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Democracy in America: Turning the 'Blue Wave' Tidal

Donald Trump has changed the American political landscape. With the President's 'anti-establishment' rhetoric, frank and undiplomatic quips, fixation with Twitter, and petty name-slinging, Washington appears more and more like a reality TV show by the day. No matter how much they dislike this development, it would be misguided for Democrats to combat this Trumpian fire with tradition and comfortable assumptions of 'normalcy'. The seas have changed; it's time to ride a new wave, and turn it tidal.

Halfway through the current presidency, speculation about the 2020 race is beginning to grow. The Democrats need to learn from the divisions of 2016 - they must choose a direction and unite behind the successful nominee, not remain split as they were with Clinton and Sanders. Of course, the Hillary nomination disappointed many, but their continued refusal to support the party enabled the shocking Trump victory. This cannot happen again. What is more open to debate, however, is which direction they should choose - which platform to unite behind?

Win McNamee, Getty Images 

Look at the midterms! The Democrats seized the House with record numbers of women and minorities. There are currently 110 women in the US Congress, 39 of whom are women of colour. Sharice Davids became the first Native American woman elected to Congress, winning her district in Kansas. Ilham Omar in Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan became the first two Muslim Congresswomen.  A whopping 74% of the 2018 congresswomen are Democrats. Moreover, youth played a unprecedented role in this election. The two youngest congresswomen in history, both twenty-nine, were elected in 2018: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) in New York and Abby Finkenauer in Iowa.  68% of voters aged 18-24 voted blue, while according to the Centre for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, 31% of eligible 18-29 year olds voted (up 10 percentage points from the previous midterm elections).

The point of all these statistics is that it's not only the Republican party that has been transformed by Trump. The #resistance, a coalition of anti-Trump women, minorities, and millennials, has evolved into more than just grassroots organisation. It has been translated into Congress. It must be translated into the party's platform. They cannot fall into the establishment trap. We are already seeing older, typically white, often male Democrats favouring the same policies and the same types of people they traditionally have. Despite all my love and respect for Joe Biden (and that's a lot, the Obama bromance memes will never be forgotten), he would not be the right choice to take on Trump.

It's time to channel the momentum of the Women's March, anti-Kavanaugh protests, and #MeToo movement. It's time to treat the Black Lives Matter cause as a legitimate policy platform, and appeal to the thousands that feel left out from mainstream politics. It's time to encourage and nurture this unprecedented youth political engagement. Take AOC as case and point. She is a young, Puerto Rican, self-proclaimed working-class woman from the Bronx. Already an online sensation, she uses social media like a millennial, not an old man trying to appear 'down with the kids'. Praised for wearing her hoop earrings as she was sworn in, and for responding to a twitter troll by dancing in the halls of the US Congress, she is a breath of fresh air that the party sorely needed. Ocasio-Cortez successfully unseated the ten-term incumbent Joe Crowley (at the time, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House) on an idealistic platform of Medicare for All, high taxes for top earners, immigration justice, prison reform, gun control, and many other 'snowflake' causes. Furthermore, she did this through an entirely crowdfunded campaign, refusing to accept the corrupting influence of corporate investment. That is revolutionary. The conservative backlash to her rise to power - including headlines comparing her to Communists, the leak of a video of AOC dancing as a student to dismiss her as a 'little girl', the creation of a fake nude photo which was legitimised and shared by The Daily Caller - proves that she is viewed as a threat by her opponents. The Democrats should use her power.

Of course, the twenty-nine-year-old herself could not run for president yet, having only just been elected to Congress. But the youthful energy and platform that AOC represents should form the basis of the Democrats' new direction. They should form a programme that appeals to minorities, women, and those under the poverty line - all groups that have been sacrificed by the Trump administration. 'Medicare for All', a single-payer healthcare policy aiming to provide universal services, has become an incredibly popular policy, and is something the Democrats should prioritise. In addition to this, they should focus on gun control, justice reform, the protection of abortion rights, fairer immigration laws, and economic populism. Yet this platform must be carried out with energy, exuberance, and a willingness to engage with (rather than dismiss) the reality show that Washington has become. I'm not sure who they should nominate. Maybe Kamala Harris, though she hasn't officially declared her bid. Maybe Elizabeth Warren, though she is a hugely divisive figure and may face the same sexist 'likability' issues as Hillary Clinton. Maybe Bernie Sanders, though he's technically an Independent and could struggle to channel the youthful zeal at his ripe old age of seventy-seven. Maybe someone will appear completely out of the blue. Whoever they choose, however, needs to accept that the game has changed, the establishment is unpopular, and they must continue the revolutionary changes of the midterms in order to beat Trump.


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