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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Columns

Fringe political ideologies push generational voters out


Even though Texas is a red state, the influence of the blue cities like Houston and Austin, Texas could become purple or even blue over time. | Sonny Singh/The Cougar

Texas is a phenomenal representation of the American political condition currently: polarized and divided based on social class. The 2016 presidential election featured the typically red state going blue in many major cities, a manifestation of the relationship between Republican success and the rural vote. 

President Donald Trump is by far one of the most city-bred president to hold office, but the voters that led him there are just the opposite. The Republican dependence on rural voters is not a new development, but it does beg the question whether the gap between the rural and urban mindset is becoming dangerous.

The gaping chasm between the Republican party and Democratic party is ever widening. 2017 had enough scandals, on both sides of the political spectrum, to leave any average citizen, and the students of this campus, inundated in a state of abeyance and bewilderment.

The existing differences between city votes and countryside voters were only exacerbated this past year. It feels almost as if these massive metropolises within these very Republican states are in their own worlds. 

Going to school in such a democratically inclined city at an equally inclined campus often leads us to believe that the atmosphere of Texas is growing more blue, but any drive to the countryside will remind you otherwise.

The contrast between these two worlds seen through the stereotype of the progressive, pro-LGBT, pro-abortion rights, pro-gun control democrat and the deeply Christian, rural, gun-toting, anti-abortion republican shows us that there is an abundant gray area between the extremes.

There are many opinions and more moderate perspectives that are being neglected because the most radical voices have a tendency to shout the loudest, but in this instance I worry if every voter between these extremes is being silenced. Those who identify as independents or even moderates within the two parties have such minimal representation that they pose very little relevance. 

The political frenzy of the last couple of years has led to a drastic shift in values and a realignment of voters.

Between confused voters and the ever-growing power of lobbyists and interest groups, the democratic system seems to be catering to an enormous audience. This makes it difficult for younger generations to understand what they identify with if only the extremes are presented.

The danger of this is an extreme polarization of voters as the platforms for both parties grow more and more decentralized.

The increasing polarization of this nation and this campus is evidence that political parties are not determined by economic issues, but rather reliant on the factors of race, religion,  and social class.  

Of course, these factors play an important role in determining any identification — they’re integral with every facet of your identity — but the shift from exclusively political issues to sociopolitical makes it difficult to discern where one lies on the spectrum between liberal and conservative.

The trend of red states voting blue in their major cities, such as Houston in Texas, is evidence of this. 

The political sphere is meant to grow, evolve and adapt to the needs of its populace, but the direction it has taken has resulted in untrustworthy politicians and confused voters. 

My issue with the progression of our two major political parties is how heavily associated they are with their most extreme supporters. Avid supporters of candidates have begun to separate their representatives from their parties. 

“I can’t even really begin to see where I land” said political science sophomore, Mark Mata.

There has always been a degree of truth about the stereotypes of the conservative republican and the liberal democrat, the parties lend themselves easily to a very archetypical demographic. However, this recent shift towards identity based alignment creates a fundamental issues of lacking the quantifiable gap, like money or population statistics, in between.

It is beyond difficult to compromise on an issue of ethics and beliefs, because to concede for either side would be amoral. 

The general populace is no longer selecting the candidate to best represent just their beliefs, but rather the candidate that maintains some shred of their original values. We are no longer voting republican or democrat; we are voting Trump, we are voting Hillary Clinton, we are voting Bernie Sanders. These are people who no longer represent the original values of their party, but the radical and most flexible extreme of it. 

Now the problem this presents is an obvious one; how do we identify the issues that are the core of our political values. How do we go about deciding which moral issues take precedence over one another.

All of this would be of interest to a political science student or an avid follower politics, but it doesn’t really seem to have current implications on the lives of students. But as such an enormous group, college students shockingly have the lowest political turnout and efficacy.

This can be blamed on a number of factors, but I believe the main determinant of the ever-dwindling college vote is the absolute confusion that now accompanies determining your political agenda.

The political organizations around campus have noticed this trend. The University of Houston College Democratic Organization’s president, Gabriel Aguilar, felt that “the Democratic party has evolved, but remains inclusive. Not every Democrat supports every liberal ideal, you’ll find a variety of Democrats on this campus alone.”

This variety is definitely present, no individual aligns entirely with one political party or the other.

The students of UH, a left leaning campus in a left leaning city in a red state, are evidence enough of the political climate giving precedence to these valence issues over more relevant economic and social issues. Some may not be confused, but rather “frustrated with having opinions that land on opposite ends of the political spectrum,” such as psychology major J. Emmanuel Salinas.

These contradictory opinions were once a struggle, but they’ve grown to a dissonance that leaves this generation so unsure where they fall that they choose not to place themselves on the spectrum at all.

Opinion Editor, Anusheh Siddique, is a Political Science freshman and can be reached at [email protected] 

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