As Wake the Vote’s time at the Republican National Convention wraps up, I can’t help but reflect on the strange sense of hope I have for the future of bipartisanship and the role of these across-the-aisle solutions in American politics. At a time when the nation is extremely divisive and people are clearly angry, I know to stay positive and open-minded as I look towards the future. Maybe I feel like this because of the electrifying energy that hovered above us in Cleveland, or maybe I am more focused on my local and state elections at this point. Maybe it was because of all of the young people I saw in Cleveland. Whether they were peacefully protesting or serving as delegates at the Republican National Convention, they were intentionally participating in the democratic process. There were young people working at the Politico event that Wake the Vote attended about the new Republican foreign policy agenda. There were also young people marching in the streets calling for justice and equality for black lives in America.
On the last day of the Republican National Convention, Wake the Vote students split up into small groups of 4-5 people and interviewed random people in downtown Cleveland as a part of our civic engagement program. One of the questions that we frequently asked people was, “given today’s divisive partisanship, what is one policy area we can find common ground between Democrats and Republicans?”. I was shocked by the instant responses of each person we interviewed. One man responded immediately with “term limits”, while a woman answered with “trade agreements and the role of NATO”.
Another question we asked during these short interviews was, “What would you like to see from your preferred candidate on their first day in office?”. Of course answers to this particular question were all over the spectrum ranging from “securing our border” to “trade reform”. Then there was the question of what kind of First Lady Melania Trump would be if Trump was elected in November. One woman responded with, “I don’t even want to think about that”, while a different woman said that Mrs. Trump would be great and made sure to include that she speaks five languages in her response.
Overall, I had the unique experience of interviewing random individuals about a truly historical, pivotal moment in American politics. I talked to Bikers for Trump, anti-Trump protesters, Cleveland citizens, and delegates about their opinions. We saw dozens of vendors selling buttons that read “Stop Trump, Save America” and signs expressing “Trump is a egomaniacal opportunist who does not deserve to be president”. Hearing their stories and collecting live footage made the social media aspect of the convention engaging, entertaining, and informative. It doesn’t get more grassroots than this.