Here’s a startling statistic: If “Did Not Vote,” had been a presidential candidate in 2016, it would have beaten both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton without any difficulty. Put in another way, 44 percent of eligible American voters, far more than voted for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, did not vote in 2016.
There are a number of potential reactions to this fact. I think we can all agree this represents a failure of the American political process. Some, however, might go further by shaming nonvoters, saying that they failed in their responsibility as American citizens.
I do not subscribe to this view. Instead, I hold the minority opinion (at least in the media; I suspect millions would agree with the following sentiment) that the problem in the 2016 election was not the voters, but the candidates for whom they were voting.
For millions of Americans in both major political parties, Trump’s bombastic rhetoric represents an unconscionable assault on American values and norms, whereas Clinton and her husband represent the worst of American political corruption and the excessive use of political privilege and power to further one’s own self-interests that is so rampant in our current political system.
Again, for the Clinton and Trump acolytes, the failure to vote in the last election represents a civic failure. But considering that nearly half of eligible voters did not vote for either presidential figure in the 2016 election, I believe that there has to be some sort of reconciliation with the plurality (indeed, the true “silent plurality”) sentiment that both candidates were, at best, uninspiring and, at worst, representatives of key failures of our American society.
So that leaves me with the unenviable task of crafting a political platform and a candidate that I believe could appeal to these millions of Americans, as well as the millions of others who voted begrudgingly out of party loyalty. While it is not easy, and I’m sure that not everyone will agree with my views, I wish to present a vision that I hope can encourage future political candidates.
While I will focus on specific policy points, I will first say this: The political polarization of American society is dangerous, unsustainable and a direct assault on the principles that this country was founded upon and that has allowed for the success of the American experiment. Something must be done by the American people, for the sake of the American people, to reverse this destructive trend.
In my political prescriptions that follow, I am seeking to widen the tent, rather than appeal to strict doctrinal views. It is my hope a majority of Americans can support at least some, if not all, of my proposals, and that at the very least, such concrete proposals will direct discourse away from the current state of vitriol and bombast and towards mature, well-thought out conversation on concrete issues of policy.
With that being said, here is a short list of my proposed policies. I hope to write more on each in the future, what follows is a quick summary of a candidate who I would support in 2020 and future elections.
Economics: Support small, locally owned businesses; penalize multinational corporations that use off sourcing and automation unless they can replace the lost jobs with higher paid positions; increase access to high quality and dignified jobs; increase funding for skills-based education; regulate automation and outsourcing insofar as they threaten the dignity of the American worker; and closely monitor the activity of Wall Street, Silicon Valley monopolies and multinational corporations for the benefit of the American citizen consumer.
Federal budget: Cut the fat (far too many programs exist that are a massive waste of the American tax dollar); provide block grants to state and local governments to improve local infrastructure and education in a coordinated national strategy; encourage existing benefits while discourage lifelong welfare recipients who do not have physical or mental impairments that prevent them from working; provide some sort of comprehensive plan to lower medical costs for the average American citizen; provide financial relief for our aging population; stimulate American small businesses in struggling communities through periodic and well-planned block grants; encourage public education through increased grants to state governments and local communities while reforming and cutting back on failed federal educational programs.
Foreign policy: Support peace between the great powers at all costs; with that being said, in issues that will not spark military conflict, negotiate with nations like Russia and China for the sake of the average American; support a gradual, long-term withdrawal of military forces from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria while ensuring that we don’t leave behind a power vacuum (one of the great failings of the last administration); stop supporting the overthrowing of regimes, even those hostile to American interests, as it has become clear our policymakers do not know how to handle the unexpected consequences of such actions; promote trade, cooperation and international development in developing and impoverished nations; support our troops unconditionally while questioning the current trajectory of the military-industrial complex.
Special interests: Support candidates who receive a majority of their funding from private citizen donations, rather than the PACS or special interests; demand accountability to the average American citizen and demand that our politicians get out of the pocket of major corporations.
Personal characteristics: A proven leader who has displayed that he or she is above corruption and is an advocate for the struggling middle and working classes; someone who is charismatic, but also realistic; someone who is relatively young (certainly younger than Clinton or Trump) and who can inspire future generations.
This is a lot to ask for, I know. But for the sake of our political process and the future of our nation, we must start demanding more from our candidates than what was offered to us in 2016. The real “silent majority” of American moderates spoke in 2016.
If aspiring candidates wish to win their support back, and indeed, wish to inspire the seismic shift necessary to reform our political system that continues to fail the average American, I believe that vitriol must be replaced with reason, bombastic ideology with concrete policies, and civic discord with attempts at creating a broader coalition of American voters.
Will Morris IV is a Gainesville High School graduate and currently a senior at Harvard University.