If You’re a Liberal, American Politics Should Depress You

I’ve been studying political science since 2015. I have to admit that I caught the political activism bug when I watched some Bernie Sanders videos on my Facebook news feed when I was 19. I didn’t even know what liberalism was, or conservatism, or ideology for that matter. All I knew was that I liked what this old guy with a Brooklyn accent and crazy hair had to say. I had no idea how much it would affect my life.

The crazy thing that got me into politics was a feeling: finally feeling hope. I grew up in a household that believed that all politicians were liars and cheats and none of them, not a single one could do any good. But this guy, Bernie Sanders, had been fighting for the same agenda for over 40 years. He wasn’t polished and he certainly dragged on for a very long time at his rallies, be he spoke to a new generation of Americans, my generation, a radically liberal generation.

I do not use radical as a negative term here. When I say radical, I mean that my generation is extremely different in our political ideology than our parents’ generation. Here’s some research from Pew Research Center that shows that millennials and gen-z are much more progressive than their parents.

We are the most educated generation in America’s history, so of course a message of making college free or more affordable would appeal to us as voters, it’s simply in our interest to support candidates like Bernie Sanders. Furthermore, because we are so smart and so young, we have a sensitivity to the issue of climate change. Our parents won’t be around as long as us, and as climate change continues to wreak havoc on human civilization, conservative leaders are only exacerbating the issue. There are countless examples of this, the most recent of which is the Trump administration’s push to strip the mention of climate change from an arctic policy statement.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders did not win the nomination for the Democratic party. As liberals, we can argue (and have argued) for years about how Bernie was cheated of the nomination through the use of super delegates and other party shenanigans throughout the 2016 primary process. However, one important thing to take away from the 2016 primary process was that Bernie Sanders won more votes from those under age thirty than Trump and Clinton combined. This is evidence of a clear generational shift in American politics.

It’s a shame not enough young people vote in America, because if it was up to us, we’d be debating about medicare for all and the cost of college tuition in the halls of Congress. Instead, we get a government shutdown over funding for a border wall on the southern border, immigrant children stripped from their parents and thrown in cages, no serious talk of combating climate change other than the Green New Deal (that nobody other than a few progressive Democrats are taking seriously), a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (the only piece of legislation that guarantees young people with preexisting conditions can stay on their parents’ healthcare plan), a government more divided than perhaps since the civil war era, and a President that may be impeached (with little chance of being convicted, because Republicans control the Senate and will not waver in their support for the President, regardless of how much evidence is shown of the criminality of his actions), and much more that should truly be upsetting not only to liberals, but to all responsible American citizens.

Given the divisive nature of America’s politics in recent years, one might wonder if this is having an effect on the rate of depression and suicide in the country. In 2016 alone, 45,000 people took their own lives. An interesting fact about these suicides is that almost two thirds were with a firearm. We hotly debate the second amendment in the US, but suicide never seems to come up in the conversation. I’m not arguing that the problem is the guns themselves, that is a debate for another time. However, we need to ask the question as a nation: why are so many people killing themselves, and why does the number of people dying by suicide only increase as the years drag on?

Could the division and animosity seen in our politics today be a symptom of a larger mental health crisis in America? As we become more divided politically, we become more divided socially. Isolation is a serious factor in depression, one of the leading causes of suicide. As we hunker down in our ideological corners of liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, we become more mentally sick as a nation. Our political division has consequences that are deadly.

I personally suffer from bouts of depression, and being politically active has certainly taken its toll on my mental health. I am constantly bombarded with a news cycle that gets darker and more divisive by the minute. Each day I think it can’t get worse, but it appears that this nation is spiraling toward a crisis the likes of which we have never seen. If you think it’s bad now, give it a few more days, the news will throw out another horrific fact for your brain to digest.

It appears that there is no way to truly look toward the future as a liberal with any form of optimism. Run away climate change may already be upon us, the President may be a criminal and he may never be brought to justice, college continues to become less and less affordable, students take on more debt than ever before, we are in danger of losing what little healthcare we have, and on top of all of this we must live our lives and do everything we can to scrape by in a world that feels more and more competitive and divisive by the day. I don’t have a happy ending for this one, if we don’t radically change our politics, and soon, America may become a nation that continues to spiral downward into a dark pit of despair.

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