This Election is Complicated, so Let’s Not Simplify It

This Election is Complicated, so Let's Not Simplify It

Thomas Dobbs, Young Republican's Club Co-President, Managing Editor

Dear Burroughs community,

Many of you have likely read the title and have already begun to roll your eyes. I get that. Here they come, the black sheep of the Burroughs community. But before I cover the substance of this piece, let me remind everyone that though this is the Young Republicans Club, our members range from moderates to partisans, those fascinated by politics to those just beginning to find their perspective. Amidst all the heightened rhetoric, we have been conflated as an extremist monolithic community consisting of deniers of climate change, science, and racism. We have heard teachers refer to Democrats as “the only sane party” and have watched our friends ridicule us at the activities fair. In order to identify as anything other than AOC-level of leftism, one must essentially enter the witness protection program. As the Young Republicans Club, we wish not to use our platform here to persuade voters or change minds but to remind everyone of the value of intellectual diversity. That is our common denominator. I personally am a centrist who is immensely dissatisfied with both parties, but I lead the Young Republicans Club because I value how important it is that we understand and respect all viewpoints, even if we fervently disagree with them. As a club, we consist of those who dislike the President, those who support him, those who identify as independents, and everyone in-between. It is all of those who stand between who I primarily speak to today. Partisan election cycles will attempt to divide everyone into a strict binary. You either fully support the left, or you are a Trump-enabler who overlooks racism and sexism. You either back the right with total vigor, or you are allowing socialist policies and those who hate our country to take over. These generalizations are neither healthy nor accurate.

We need to recognize that some vote in accordance with favorable economic policies, yet others value high-character candidates. Perhaps some voters have strong religious principles while others prioritize combating climate change. This personal assessment of value does not qualify some as more moral or caring than others. Strongly equating one’s identity and morality with politics automatically paints those who disagree as not only your political opponents but as dire and direct threats to yourself as an entity.

It is certainly true that neither party can boast an untainted record and I believe it is the case that politicians care increasingly less about policy than about playing politics. Take, for example, the American National Election Studies that found that “since the 1980s, voters have become incredibly loyal to parties, yet they publicly identify less and less with a party. The number of voters identifying as independent, but leaning one way or the other, has surged to a record level.”

This can only be viewed as an overwhelming loss for the American people, and it is a reflection that we are far more concerned about voting against our ideological opponents than for our own personal identity and principles.

We see this now when national stimulus plans are fought as “all or nothing”. Such holdups only serve as a political message while Americans themselves suffer, and Senate leaders from both parties deserve blame. Or perhaps we see further political games when Senate Democrats filibustered the JUSTICE ACT this summer following the horrifying George Floyd murder. Keep in mind that this occured amidst simultaneous Democratic calls to abolish the filibuster and Pelosi’s claims that her Republican counterparts were “attempting to get away with murder.” Or perhaps we see an abandonment of principle when Republicans seemingly become in favor of spending deficits once they have political control. You see, both parties are responsible for a political system that no longer fights for the American people but is obsessed with artificial and symbolic political victories. The era of compromise seems to have passed.

It is hard to admit that both parties have severe flaws. The Republicans of today will attempt to frame this election as a choice between policies rather than personality. The Democrats, meanwhile, are seemingly only unified at the moment by a shared dislike of the President, with significant questions remaining on how they will approach enormously consequential topics such as packing the Supreme Court, the Green New Deal, DC statehood, and the future of fracking.

We hope that students in our community are never coerced into siding with a political party since both have sizable flaws. I always will believe that the vast majority of Americans are well-intentioned and hope to better our country. During the general election, it is always important to remember that we do not have the choice to vote for those who we believe are best-representative of ourselves for political office; our system is a fairly strict political binary.

We should never assume that support of certain President Trump policies is an endorsement of his character. If Trump advocates for a policy that is generally popular such as bringing troops out of endless Middle East wars in Syria and Afghanistan, opponents of President Trump do not need to immediately transform into supporters of foreign conflict just to spite the President as we have seen.

In this contested election, our media commonly utilizes absolutisms to dramatize the present. For instance, phrases such as “Trump is the worst president of all time” or “Trump is the most racist President we’ve ever had” commonly populate the transcripts of CNN and MSNBC.

Trump, despite his shortcomings and flaws, has had plenty of little-recognized successes. Let’s touch on a handful. Firstly, he promised groundbreaking tax cuts and deregulation that has led to record economic growth and prosperity. The median household income rose and has gained about $5,000 of income in just three years. Over eight years of President Obama and his administration, this figure only rose $1,000 per household. The Wall Street Journal and a Hoover Institute’s examination of Biden’s tax, health-care, and regulation proposals predicts “$6,500 less in median household income by 2030.” The risk of a Biden presidency lies not with the short-term near-certain economic comeback, but the risk of another slow recovery such as the one witnessed in 2009.

The Young Republicans Club poses for their Yearbook Photo.

Trump signed into law The First Step Act, a criminal justice law determined to lower the sentences of nonviolent offenders and to lower the astronomically high prison population in the USA. He also signed into law Opportunity Zones, which expects $75 billion of private investment to help revitalize the most vulnerable communities in our nation. Meanwhile, the fracking industry has revolutionized global energy markets, allowing the US to become energy independent for the first time since 1957. Thus, our adversaries in Russia and Iran suffer as we support American jobs and transition to a lower-emissions economy by dampening US reliance on coal. Trump has withdrawn the US from the TPP, a partnership that threatened American workers by outsourcing jobs and corporations abroad.

Trump has also refocused attention on the deceitful nature of the Chinese government by confronting rampant intellectual property theft and currency manipulation, both central themes of his campaign. China attempts to control global technology networks through state-controlled companies such as Huawei, bankrupt countries through their Belt and Road Initiative, and expand their geographical claims in Asia. Now partners such as India, Australia, Taiwan and Japan are forced to associate closer with the U.S as democratic values are under attack. Meanwhile, Former Vice President Joe Biden still fails to admit that advocating for China’s entry into of Huawei and other Chinese technology companies once appeared strong. Trump, however, has led the world towards sanctions and established a now-widely shared skepticism of Chinese government intentions.And though Trump has increased funding for the military, he is the first president since Reagan to avoid initiating another foreign war. He has proved a disrupter in NATO to require that other countries pay their fair share, a 2% GDP figure that many of our European allies have failed to reach. As much as his opponents enjoy gossiping about his relationship with Russia, he has enacted undeniably stronger policies on Russia than his predecessor. When Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, then-President Obama refused to arm the Ukrainians with anti-tank weapons they needed, even following a 2015 bipartisan request from the Senate Armed Services Committee. President Trump, however, approved a sale of Javelin anti-tank systems to the Ukrainians after assuming office. In addition, President Trump has embraced the European Deterrence Initiative and has moved additional troops to Poland, Norway, and the Baltics to deter Russian aggression.

To his credit, Trump has even played the role of peacemaker, brokering a reestablishment of economic relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and has helped to normalize Israeli-Arab relations in the Middle East with the Abraham Accords between Israel, UAE, and Bahrain. In this case, actions speak far louder than words.

Trump has played the role of disruptor and has achieved significant accomplishments at home and abroad. It is not up to me to say if he has earned your vote. Perhaps his inexcusable behaviors, erratic tweeting, both perceived and actual mishandlings of the COVD-19 pandemic, and shoddy responses to protests/looting have led you to believe he is irredeemable. That is fine. But we have to recognize that a large swath of people will vote for him to lead us for the next four years. This is also fine.

There now exists a crossroads when some will recognize our economic potential and the need for American leadership. Perhaps these same people will look to former Vice-President Joe Biden’s segregationist past, his racially insensitive quotes portraying African Americans as an ideological monolith who must support him, or his jokes insinuating a common stereotype that all gas stations are run by Indian Americans. Perhaps they hear Joe Biden tell them that voters do not deserve to know his stance on packing the Supreme Court. Perhaps these voters see Biden’s “tough on crime” past, in which when he sponsored the 1994 Crime Bill, bolstering already high rates of incarceration.

Perhaps they believe the allegations of sexual assault by former staffer Tara Reade. Or maybe they even believe it is impolite but necessary to recognize Biden’s obvious and persistent cognitive decline. Perhaps that voter is a miner or natural gas employee who fears the Green New Deal and Biden’s potential inability to control the left-wing of his own party. Perhaps that voter is a police officer, who fears the rise of anti-police rhetoric amid calls to defund, and in some cases, abolish the police. Perhaps that voter is a small business owner or farmer who appreciates the President’s regulation cuts and economic confrontation with China, who has taken advantage of our country for too long. Perhaps that voter is a retail worker, who lost their job because of state-wide lockdowns, and believes the country should safely re-open. Perhaps this voter does not want a “return to normalcy” presidency and believes that a confrontational, hard-ball candidate should control our relations and negotiations with China and Russia. Perhaps this voter believes that it is time to end foreign intervention in the Middle East which has garnered a $6.4 trillion bill since 2001, especially since the US economy no longer depends on foreign oil. Perhaps they spot the contrasts with a former Vice President who oversaw US wars in the Middle East, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and cheered China’s quiet ascension to global economic superpower.

All in all, there are countless reasons to vote for or against a candidate. It is true that President Trump has had some real successes. These have often suffered from messaging mishaps at the hands of a media too obsessed with him to cover him with a modicum of accuracy or fairness. But it is also true that Trump has led some fairly substantial political failures, holds deeply narcissistic personality flaws, and engages in divisive and insulting rhetoric. It is yet to be seen whether this election will be a referendum on his personality and failures or a vote of confidence recovering from a pandemic and our role as a global leader. Perhaps you will have a say. Perhaps you don’t. But let us always remember that over-simplification of a complex election cycle does a disservice to the future of our republic.

On behalf of the Young Republicans Club with sincere gratitude for your attention and open-mindedness,

-Co-President Thomas Dobbs