awareness of current events among our generation. The generational gap also came up: someone pointed out that our generation is "linked in" and that the old-style politics that still dominates the political arena isn't responsive to us, and, perhaps as a result, isn't an attractive avenue for our efforts.
Perhaps that's the central problem our generation faces. When I look around Davidson, I see no shortfall of desire to make a positive impact on our world. Neither is there a lack of idealism, despite how jaded and cynical our generation supposedly is. A broken political system drives us to direct our energy into voluntarism as a means of effecting change rather than towards political activism. Our parents' generation believed in activism; our generation believes activism is no longer effective. So, we retreat from politics and focus our energies elsewhere: into our studies, or into Habitat for Humanity, or into a thousand other NGOs clamoring for us to help them make a difference.
Such voluntarism is admirable, and I am proud to be part of a generation so dedicated to selflessly doing good. But could it be that our parents had it right? That sometimes, when a problem has become large enough, real, aggressive activism is needed? Perhaps not in the same vein as the activism of the past: I think the take-to-the-streets model of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party are not what our generation wants or needs. Rather, we need to take the tools we have at our disposal - social media, a fresh outlook at the world, a desire for dialogue and compromise, and our passion - and use them to apply pressure to a system that no longer responds to us.
In my mind, Americans Elect offers the best channel to apply such pressure. By paving the way in creating a fully democratic online nominating convention, Americans Elect shows that there's an alternative to the faulty system of the past. By requiring that any candidate for the AE ticket choose a running mate from across the aisle, Americans Elect proves that bipartisan cooperation is possible. By placing a presidential candidate elected from the middle on the ballot in all fifty states, Americans Elect guarantees that we have a viable alternative to the two parties in November. We have the tools to fix a broken system; what remains is to pick them up and use them.
Lincoln Davidson '15 is undeclared from Lewisburg, PA. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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