The midterm elections left debate team members at Achievement First Amistad High School cold – and questioning their party allegiances.
Four twelfth-grade members of the team – Daniel Gant, Amara Allen, Jay’La Evans, and Nigel Harris – gathered Wednesday afternoon to discuss the results and to voice frustration about the limits of American politics.
Harris referred to Governor-elect Ned Lamont as a “Hillary Clinton-type Democrat.”
“He’s not [Gov. Dannel] Malloy, but he has some of the same beliefs that Malloy has in that, you know,” Harris said. “He wants to bring back toll booths, he wants to increase government, a lot of the government in Connecticut, while at the same time painting himself as the business character, the Trump type: ‘I know what to do with this business, I can fix the massive problems in Connecticut with all the taxes and stuff.’ So I think he’s trying to play both sides but not really doing a good job at either.”
Harris’s classmates agreed.
“He tries to play both sides,” Evans echoed, “but he lost at both. He disappointed me as a Democrat, because I feel like the only thing that he did strongly speak about was the taxes. I feel like he didn’t speak about the charter schools, the other issues, like women’s rights, the right to birth control and other reproductive rights, and I feel like that was kind of disappointing.”
The students turned their attention to American political parties in general.
“I feel like either party can be unreliable in a sense,” Harris said. “Democrats, more often than not, make just false promises. Like they say they’re gonna do something, but they just don’t do anything. And Republicans, they do get a lot of stuff done – the thing is, that stuff ends up being discriminatory or chips away at lower class people in order to help the wealthy.”
Harris’ words gave Allen a chance to reflect on her mother’s politics.
“I agree with you. And with Ned Lamont, that made me really take a step back, and it made me also think about what my mother said. She didn’t register as a Democrat, because she said, ‘I don’t belong to either party. I’m going to vote for who I like.’
“And that has an impression on me, because with people like Ned Lamont, you say that you’re a Democrat, and I like the Democratic Party, most of the time I agree with what they’re saying, as far as their progressiveness, but they allowed you to come out and run, and you obviously don’t care that much about the values behind the Democratic party.”
Harris nodded and said that strict adherence to a political party could limit people’s political growth.
“People have sort of become slaves to their different political parties,” he said. “I think people get so ingrained in that life that they can’t really read books or get politically involved.”
Evans told the group that she had just registered for the first time, and the students snapped their fingers in appreciation.
“I registered as Independent, partly because after being in government class, and seeing the Republican side, there were things I agreed with that I didn’t know were Republican,” she said.
“Part of the reason that America is so unsuccessful, or the government hasn’t passed as many successful or efficient programs, is that the other side doesn’t want to listen to one another,” she continued. “When you’re so wrapped up in what’s comfortable to you and what you know, you don’t want to listen to the other side.”