We asked editors at college publications across the country: What presidential candidates and issues are students buzzing about on your campus? In this second installment of CNBC's politics on campus series, Haylee Millikan, a University of Washington student and opinion editor at the student newspaper, offers her take on what's wrong with the system.
Politics have been hilarious to me since I can remember. I could talk about Monica Lewinsky before I knew my own birthday, impressions of Bush gaffes were a common comedy tool in my youth and Donald Trump's run for president was funny for a while. But as soon as Trump began to rise in the polls, it was no longer funny. This is a man who made a comment that suggested all Mexicans were rapists and who made the second GOP debate seem like an episode of The Real Housewives of the Republican Party.
The older I get, the less laughable American politics becomes. The older I get, the more terrified I am of a political system that is more production than productive, and more tabloid-worthy than remotely serious.
It's fairly commonplace for my generation to be considered self-important, disillusioned, and wary of the system. And though I disagree with those who call us "Generation Me," I will concede that many of us are jaded and distrusting.
We have reason to be, though. The current state of American politics is, in a word, divisive. There's no room for disagreement or disenfranchising from your political party. Moderate thinking is discouraged, and reasonable policy-making has all but stopped. Regardless of the facts, on either side, you pledge allegiance to your political party and not your own, well-thought-out, values.
I'm writing this on Columbus Day, which seems fitting, because it represents both a gross misunderstanding of American history and an intense refusal to change. I learned, in elementary school that Christopher Columbus was a hero who discovered the Americas at a time when everyone thought the world was flat. Turns out, none of that is true: Columbus was, in fact, the person who spearheaded the transatlantic slave trade, and everyone at that point knew the world was round.
My point is, one of the reasons our system is so backwards is that we allow our values to influence our politics, and in a lot of ways, this is not productive. There is no grey area with data, and there is a possible compromise for most issues. For some reason Congress has a hard time understanding that.
Most of my generation grew up with the Internet as a resource; we are well-versed in the hunt for information, and we are growing tired of illogical arguments and unjust practices. Most of the people I know are utterly baffled at the state of today's politics. Even if we don't have the same values, we all know something isn't working.
Liberal and moderate folks aren't willing to fully give their support to Bernie Sanders because they believe he can't win over the entirety of America. He's a Democratic-Socialist; he can't raise the money; he's too old. When they do talk about him hopefully, they cite his dedication to the middle and lower classes, and his long history of voting for the people and not for whoever pays the highest sum. It just doesn't seem logical to anyone that someone as honest as Sanders could possibly gain the support when our political system seems based on things entirely illogical.
America has lost its ability to freely think, instead following only the dogma of its political system; but there is hope. I believe my generation, once given a seat at the table, will shift the focus to more inclusive, moderate thinking. We haven't seen a political system that isn't my-way-or-the-highway in our lifetimes, and we're ready.
Commentary by Haylee Millikan is a senior studying creative writing and philosophy at the University of Washington in Seattle. She has been the head of the Opinion section at The Daily for almost a year, and also runs the Women's Action Commission of the ASUW. She was a finalist for the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate last year, and is above all else a poet, artist, and activist. Follow her on Twitter @hayleemaid.