Zhu: A New Duopoly

The current shift of party ideology lends itself to pessimism.

by contributing columnist and Michael Zhu | 11/10/16 12:16am

For many of us, the most incredulous aspect of this presidential election cycle was the rise of Donald Trump. Never in recent history have we seen such crudity, vulgarity, pomposity and blunt honesty combined into one candidate. But perhaps more importantly, the current election has drastically changed the political landscape of the United States. Gone are the time-worn ideologies of the Democratic or Republican parties. This election has caused both parties to adopt beliefs they have not necessarily embraced before.

But with evolution must come caution. The ideologies that the parties have assumed can be dangerously divisive in nature, and this election has unfortunately revealed much about not just the candidates but also the parties that nominated them. This reformation of party ideology, therefore, needs to begin with some form of self-reflection, and the parties need to be cautious about the beliefs they champion before they actually adopt them.

For the Republicans, it’s easy to understand why it’s important to be wary of them by examining the new beliefs they’ve adopted. Nominating business mogul Donald Trump — and rejecting 21 other qualified candidates along the way — reveals much about what the GOP has become. In this election cycle, the Republican Party has abandoned the notion of conservatism and has become associated with guises of xenophobia, sexism and nativism. It deserted the increasingly popular ideas of spending less while spending more wisely, instead largely endorsing a candidate who advocates for trade wars and turns a blind eye to real economic progress. Under Trump, the GOP refuses to trust factual science simply because Democrats advocate for it and instead hopes to halt any action that combats man-made climate change. In terms of gun control, most members of the party repeatedly tell themselves that anyone with different beliefs wants to take guns away from households and restrict people from owning firearms, which could not be further from the truth. The party is currently refusing to even consider what the majority of Americans desire — namely, to consider a completely qualified judge for the Supreme Court — and is thus further validating the belief that Congress has truly become partisan to a fault.

As the Republican Party morphs from a party of conservatism to one of anti-intellectualism seeped in nationalism, one can’t help but ask if it will ever fully come to terms with the facts of modern life. Is accepting Trump the GOP’s way of dealing with a country that is becoming increasingly diverse and non-white? Is that how the Republican Party will define itself, by what they fear and want to reject rather than what they hope for and support?

The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is moving in the opposite direction. With the deep, fatherly boom of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and his democratic socialism, the party has almost begun to absorb economic ideas that are too distanced from reality, too wistful and too hopeful. Instead of trying to return too far into the past, Democrats are trying to go too far into the future.

But such wistfulness is not driven by the party as a whole — it is driven by the millennials who are shifting increasingly to the left. Disillusioned with 21st century economic issues and high levels of wealth inequality, many millennials have looked to radical beliefs such as socialism to deal with our discontent. We’re willing to go as far as possible to tax the life out of the wealthy and provide more and more to those less privileged, even if many of the wealthy have worked hard for their privilege while some of the less privileged chose not to. We’re willing to take the easy step of redistributing wealth rather than doing the hard work of alleviating the effects of poverty and solving the extreme inequality that perpetuates it. We’re willing to raise the minimum wage as far as we want without thinking about how it might affect businesses and companies. We’re willing to spend on unnecessary programs without regarding increasing public debt and budget deficits.

I’m not criticizing millennials’ ideas. But before the Democratic Party informally adopts these beliefs, it should think about their implications and complications. How can it justify to people that endless spending is actually beneficial? How can it muster the finances needed to pay for such overwhelming programs? How can it reconcile immense taxation of the privileged with the rags-to-riches ideals of the American dream — the same dream that led to much of the privileged class?

This article is not an outright criticism of American political parties, but it’s also not an optimistic look at our political future. It’s just a skeptical warning about the new ideologies set forth in this past election as a result of men like Trump and Sanders.Going forward, both parties need to reflect upon the ideas they’ve begun to take in and their potential future in American politics and society.