Is President Donald Trump America’s greatest threat? Some presidential candidates have run their campaign on that exact question.
Most candidates cannot go an entire debate without shaming the president. During the July 30-31 Democratic debates in Detroit, Trump’s name was mentioned 161 times in just two nights, with Senators Michael Bennet and Elizabeth Warren being the biggest offenders, according to USA Today.
By simply attacking Trump rather than focusing on issues that affect young people, politicians are relying more on rhetoric than real change. We have to demand more than that from our leaders.
If the anti-Trump rhetoric continues to be the driving force behind the Democratic primaries, Trump has a good chance of winning a second term. Younger voters are making a big mistake by feeding into that narrative.
“We need to recognize that it is not as simple as unifying young people because people are divided now more than ever,” said Heather LaMarre, a professor of communication and social influence. “It becomes this idea of engaging people on the issues that matter to them, because if candidates rely on a fear campaign, then that will backfire as it did in 2016,” she added.
In the 2016 presidential election both major candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, relied on an “us” versus “them” campaign. It ultimately became a question of whether we begrudgingly chose her, quietly chose him or shamelessly chose neither.
By the time the general election began, less than half of registered young people voted for president, according to a 2017 report by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Despite being the second largest voting bloc, 18 to 24-year olds are more commonly absent from voting booths than any other age group, according to a 2018 report by Pew Research Center.
“However, in the 2018 midterm elections, approximately 36 percent showed up to vote which is unprecedented, so that I think if young people carry that momentum into the 2020 election we can have a large say in who becomes president,” said Christina Borst, president of Temple’s College Democrats.
Geoffrey Baym, a professor of media studies and production, argued that “in most recent elections, candidates on both sides of the aisle have had immense success when they put more effort into mobilizing members of their party rather than trying to convert voters.”
The Democrats, in that case, will have to tackle issues affecting younger voters, rather than just hating on Trump.
We need to demand that candidates address issues directly affecting us, such as climate change and student debt, but we won’t achieve anything by solely bashing Trump.
“It will take young changemakers across the country to form a coalition, and if this current generation of young people does that, you will succeed, and you will prevail,” LaMarre said.
Relying on rhetoric or name-calling alone won’t solve any problems. By focusing on real issues that affect our everyday lives and forcing our leaders to address them, we have the opportunity to make real progress. There is strength in our numbers.