By Nathaniel Nelson
In 2016, electing a president seems to have just about as much to do with policy as electing a Bachelorette does. Of all the reasons to elect a mere human being to the highest office in the world—character, experience, celebrity endorsements, steak-pushing acumen, etc.—policy seems to be lower down on most voters’ list of priorities than one would hope.
Part of the issue is that the presumptive Republican nominee has very few policies to begin with—a few go-tos (you know them by now), and exactly seven listed on his website. The presumptive Democratic nominee, as is her nature, has an exponentially more detailed website, listing policy proposals for every wider issue one could imagine.
That said, there are incredibly deep-seated divides along party lines on just about anything you can think of, and the candidates themselves generally fall within the guidelines of their respective teams. As such, the election this November will be of significant consequence for just about any person on the planet (and, perhaps, organisms of other species as well). Below, I outline the ways in which each candidate’s proposed policies could immediately affect young people—specifically of the 17-29 demographic—in the immediate future.
It’s also worth noting that many of the policy changes enacted in the near future will occur through the Supreme Court. Perhaps the single most significant decision to be made by the next American president will be filling the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia (and any other openings that come about in the next four to eight years), in a court now evenly split between right- and left-leaning judges.
Tuition, largely a concern of parents, has in recent decades become an incredible burden on students who must take out loans to make it through higher education.
The recent big news out of Bernie Sanders’ camp, prior to his endorsement of Hillary Clinton, was Secretary Clinton’s new proposal regarding college tuition. According to her new plan, all families of $125,000 annual income or below will be able to send their children to in-state and public four-year universities tuition-free (on top of her existing proposal to allow for student debt refinancing). One wouldn’t be reaching to causally link the Sanders endorsement with this tuition proposal. In short, this is the perfect compromise Democrats were looking for—not unrealistic, while addressing the heart of the issue. This one might bring some of Sanders’ coalition of young voters to her side, so expect Clinton to be put on the hot seat quickly if she doesn’t act on this promise.
Concerns of higher education aren’t too common in rightward circles, and is really only an “issue” now, after Bernie brought the question to the national stage. The Republican base skews old, and Trump in particular has appealed to poorly educated voters (i.e., ones who aren’t too concerned with college). And, if you’ll allow me a bit of conjecture, a red-meat businessman like Trump isn’t necessarily one to meddle in the economies of industry, whether it’s college or anything else.
When it comes to the future sustainability of the human species, few have more of a stake than young people.
No left-wing political candidate in the 21st century can be elected without publicly recognizing the threat of global warming to our future survival on this planet. Her proposed initiatives include incentivizing clean energy jobs and carbon waste reduction, and a shift from reliance on oil to renewable energies—the usual bit for Democrats. If you want specifics: she proposes to bring “greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below what they were in 2005 within the next decade.”
Climate change is a particularly interesting case for Trump. On one hand, he did call the whole notion of man-made climate change a hoax, invented by the Chinese. This, however, seemed more a way to further please his base than a legitimate belief, as global warming-denial and Chinese-suspicion are two favorites among his core following. Whether he believes this or not, he killed two birds with one talking point. On the other hand, Trump owns more than one waterfront golf course, which could potentially become submerged if the predicted rise in ocean levels comes to fruition. As he’s already gone out of his way in the pursuit of business ventures during his campaign, it’s reasonable to assume that Trump might be significantly influenced by personal business considerations when constructing policy stances as president.
While Trump may very well have personal conflicts when it comes to climate change, his stance passively and permanently shifted upon appointing Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate. Pence is the model for global warming denial, and since being elected into office in 1991 has been so deep in the Koch brothers’ pockets that loose change can’t even reach where he is. The Kochs—notorious for their political funding of climate change-denial movements and government officials—have otherwise been cold towards the prospect of a Trump presidency. That said, if Pence is coercive enough to earn that oily dough, Trump will be very much indebted as a result.
Healthcare is everyone’s concern, but with huge disparities between the parties on matters of women’s health and the Affordable Care Act, young people, despite our generally better health circumstances, nonetheless have a unique place in this debate.
Marketing herself in many ways as the sequel to Obama’s presidency, Clinton has reminded us time and again that she intends to defend and expand upon the Affordable Care Act. If elected, the most vital element to this effort would be to elect a Supreme Court justice who will vote to uphold the law as constitutional. Healthcare in the hands of Democrats is always good news for women, considering the Republican party has notoriously been pushing a platform to deny women’s health services. The prolonged success of Obamacare is also critical to young people in particular who, up through the age of 25, are under these new rules allowed to stay on their parents’ health care plans for no extra cost. More specifics of Clinton’s plans include proliferating access to reproductive healthcare, incentivizing states to more rigorously adopt Medicaid, and expand offerings to encompass low-income families and allow greater access for rural families.
Of the seven entries on Trump’s list of “Positions” on his website, healthcare reform, interestingly, sits just beside “Pay for the Wall” atop the page. He’ll usually hit the “repeal Obamacare” bit briefly during speeches, and it’s good for one or two applause breaks during his freestyle ranting, but it is rarely a focal point of his platform. Repealing Obamacare is, however, a central tenet of the modern Republican party, and just about any Republican elected official today supports the movement, at least publicly (recall when John Kasich came under fire during the primaries for having supported Obamacare, which he subsequently attempted to walk back). As such, whether Trump cares at all about it or not, his right-wing coalition will be pushing the issue throughout his political career.
Campus Sexual Assault
An emerging talking point for almost exclusively young, left-leaning groups.
It’s a testament to her thoroughness, her desire to court the Sanders coalition, and the persistence of the vocal left that campus sexual assault is listed as its own category of issue on Clinton’s campaign website. It’s nice to think that campus sexual assault, usually fodder for individual institutions, could be affected in one fell swoop from the executive branch downwards. As an issue that’s still developing its own terminology and process, though, the explicit plans to combat campus sexual assault aren’t quite as precise and detailed as other entries in her website. The ideas put forth involve “comprehensive support,” “fair process,” and “prevention,” but we’ll have to wait and see how these ideas might manifest tangibly under her leadership.
This one is simply not on Trump’s radar whatsoever; just forget about it (see: “College Tuition” for contributing influences).
Historically, conservatives really like to take their time with this one.
The story here, for Clinton, is that there isn’t much of a story—her platform features every popular, now mainstream element of the Democrats’ stance on every civil rights issue imaginable: equal rights for LGBT citizens, a path to citizenship for all immigrant families, equal pay and better healthcare options for women, and more resources and awareness directed towards the litany of issues faced by low-income citizens of color, ranging from police brutality to education reform. Her differences from her opponent on such matters may prove enough to secure her party’s base on their own. Then again, she has been criticized in leftward circles for pandering to minority groups, even accidentally (quite a feat, even for someone with a reputation such as hers), calling into question her dedication to these citizens from whom she seeks votes. Additionally, despite her overwhelming popularity among African-American voters, she faces an uphill battle in attempting to undo the damage of Bill Clinton’s notorious Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, seen as a major contributor to mass incarceration (she is also noted for having kept distance from any talks of reparations to African-Americans).
Honestly, Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have civil rights policies, other than those on immigration, for which he supports sending any undocumented individuals out, regardless of circumstance or family status. His stance on abortion rights seems to fluctuate, his attention to issues of the LGBT community seems only to come as necessary, and it seems he really only developed an aversion to the Black Lives Matter movement when it became another potentially rich source of out-group political demonization to satisfy his base. If this all seems like a bit of unfounded research on my part, it’s because Trump himself has presented so little on these matters, and is also known for shifting positions at a whim on anything not called “wall” or “China.” The most significant element of his platform when it comes to general civil rights issues, in fact, may not even come from him in the first place. In the midst of the political chaos of this election cycle, the Republican party has been somewhat quietly pushing for a platform much further to the right even from anything we’ve seen from them in recent years. Trump’s personal preferences may not even matter so much when his party elects to turn back the clock on everything from women’s health services to LGBT rights to Bible studies.
Nathaniel Nelson (N8) is a filmmaker and writer.
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