We all know that this past US Presidential election cycle was like no other. You don’t need to have paid much attention to politics to know that. In fact, I believe that it changed the face of politics for the rest of my life.
The 2016 election was the first time I was eligible to vote, so I did my research and tried to stay informed in order to make a reasonable decision concerning who to vote for in the primaries and general election. Despite following the news regularly, I never had a lasting interest in politics before this point. The rise of Donald Trump, with his reality show persona and bombastic policies, incensed me enough to get further involved and interested in current events. I became well-versed on various issues so that I could defend my positions in discussions with my family and peers, and I fell in love with the political process and the positive things that it can do. I even took a spring internship at the State House near my campus and I now foresee entering a career in education policy.
President Donald Trump delivers his acceptance speech. (Image Source: VOA News)
My friends and roommates had similar experiences. Several of my close peers traveled to Washington DC from South Carolina to participate in the Women’s March and those who couldn’t travel took part in the local march. My new passion was shared by so many people who had the same concerns and interests I did.
I am not convinced any of this would have happened without Trump. My opinions have been formed based off of research and conviction, but I wouldn’t have thought to stop and make those opinions without a catalyst. I make a point now to consume a balanced diet of media sources, and I have passionately aligned my beliefs along the Democratic “Resistance” (for reasons other than a mutual dislike of Trump).
I believe that my story echoes that of millions of young adults around the country. The voting rate of younger people has been distressingly low for years, but in the past 6-12 months we have seen an increase in passionate advocacy in topics that are under threat, including women’s’ rights, science, environmental issues, voting rights and health care. These issues have all featured well-reported, highly attended rallies nationwide. Additionally, Congressmen and Congresswomen have received record numbers of calls to their offices concerning health care (among a variety of policy issues) and the pressure does not seem to be waning.
Trump, obviously, has brought about a host of very serious, lasting problems, many of which can’t be solved or improved by rallies or phone calls. My fear is that people will lose energy or decide that their work isn’t making a lasting change and will stop fighting. Politics is an issue that is easy to get cynical about quickly. My hope is that the newfound community that has formed between groups who are fighting for their shared values will be strong enough to overcome burnout that can come with a long, contentious political process. While I am certainly not glad that Trump was elected, I am grateful that he has created motivation for thousands of people who would otherwise be unengaged in the process.