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It’s finally over, but have we learned?

| Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Finally. Today is the day that it all comes to an end. We can finally watch TV in South Bend without having Evan Bayh, Todd Young, John Gregg and Eric Holcomb talk to us. We can finally look on the internet and not see our crazy high school classmate’s post about how he think Donald Trump will save America and Hillary Clinton is the Antichrist. And you all can finally pick up the Observer in two weeks and not see me ranting about a toupe-wearing reality star. But with the election winding down, it’s time to look ahead — ahead to what it all means for the future of our country, our politics and our policy.

The impact that this election will have is undeniable. It’s been an unprecedented year and a half, and our country’s future looks much different because of it. The primary season showed us that populism, which has risen throughout different times in our country, has suddenly taken hold of one of our political parties. Without populism, there quite simply would be no Donald Trump. For everything that he is, he has tapped into the sentiment of many people around the United States — and that should hold some worth. Yes, he has tapped into some racist, discriminatory and degenerate people. But there are also plenty of people who have real gripes with the way our country is run. Whatever happens, the next president and the next government as a whole has to find a way to figure out what exactly people are frustrated with and how their anger can be addressed.

This election has also seen the status-quo two-party system of the United States overturned. Will we still see Democrats and Republicans dominate elections for years to come? Definitely. But we will see differences that this election cycle has exhibited. We’ve seen in this cycle a vehement sense of disapproval and anger toward the so called “establishment” of both parties. For Republicans, this is what brought about the nomination of Donald Trump — a set of people who feel like their issues, problems and grievances were never considered. Donald Trump won the nomination and gained legitimacy because people believed he was the only person who could restore “greatness” that many people who were left on the sidelines once had. On the other side, the anti-establishment and anti-status quo sentiments were obviously exhibited through Bernie Sanders. Although Bernie didn’t win, the vast majority of people who supported him pulled Hillary Clinton to the left, changed Democratic Party politics and gave new legitimacy to a much more liberal and activist Democratic Party. Additionally, we have seen and will see record number of young voters continue to reject the two-party system through protest votes to third party candidates — whether this trend will continue or is merely a product of this election remains to be seen.

Finally, this election has also seemed to upset the norms of United States policy in many ways. Before this election, a vast majority of American politicians and citizens extolled the positives of free trade. In this election, however, both major candidates and many down-ballot candidates reject the idea of free trade in some manner, reflecting the positions of many citizens today. Furthermore, some things that have seemed to be partisan positions have achieved some sort of consensus between the two parties — paid family leave, the need to reform our entitlement programs and criminal justice reform. Although they differ on how government involvement should look, the two parties are closer than ever on realizing the importance of these issues.

This election will be historic regardless of who wins, and its impact will be felt immediately because of how historic it figures to be. The irregularity of this cycle, however, will have repercussions that extend far beyond the next four years. It’s been a trying and sometimes annoying cycle, yes. But it’s been a historic cycle, one that promises to shape the future of our country.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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