The Rise of the Political Independent
Paige Gutierrez vigorously scans the web with tabs open with the campaign websites of every candidate remaining in the race trying to dig deeper on their proposed plans. She intently watches the debates and analyzes the candidates’ every answer. Though she considers herself a political independent, both parties have caught her attention this election.
According to Pew Research Center, “Fifty percent of millennials consider themselves as being politically independent.” This is higher than any other generation. With the election coming up, it is important for these millennials to ask themselves a few questions before casting their vote on election day. By asking yourself if you have conducted research, figured out what you value most in a potential president and take a political science course, you can be sure to vote for the candidate that fits your independent views the best.
Are you a political Independent?
What may seem like the most obvious tip, is one of the ones that gets overlooked most. The first step to finding where you actually lie politically goes back to what is the most important to you personally.
“Something that I teach in the classroom that is huge for millennials to understand are the basic understanding of political ideologies. Once they understand them fully, they need to think about which ones are important to them and where they see themselves fitting most,” said Suzanne Chod, Assistant Professor of Political Science at North Central College. “This may also come from values learned from parents and friends”.
All candidates have certain issues that they hold close to their heart and are more passionate about than others. Instead of looking solely at a party as a whole about their typical stances on issues that are a priority for you, find a few candidates that stand on the same side of issues as you.
“When researching candidates from both parties, I made a list ranking the main issues on what was most important to me to least important. For example, global warming is very important to me, although some candidates don’t believe in it at all. You just have to sit back and think what is personally important,” said Paige Gutierrez, politically independent student at the University of Missouri. Gutierrez finds that a lot of topics she cares about stem from her studying biology.
Look beyond the mainstream candidates
After you have figured out what you value most in a potential candidate, research needs to be the next step. This starts with researching all prospective candidates, not just the most popular ones. In this particular election, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are the two political candidates that are more out-of-the box. Political independents are gravitating towards them, but there are even more out there.
“Millennials need to go on to all types of outlets to research more unknown independent candidates outside of Bernie or Trump. They need to dig deep if they consider themselves as political Independents and think outside the parties,” said Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief of OnTheIssues.org. He began telling a story about Jesse Ventura, a professional wrestler who decided to run for the Governor of Minnesota in 1999. Gordon passionately talked about how Ventura was told he was going to lose by a landslide against a strong Democratic candidate and a strong Republican candidate. Ventura encouraged millennials to go out and vote for him and he ended up winning by a landslide.
“Since I don’t find myself in a particular political party, I have had to do almost more research than those who are in one, to find a candidate that suits me best. Sometimes it’s someone who I’ve never heard mentioned once in the media,” said Dominique Johnson, a recent graduate from Loyola University.
Hit the books
Whether you are in college currently or not, many experts say that taking a political science course either online or at a college can expand the way we think about political parties and candidates.
“Talking with other people in a classroom setting can help expand ideas and break down some stereotypes about each party. It can be beneficial for students to truly see what the parties were at one point and what they have evolved to today. This will give them a better understanding of their options,” says Chod.
Both students who are and are not Political Science majors have seen benefits from taking these classes. It helps to be around students with different views than each other to see it from a different view point.
“If I could give a millennial one piece of advice to gain more knowledge about choosing a candidate it would definitely be to take a political science class. I know so many people that walk away from them feeling much more confident about why they are choosing a candidate they are,” said Quishi (Robert) Yin, an Indiana University student and executive board member of political science club.
With election day right around the corner, it is extremely important to get to the polls and vote. It is even more important to know why you are voting for the candidate you are. Before you decide on a candidate, go the extra mile to ask yourself if you have done the necessary research. Focus in on topics that are important to you, and take a political science class.
Megan Gorsky is originally from Naperville, Illinois. She is a junior at Indiana University studying public relations and pursuing a minor in event planning. Megan hopes to tie her two passions into her dream job. She enjoys traveling, reading, watching rom-coms and spending time with her friends and family.