At the moment, the world of politics is a complete and utter disaster. Countries are colluding with each other to threaten the global order, science and religion are sworn enemies in the political arena, countries can’t decide whether what they actually voted for is valid, even though their people voted for it (*cough* Brexit *cough*) and the United States is so politically divided that one can’t even whisper the word “impeachment” without causing a riot. In a society where there is so much grey area in terms of what is politically acceptable, it’s easy to want to simply withdraw and disengage. It’s a mess, and we humans don’t like messes. But not everyone gives up so easily. Natalie McCormick (’21) former president of Hope Democrats is one such person. “It doesn’t matter what you’re studying, what your major is, what career you want to go into, everything in the political world is going to affect you in some way,” she says, in hopes that people will recognize the extent to which politics affects people’s personal lives.
McCormick has been involved in several political campaigns, from canvassing in local elections in the Holland area to interning with Haley Stevens, now a member of the House of Representatives for Michigan’s 11th District. While she tries to keep politically engaged, she is currently studying abroad in Paris, France. “I feel like I’m a sitting duck over here, I feel like I can’t contribute as much to stuff going on back home,” she says, and adds, “I still try my best to stay engaged politically.”
Even though she has been out of the country for a few months now, she stays up-to-date about American political happenings and provided specific commentary on it. Specifically in regards to the current impeachment inquiry she says:
“I think the whole thing for me is very frustrating because [representatives] have a duty to their constituents to uphold the constitution, and allowing someone who so blatantly abuses it to remain in office is actively going against everything that we stand for, it just shows how flawed our government is. There’s so much corruption that goes on and people become so power hungry that they don’t want to give up their positions of power. And if it means allowing Trump to remain in office then that’s just a small price to pay for them I guess.”
She refers back to the vote a few weeks ago that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi held in the House of Representatives, which was divided almost entirely along party lines: not a single Republican representative voted in favor of proceeding with the impeachment. This isn’t to say that there were no House Republicans who personally favored impeachment, but many representatives will vote in ways that will keep themselves in office for longer. McCormick says, “I think party comes first for politicians before anything else.” There is currently no limit on the number of terms that House or Senate representatives can serve and so for many of them, their best interest is that of their constituents. “For most people in national government there’s a huge disconnect between the people we elect and their constituents.” In other words, representatives will vote in a way that gets their own voters to vote for them again, even if how each representative votes doesn’t align itself with what they personally think is right or what the Constitution states.
Aside from the impeachment, McCormick also speaks about the sometimes apathetic nature of young people in politics.“Being politically inactive is a choice that you can make and so many people don’t have that choice. Look at undocumented immigrants in the US, they are experiencing horrors that I cannot imagine, separation at the border, they can’t speak up for themselves because they don’t have a vote. People who do have a vote can stand up for these people and help them.” The people whom she states don’t have a choice are those that can’t vote for themselves, and undocumented immigrants are just one group. This can also include young people who aren’t old enough to vote for solutions to make going to school in America safer or referendums that could provide more funding for enriching activities like the arts. Many states have laws that disenfranchise (remove the voting rights of) those convicted of felonies, those on probation or parole and inmates. They can’t vote for improvement of their conditions such as increased access to resources as simple as feminine products for female inmates, one example of an issue that hasn’t gone anywhere because so few people with voting power actually do vote for change in this policy area. “You don’t have to go knock on doors or go to protests if you don’t want to,” McCormick says. “It can be as little as just voting. [Have] open and honest discussions about issues in our society.”
At Hope College, these open and honest discussions are difficult. Given that the school is a Christian college and many Christians find themselves aligned more with a conservative ideology, it can be hard to feel like there is a safe space to express dissent or support without stepping on other people’s toes. As someone who is very expressive of her viewpoints, McCormick says that she’s often disconnected from Hope and the students because “there are people who completely disagree with my political stance or there are people who just don’t want to talk about it.” It’s true, outside of the classroom students and faculty alike tend to shy away from discussion about anything political, anything that might lead to conflict. But conversation does not always equal conflict. One of the best ways to truly understand your views is to discuss it with others and to listen to what other people have to say. McCormick says to listen and be compassionate. You don’t always have to understand someone’s perspective and you don’t have to believe the exact same thing that they do, but listening broadens your perspective and shows you where someone else is coming from so that you don’t come to a point of conflict.
To close, McCormick says this: “I don’t mean to insult Hope College or its students… it’s because I love people in our country and I love people at our school. I think it’s important to bring about change for the people that I love.” The political realm has far more of an impact on life than most people admit, but it does affect everyone. Start the dialogue and see where it takes you. Allow yourself to see another perspective. Engage, because if you don’t you will never see the change you want in the world. McCormick says in parting, “Your vote counts and it matters so much.”