Franklin Roosevelt famously decreed in 1933 that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Given the rhetoric and ideology championed in this election, consider me afraid.
Last Thursday night, the presidential nominee of one of our country’s major parties stood before millions of Americans and used fear as a tool to gain power and control in our political system. Not since Nixon have we seen such dog whistle politics used to meet political ends.
“We must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism,” said Trump, “until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place. We don’t want them in our country.”
This is only one of many examples from the convention that exemplify the party’s simple strategy: Exploit fear of anyone who is unlike the Republican base in order to hold on to votes. The rhetoric of the nominee and the convention speakers reeked of this strategy. Instead of policies, they peddled paranoia.
The only proposed solution: Trump himself. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” declared the nominee. “I am your voice.”
Yet even as Trump boasted that he alone can solve our country’s problems, he made it very clear his definition of American doesn’t include most of America. For my generation, this is especially true. Almost half of the millennial generation (~80 million people) is composed of people of color. And the younger we are, the more diverse we are. We do not fit in Trump’s view of a great America.
From the looming threat of climate change to the systematic discrimination against people of color to the precarious, changing labor market, our greatest challenges require collective action. In order to achieve progress, we need problem-solving rooted in democracy, which means creating processes that bring in and draw from the experiences, skills, ideas, and aspirations of our diverse population.
The Republican Party has shown that it is not ready for an inclusive political process, but as we head into the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, it remains to be seen whether or not the party of Roosevelt, Johnson, and Obama can restore our generation’s faith that the political process will work for all of us. The Democrats must reflect on their process and platform to ensure that they are working to bring all people—no matter their age, class, race, faith, gender identity—into democracy fairly. Recent reports on party leaders caught working against a popular primary candidate do little to restore our faith in the process—especially since the party must still make up ground with younger voters.
That’s why we’re calling on our elected officials to prioritize changing the rules of participation. Tomorrow (July 26) at the DNC, the Roosevelt Institute, along with Young Invincibles and the New American Leaders Project, is hosting a town hall during which officials will engage our generation on the questions and issues that matter most to us. We will be joined by Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, Marlyand Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, and Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.
At Roosevelt, we believe that it matters not only what rules get written, but also who writes them. This is why tomorrow’s conversation is so important. Any leader who speaks about the future of our country should acknowledge all Americans in the process. In order to ensure that the future leaders of our country get a say in its direction, we must change the rules that determine who is engaged in the political process.