COMMENTARY: Which came first, Trump or election?


As the 2016 presidential election continues to develop, I continue to lose sight of the political system I thought I knew. As a member of the youngest generation of voters, I find myself very excited by this turbulent presidential cycle, as do many of my peers. Sadly, this excitement comes at a price. Quite honestly, one year ago, I would have laughed off the notion that Donald Trump could be the Republican nominee, but ... here we are.

Now, I could bore you with a paper bemoaning this election cycle, our options in particular — or, for many, the lack thereof — but I won’t, at least not right now.

Instead I seek to answer a question that is far more intriguing, to me, at least.

That question: Did the Donald create this election or did this election create the Donald?

Democrat, Republican or otherwise, we can all agree this election is different from anything we’ve ever seen — whether you are young or old, Socialist or Libertarian, Liberal or Conservative, this rings true. Practicing identity politics has split this nation: The candor we once thought to be presidential has all but disappeared, and it would seem that no matter who wins this election, half of the nation will be furious.

Now, the easy way out is to pin this all on the success of Trump, but that's a cop out.

Trump’s success is not a fluke, nor is it without meaning.

To find this meaning we need look no further than a mirror. Trump is the child of discontent, not amongst a faceless political system, but amongst the very people this system ought to serve. Ask the average voter what Congress has done for them in the last eight years and the answer will vary, but carry the same message — Congress hasn’t done a thing. The 80th Congress of The United States was dubbed by former President Harry S. Truman the “Do Nothing Congress,” and in its two years, passed about 900 bills. The 114th Congress has passed 243 bills since January of 2015. The bar has reached a new low, and we are paying for it both figuratively and literally.

In fact, many of Trump’s talking points revolve around the “Do Nothing Congress 2.0” from “Crumbling Infrastructure” to “Broken Healthcare.” He has “subtweeted” this Congress both figuratively and literally.

A candidate unwilling to accept the results of an election before it's even held is clearly the spawn of a deep resentment — resentment of both our electoral system and our government in general. It’s easy to lose sight of the significance of a candidate like Trump with all of the tabloid headlines that have come to surround his campaign. Whether it be a Miss Universe scandal or a recording of “Locker Room Talk” (rape culture), “the Don” has certainly found himself wishing he ran a campaign on policy, but instead, he finds himself losing the battle of ad hominem attacks. Ironically, the same battle that won him the primaries seems to be ensuring his downfall.

Now, to the point — and I promise I do have one.

Asking which came first: “the Donald or this new election style” is as futile as asking whether or not the chicken came before the egg.

The reason?

This election style is not a disease, it is a symptom. Donald Trump is a fellow symptom.

The disease itself remains elusive, but the symptoms are everywhere. They include: identity politics, a divisive nation, a bias media and finally, the fracturing of our two-party system.

My hope rests in the last symptom. I hope that this election is the story of the phoenix. In the ashes that surround us following this election, a rebirth in the form of a wake-up call seems in order. The result is the death of our two-party system and the birth of a multi-party representative democracy. 

And who will we have to thank for this? None other than the very man so many of us abhor or adore: Donald Trump.

Evan Klein is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in philosophy.

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