Katherine Xiu

Who did that much work over Spring Break? I know I didn’t. I kept telling myself that I would, although I mostly ended up reading, planning my summer and catching up on the news.

I mainly read articles about the election.

As the election season heats up, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the candidates are unimpressive. In 2011, when Donald Trump demanded to see President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, I never would have imagined that he would now be leading the Republican primaries. Surely, the former host of “Celebrity Apprentice” would never be a viable presidential candidate for most Americans. I was wrong.

But, in spite of Trump’s volatility and inexperience, he still continues to win a number of primaries (although he seriously trails behind Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 in nationwide support, according to a March 21 CNN poll). His inconsistent and abrasive statements — on everything from immigration to women’s rights — make me cringe, but I’m not the only one. His inability to appeal to women, nonwhite and college-educated voters is causing friction amongst Republicans.

While some may find Republican candidate Ted Cruz more palatable, I find him to be just as unappealing because of his fundamentalist views on religion, his promises to repeal universal healthcare and his denial of women’s reproductive rights. Although John Kasich — who appears to be the most moderate of the three — continues to hang on, the reality is that he’s only won Ohio so far.

I know that many self-identified champions of the right may read this as an attack on the Grand Old Party, but I’m not exactly moved by the Democrats either. Although Gloria Steinem, Lena Dunham and others have championed Democratic front-runner Clinton for her political experience and her identity as a woman, some of her positions on foreign policy and race give me pause. Clinton’s support for the “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994,” which was passed under her husband’s presidency, largely institutionalized mass incarceration in the nation. In addition, candidate Bernie Sanders’s initial lack of focus on racial issues, as well as his mixed track record on voting for immigration reform, make me reluctant to “Feel the Bern”.

I seem to be out of options.

I’m not trying to tell you all not to vote. Although my analysis of the candidates appears fairly pessimistic, I will most likely weigh between my options in the end and vote for either Sanders or Clinton. I would never encourage people not to vote or express their political opinions when so many people — particularly people of color — are disenfranchised by mass incarceration and by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to invalidate parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

However, as Yale students, we should keep our priorities in mind when it comes to political engagement. This summer, many of us will tirelessly run around with shiny pamphlets clutched between sweaty fingers, canvassing for our candidate of choice. Many other Yalies will don suits and ties as they make their way to prestigious internships in Washington DC. At some point in the future, a select few of us may hold elected office like many of our esteemed alumni. While these actions may validate our identities as the coffee-drinking, button-down-shirt-wearing, educated liberals that many of us aspire to be, our efforts may not be doing much to create real change in our political system.

The influence of factors such as campaign finance, low voter turnout, voter registration restrictions and lobbying in politics make it difficult to determine how much control the average citizen truly has over national politics. Don’t fool yourself: Campaigning is not activism. Instead of playing into the electoral game, I think that our time this summer would be better spent advocating for issues that we care about and participating in community organizing.

Prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment, women’s rights movements helped galvanize necessary support to enact the right to vote into law. When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was not a random act of kindness. No, it was a reaction to a shifting political climate that was catalyzed by the actions of activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Even in this election season, Sanders did not seem to take as firm of a stance on racial issues until Black Lives Matter activists staged an interruption at one of his rallies. Community organizing is more than marching in the streets. It’s doing things for our communities such as engaging in education programs, providing needed materials like food and clothing and supporting local unions. Such actions help our communities more than handing out pamphlets can.

Focusing on the issues — not on the race — is what will make America Great Again, even if it perhaps never was.

Isis Davis-Marks is a freshman in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact her at isis.davis-marks@yale.edu .

  • CharlieWalls

    So, now we know what you did over your Spring break. The first two paragraphs would have done for that. I hope your Summer break is at least as rewarding — and yields an equally fascinating piece in the Fall.

  • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

    “Gloria Steinem (!) and Lena Dunham (?!?) and others [like political giant Babsy Streisand?] have championed Clinton for her identity as a woman… ” That’s why I prefer Camille Paglia and, say, John McWhorter, but, whatevs.

    “I seem to be out of options.” [Here I thought, “yeah, right.” Full disclosure: IMO, Sen. Sanders is the only candidate with at least a modicum of integrity.]

    “While these actions may validate our identities as the coffee-drinking, button-down-shirt-wearing, educated liberals that many of us aspire to be, our efforts may not be doing much to create real change in our political system.”

    Um… while, yes, the author faintly acknowledges the possibility of “other than liberal” modalities, I still sense embedded political bias in her thought process (“No one *I* know voted for Nixon!”). Many on the more conservative (not Republican) end of the spectrum also work for change and reform.

    “Focusing on the issues — not on the race — is what will make America Great Again, even if it perhaps never was.” *Sigh.* America is (was?) a lonely experiment, beset by deniers and opponents on every side; to misappropriate: “it was the look of animal loathing that the talentless have for the otherwise.”

    BTW: Focusing on issues — not on race — will help make America Great Again.

  • CentralJerseyMom

    “Focusing on the issues — not on the race — is what will make America Great Again, even if it perhaps never was.”

    Now if you had just said “not on race” you would have had something there. The Democrats long ago abandoned issues for identify politics. “Who cares if America is in economic thrall to China or if we are mired in endless wars in the Middle East or if the middle class has been gutted. How can we divide people up into little groups and pander to their specific group so they will vote for us?”

    Check out this Clinton ad: http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/18/politics/hillary-clinton-latinos-ad-nevada/

  • ShadrachSmith

    What is the right thing to do? Is D=good/R=bad revealed truth, or a stunted decision tree…truncated data…GIGO.

    Who to trust? Welcome to the world.

  • Tucker Pendleton

    The term “political correctness” should be deleted from common parlance and replaced with “political diplomacy”. Matters of race, religion, sexuality, identity, inter alia, are far too dynamic to be placed into binary language like, correct or incorrect. If we tell someone they are being undiplomatic, we appeal to their sense of pride and common courtesy; their desire to improve, and cultivate themselves. That creates a teachable moment around things all people share, regardless of politics. Otherwise, people double-down on being “incorrect”, which Trump has exploited prolifically. All of a sudden incorrectness — ignorance — is a badge of honor.

  • 15gladyskravitz

    I will most likely weigh between my options in the end and vote for either Sanders or Clinton.
    With that sentence ^ you lose all credibility. A proven liar or a self confessed socialist. Unbelievable. Neither of whom have ever created a job, or ever will and neither of whom have ever done anything to strengthen this Republic.

  • Man with Axe

    This is not exactly on point with your article, but your notion that Sanders might be the best of the remaining candidates put these thoughts in my mind.

    I was just watching Bernie Sanders at a rally complaining that the Walton family has too much wealth, and are therefore villains. Not a word about how they happened to obtain that wealth, i.e., by lowering the cost of living for countless Americans of modest means, or by employing 1.4 million people in the US. Instead, he blames them for not paying those employees enough. If the Walmart wage is too low, why do they work there? Why don’t they take a job with higher pay? The question answers itself. They take the best job they can get.

    What is stopping any other person, family, or company from doing what Sam Walton did, and build up a retail company from the ground up? No, don’t do that. Let’s steal all the Walton’s money, now that they are very rich. Let’s force Walmart to increase all the prices at their stores. Even better, let’s put those bastards out of business. We’ll show them what we think of their low prices and employment opportunities.

    Let’s feel the Bern.

  • Man with Axe

    “I would never encourage people not to vote or express their political opinions when so many people — particularly people of color — are disenfranchised by mass incarceration and by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to invalidate parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.”

    Mass incarceration? Didn’t every single person in prison either plead guilty or have a trial at which he was found guilty? Or were they just rounded up and put in prison? What are we supposed to do with people who have committed crimes? Is it possible that the high rate of incarceration is a good thing, and is largely responsible for the decreased rate of crime, a change that benefits people in poor neighborhoods most of all?

    What did the invalidation of those parts of the Voting Rights Act actually do to disenfranchise anyone? I’ll be you cannot point to a single person who has been unable to vote because of that decision.

  • yaleyeah

    Feel the Bern! LOL — Yeah, like the people of France have “felt the burn” after they elected their socialist Prez. First thing he did was raise the top tax rate to 75%. Predictably, millionaires start leaving France in droves, velocity of money plummets. Idiot Prez now has to reverse this policy, but it’s too late. Last fall, he had to declare a state of economic emergency in France. Is there a single Yale student that is watching what is going on around the world and comprehending it? The entire Sanders agenda has just played out in front of you, and it was a miserable failure. Socialism defies logic and more importantly, human nature. Nobody is going to invest their money or work to achieve their individual dreams in a country that takes 75% of their wealth and hands it to complete fools. This scenario has played out over and over in history. 1950’s Britain — another textbook example. I am so very afraid for our future when our “best and brightest” students turn out to be the most ignorant generation in recent memory.