Columns / Discourse / May 18, 2016

Political idealism is a privilege, not a joke

Political idealism is a privilege we don’t have.

As women of color, we don’t feel that we have as much freedom to idealize. We’re focused on my immediate realities — realities where we have to meet higher standards in order to be seen as successful, where we’re not always able to afford healthcare, where we fear for our family’s well-being, and most importantly, realities that would only be worsened by Donald Trump.

Knowing that he’s winning right now terrifies us, and it should terrify you, too.

Now that Cruz and Kasich’s campaigns are kaput, Donald Trump is now the presumptive GOP candidate for the presidency. If he wins, our lives — and the lives of other people of color, women, immigrants and even journalists — could be in real danger.

We’re not being hyperbolic.

Elizabeth Warren tweeted a couple weeks ago that Donald Trump “has built his campaign on racism, sexism, and xenophobia.” Trump inspires violence, and his supporter base is grounded in ignorance and hate. If Trump were president, he could suppress the media by controlling who can go to his conferences, defund Planned Parenthood and take away affordable healthcare for millions of women, order mass deportations and provide excuses for bigoted and abusive behavior.

At the moment, we’re telling ourselves that a Trump presidency is preventable. We’re hopeful — or at least trying to be hopeful — that a Trump presidency is impossible. People are modest, intelligent and aware of the problems that come with Trump enough to vote against him … right?

Obviously, not.

Trump’s initial campaign was funny. His brutish approach towards politics and abrasive vernacular included those who might otherwise feel left behind by the political process. As some people say, they’re “fed up” with the government and Trump’s presidency would be the equivalent of the middle finger to the U.S. political system.

Next, people saying they would move if Trump became president was funny. Websites that claimed they would help Americans get Canadian citizenship in the event of a Trump win became a hip way of criticizing the GOP. Some Americans would rather be Canadians than own up to their civic duty to vote.

You see, we don’t have the ability to pick up and move to another country. We can’t not vote because the current political climate upsets us, especially when not voting this election — or writing in a candidate that has no chance of winning — gives Trump half of a vote. Our lives are intertwined with the programs the government provides to us, and the drastic changes that people think are funny will actually affect us.

It’s not that we should start being angry about what this year’s election cycle has turned into, but we must definitely need to begin taking it seriously. The young vote, the one that’s been turning out at Bernie Sanders rallies en masse, shouldn’t just be a fad for this election cycle. What the young people need to understand is that the President makes up only one third of the government, and showing up for the midterm elections in two years will be just as important, regardless of how interesting it may or may not be.

During an election cycle where the word “revolution” is tossed around in every news headline and sound bite, we’re afraid the idea has been worn out or used as a sort of buzzword for disgruntled citizens.

It’s not actually a solution.

The United States can’t just uproot the systems of governance and economics in place in four years. That idea is as ridiculous as building a wall paid for by the Mexican government.

Take, for example, Bernie Sanders’ glorification of the Nordic political systems – specifically that of Denmark. CNN reported in a piece entitled “Bernie Sanders’ American Dream is in Denmark” how Sanders uses the Nordic system as an example of the success of expanded welfare states.

Hillary Clinton responded to Sanders’ remarks with “We are not Denmark.” She’s right.

Denmark is a tiny country, with a population of 5.6 million — compared to the United States’ whopping 318.9 million. At the same time, Denmark is ethnically and socially homogenous, which makes issues regarding race, ethnicity and socioeconomics easier to handle. The homogeneity comes at a price for people of color and immigrants, such as when the country passed a law requiring Syrian refugees to pay for their asylum with their valuables. The differences regarding diversity and population are big indicators that their expanded welfare would not work as well — or as easily — in the United States.

We can’t just take their system and import it into ours. If we did, we’d be ignoring the system’s inherent need for racial homogeneity, racism and xenophobia.

We’re not privileged enough to leave either, because we’d be leaving behind the people most likely to suffer under a racist, sexist and bigoted leader.
We’re not privileged enough to ignore the problem in the name of personal ideals.

Casey Mendoza
Casey Mendoza is a senior majoring in political science and double minoring in philosophy and Chinese. This is her fourth year working at The Knox Student, previously as a photographer and photo editor. Casey is the recipient of two awards from the Illinois College Press Association for photo essays. During the summer of 2014, Casey also worked as a photography intern for the Galesburg Register-Mail, covering local community events and working alongside award-winning reporters and photojournalists. During the winter and spring of 2015, Casey studied journalism and new media in Washington DC, learning more about the world's political arena, networking and gaining a greater understanding of the field. There, she worked as a Production Assistant at a documentary film company, The Biscuit Factory. During the summer of 2015, Casey will help produce a documentary on airline reservation technology for the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC).
Tawni Sasaki, Discourse Editor

Tags:  Bernie Sanders Casey Mendoza discourse Donald Trump elections Knox College opinion political idealism politics privilege Tawni Sasaki vote

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