United States / Elections

This Week in Elections: Week 1

Welcome to the Bowdoin Globalist’s 2016 Election Blog: commentary, analysis, snide remarks, and raised eyebrows.

The massacre at Umpqua Community College in Oregon last Friday reinvigorated proponents of gun regulation and bolstered those NRA supported opponents, showing just how polarized our political system has become.  On this topic the divide between Democrats and Republicans has become most acute: there’s no room for aisle-crossing here, it seems.  Everyone knows gun rights are bread and butter for the grand old party, but the uniformity of the way Republican candidates addressed the tragedy reveals just how much they think the body politic cares about identity politics.  On any other issue, candidates have attempted to differentiate themselves from each other; on this, you could have switched the Twitter handles on the tweets and no one would have noticed.  Even our normally very rational and straight-talking Ohio governor, currently polling at 6 percent in New Hampshire, toed the party line with some NRA talking points.

No one seems brave enough to make a peep about any possible compromise on the issue— or maybe, they all just realize that voters really just don’t want to compromise on so-called “identity” issues.  71% of Republicans think gun rights are important, but Democrats feel even more strongly about exactly the opposite.  Following the shooting, Clinton and Sanders both came out strongly in favor of gun regulation, speaking unequivocally on how that tragedy could have been avoided with more stringent background checks and longer wait times.  Regardless of your position on the issue, the lack of a working dialogue between the two parties, on the campaign trail and in the legislative bodies of this nation, prevent any real change from happening.  Certainly, most would agree that it would be behoove us to make some sort of change: school shootings shouldn’t show up in the news every week, but nothing will get done by digging in our heels.

On this issue, Republicans seem to have one stripe and the Democrats another- is there still room for a political spectrum in today’s polarized politics?  The more radical comments from the more “centrist” candidates, Jeb, John, and Hillary, have shown us that perhaps, the primary system we have developed has removed that vital, rational dialogue from our political discourse.  As identity politics continue to define so much of the election, the Oregon tragedy has brought to the surface how even issues not traditionally thought of as “identity issues” have begun to embody the characteristics of those issues.  The rhetoric is inflammatory, rights may be threatened, statistics are thrown around, Reagan and Clinton have been conjured, and what did George Washington really think?  If every issue becomes a polarized issue, how will we be able to tell one candidate from another?  It seems like we’re voting for the “empty vessel” and not the “wise man”— certainly a departure from politics in the past.