By Christina Lukeman
As I sit down with my glass of 2014 Sauvignon Blanc to watch tonight’s primetime, I have that same tinge of excitement I had when I had braces and was about to watch a bad episode of the Real World California circa 2001. Tonight’s show is the US Presidential debate and in comic-relief I have my drinking game rules ready. Because if you don’t laugh, you cry.
The 2016 Election is like a really bad relationship you can’t get out of. It’s a name-calling, email going-through, he-said, she-said extravaganza—there is even some grabbing of other women’s nether regions going on. (Anatomical note: How do you actually grab someone by the pussy?)
The three Presidential debates are meant to give candidates a platform from which voters can gain a clear understanding of their political stances on a variety of topics—from women’s reproductive health to Aleppo to how to mitigate climate change. That is what it is meant to do, however this year has been drastically different—they’ve morphed into a strange mix of the West Wing, Jerry Springer and Golden Girls, viewed by over 80 million people around the world.
As the two fighters walk on stage, the only thing missing from this awkward entrance is the intro music to the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). I remember my drinking game rules: I am supposed to drink every time I hear the world “great” and I am supposed to bust out my shot glass if it is in reference to a wall.
Watching these debates, I think with every nerve of my being: This is the BEST we could do? These are the two best candidates of over 300 million people that we could put on a platform to demonstrate to the world—and to ourselves—that we are capable of being a great nation? In this circus, I have realized is this: the problem is not the candidates or the platform, the problem is the system. It is a system that has allowed the largest global election to turn into a reality TV show; a system that was designed 200 years ago— when communication was by horseback and carrier pigeon and it made sense for primaries and caucuses to exist as communication lagged—and gone fundamentally unchanged since; a system in which you have a swath of uneducated people people rallying to show their hatred for something they don’t understand. Our system is broken. And politics has utterly transformed itself into who can rig the system better, rather than who can fix the system better.
As an American woman who has spent almost a third of my life living outside the borders of my home country, I have had the immense privilege of seeing the triumphs of a myriad of other political systems and I have seen how other cultures react to politics. For starters, there is no need for the gestation period of our election to last almost half of the term the politicians are looking to serve. In a country as diverse as the United States, narrowing down politics to two parties rather than opening up a more level playing field creates a bipolar system. Those stuck in-between—dubbed “Independents” here in the US (which begs the question, are the others dependent on their political parties for their own political views?)—have little to no platforms to be heard, creating discontent, and in worst-case scenarios, absenteeism in the general vote.
Wait, he just said “It’s gonna be great”. Again. Double sip.
As the man with the yellow hair tells me about the great wall, I realize that one very positive, feminine thing has come out of this election—a spark of gentlewoman hope, if you will. Some very powerful and very intelligent ladies have emerged into the spotlight; they are no longer First Ladies giving speeches in support of their husbands, but instead dominant, stand-alone voices of change. Michelle Obama, who, besides having the best triceps in the history of triceps, has mobilized female empowerment and inspired empathy through countless speeches; Elizabeth Warren, a U.S. Senator who advocates for consumer protection in an age where capitalism and big corporations run rampant; Jill Stein, who many deem to be the doctor to America’s systemic illness.
As I swash down the rest of the Sav Blanc, I realize that this circus of an electoral system has actually served as a platform for strong women to rise in politics beyond the traditional gender roles that were previously established. It has taken a debaucherous man to bring the system to its knees, and while men struggle with that chaos, women have risen to begin rebuilding the system. Though 2016 has proven to be a spectacle of its own, I look forward to 2020 having a greater presence of strong X Chromosomes on the ballot.
Christina is a MBA student focusing on Social Enterprise Management and Impact Investing at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California. She likes brewing her own mango black tea kombucha, a good ’90s hip hop cover, and looking at maps of Southeast Asia.