At some point in your life, you’ve likely been asked to “mind your p’s and q’s” (i.e. “mind your manners”). We don’t truly know if the ‘p’ and ‘q’ are abbreviations for anything, so let’s apply a modern context to this expression and suppose that you’ve been asked to “mind your politics and questions.” After all, that’s been considered a rather contentious dinner-table conversation topic lately. But for the sake of this article, I won’t “mind my politics and questions”; instead, I’ll dive deeper into them as we review the trends of American politics over this past decade.
I’ll begin with something that’s actually been rather refreshing, which is that our pools of candidates and electees have become more progressive. Racial and ethnic diversity among our Congressmen and women has grown steadily throughout the 2010s, with our current configuration also trending younger and containing a record number of women. Speaking of which, both of 2016’s major presidential candidates set milestones: Hillary Clinton as the first woman to win a major party’s presidential nomination, and Donald Trump as the oldest president-elect (hey, at least it’s something for this much-maligned election). It’s nice to see our representatives slowly but surely become more representative of America as a whole, and this should continue as we enter the 2020s.
This growing sense of relatability — particularly in the eyes of young people — isn’t based solely upon demographics, however. Politicians have taken advantage of the boom in social media usage, ingratiating themselves within the platforms and their “meme culture” (say hello to Trump, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among the highest opportunists). In turn, constituents have interacted with their representatives and other prominent politicians directly. All in all, we’ve seen this inspiring sort of youth uprising, with constituents believing they can make a difference and have their voices be heard and their representatives presenting themselves as genuine — and often witty — humans who remain open to said constituents and their ideas.
For better or worse, the growing number of politically active individuals on both sides of the aisle — the electorate and those posturing for election — has inspired plenty of passionate debate. Whether our war cries are purely well-founded or wholly vitriolic, they tend to be indicative of our increasingly polarized, anti-establishment sentiments. And the popularization of these simplistic, all-or-nothing positions has increased political accessibility for candidates and constituents alike. While the takes aren’t quite as nuanced, their more streamlined, emotionally – charged delivery has proven incredibly effective. This has instilled the belief that practically anyone and anything, regardless of their substance and credibility, can be politically viable with strong messaging, a marketable look and a solid chunk of money behind them. As we’ve seen our political policies and candidate pools become ever more expansive in some ways and less so in others, I’m torn as to whether or not these trends should persist into the 2020s.
Lastly, popular belief says politicians have mastered the fine art of “ball shuffling” (or something to that effect), and this past decade may’ve set the standard in that regard. It’s not so jarring to witness politicians lying to their constituents, because they all do to some extent. But the sheer number of dishonest statements and half-truths being spouted regularly by our elected officials — and even by vocal sects of supporters — has felt rather unprecedented. On top of that, it’s tough to find news outlets that have both reputability and completely objective coverage. This further begs the question: what’s the truth anymore, and how we determine who is credible and who isn’t? Hopefully we’ll find an answer that pulls us out of this exhausting “fake news” era.
Ultimately, it’s important that we mind our p’s and q’s while not minding our p(olitic)’s and q(uestion)’s, if that makes any sense. The 2010s have been quite a whirlwind for American politics, and it’ll be intriguing to see how we and our representatives elect to engage ourselves throughout the 2020s.
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Michael Katz is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.