Editorial: Encouraging Political Thought
The essential question: why is Bernie Sanders so popular on college campuses? On this liberal campus, a poll of government majors found that 62% students prefer Sanders as a presidential nominee as opposed to Clinton with only 23%. Trump came in at 2%, in case you were curious. The best reason we could conclude for Sanders’ popularity was his angry, quotable nature. He makes a great meme. An old socialist yelling about capitalism makes for internet-ready show that reflects the anger millennials feel over a post-recession economy plagued by inequality.
Of course he has attraction beyond this, but the Editorial Board was conflicted about Bernie Sanders because while some thought he was a viable candidate, most recognized that Clinton is almost certainly going to be the Democratic nominee. One of Bernie’s key attractions is that he appeals to students who aren't overtly political. The Editorial Board agreed that students like his clear, ideological approach to issues. What we struggled with was why Skidmore students haven’t translated their interest for Sanders into larger political thought and action.
Students have real power on this campus. They can vote and be apart of national campaigns. While on a local level, they can swing Saratoga mayoral elections. Not everyone needs to be a government major to have interest in politics. Students are active within their own interests: social development, gentrification, environmental issues, inequality, but there is a failure to translate this into political thought.
Students are certainly angry about politics, but what we see on campus is reluctance to engage the political system. Students will root for Bernie Sanders, but will not have discussions on other, more realistic candidates. Few rally behind Clinton or any republican candidates.
Students don’t want to have debates on politics, either. On this campus, there is alienation towards those who are not liberal democrats. If students do not believe in inequality, progressive taxes, or decreased military spending, they are ignored or even worse, shouted down. It happens on social media and it happens in classes when conservative students are told by their peers that their views are not only wrong, but inhumane.
The reason for our lack of political discussion may be our fear of disagreeing with each other. In an age of political correctness and trigger warnings, we are afraid of offending each other, so consequentially we say nothing. Some will speak up on certain issues they are passionate about, but only when they know their views will be widely accepted by other liberal students. As one Editorial Board member said, “we want to be the same flavor of mad.”
Given the passion of students on campus, we hope that our fellow undergraduates will try to seek out political debate and political thought—to take the passion that we see in their support for civic causes and apply it to electing leaders of our country. We hope that students can challenge each other in conversations and learn to have dialogues, not competitions. This campus and the country will be better off.