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WASON: We ought to be wary of game show politics

Opinion Column: Disputed Territory

Throughout history, politics have always in some ways paralleled sports. The sweet feeling of victory, the sting of defeat, strategy and competition amalgamate to form an emotional roller coaster of sorts — intensely familiar to followers of both baseball season and campaign season. 

But these days, the political arena in the United States finds itself literally hosting what cannot be seen as much else than a cretinous game — and one with far more at stake than a World Series trophy. Instead of an environment which serves to encourage decent, constructive societal input, we find ourselves in a reality TV show full of buzzwords and catchphrases ("No collusion!"). 

With just about every contestant for the next season’s 2020 reality TV challenge having been announced, we can expect the race for the grand prize to heat up with each passing day. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) rise to the upper echelons of the Democratic Party during the 2016 Democratic primary brought scarcely discussed yet painfully relevant issues such as income inequality, the rising costs of higher education and an immoral healthcare system to the forefront of mainstream political discussion. The "wage gap" and the "1%" are examples of the aforementioned buzzwords that have risen in influence within our political discourse in the recent past.

President Donald J. Trump’s victory in 2016 was a further reflection of these economic disparities as he made targeting economic deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement a focus of his campaign — the effectiveness of which was best evidenced by his crucial electoral victories through the "Blue Wall" of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. 

The Democratic field for the primary is packed with self-avowed progressives, just like the most recent congressional election that saw the Democrats take control of the House. This surge of progressivism, or at least the recent success it is having, is undoubtedly spurred to some degree by the alarming rhetoric of Trump during his time in office. 

How effective or how genuinely progressive these candidates are is not the question being asked here. Our focus should be on seeing through the buzzwords that have come to define our political process.

Given that there are clear signs of a shift to the Left within parts of the Democratic Party, it is unsurprising that issues such as universal healthcare and free college tuition are beginning to be considered, or at least discussed, on a mainstream level. We will focus on two of these buzzwords, certain to play a role in the 2020 presidential election, that are a result of this fairly new political reality. 

In this poorly-scripted reality TV show, the Democratic cast now thinks it is "cool" to be progressive so many of them desperately try to align themselves with a movement they have absolutely nothing in common with. Yes, "progressive" itself is one of these buzzwords, and it is something we should all make certain does not fool us as voters in response to the way some candidates will certainly seek to misuse the label. 

Allowing candidates to get away with mislabeling themselves dilutes the genuine nature of what the characterization in question actually represents.

The Republican strategy in response to the general "progressive" movement has been clear. They have decided to throw their own buzzword in the mix, a term they will be trying their best to propagandize in the lead up to the 2020 election: Socialism. 

There is a stark difference in the type of socialism Republicans are seeking to align with progressive policies and the democratic-socialism that they actually encompass. The branding of progressive policies as attempts to make the U.S. a socialist country has the underpinnings of McCarthyism and using such language essentially militarizes the word. There is a reason. 

Olivia Ibanez is a French exchange senior in the School of Arts and Sciences, set to graduate in a few weeks with a major in geography. When speaking with her about her impression of America regarding the political culture, she said that Americans “are really taken aback by the word 'socialism.' It is really different in Europe.” 

There is not a single progressive proposal put forth that has not been attempted at some level in another Western, Democratic nation. These progressive ideas, such as free college tuition and universal healthcare, while seemingly radical within context of American politics, are not considered as such across the rest of the world. Whether you support or oppose these ideas is not the point. Just make sure to know that discussing them honestly will not serve as the catalyst for another Red Scare. 

There is not a single Democrat running for president of the United States that is in favor of turning the U.S. into a socialist country, just as not every single Democrat running that claims to be progressive is actually so. The depths to which politicians on both sides of the aisle are willing to go to in order to win the battle of the moment is worrying but it should not be all that surprising. The upcoming 2020 election will undoubtedly bring voters new nonsense to sift through. It is best we get an early start. 

Amar Wason is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. His column, “Disputed Territory,” runs on alternate Tuesdays. 


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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