I believe that there is something to be said for candidates making policy discussions and ideas accessible to a general audience.  Many people refer to this as the dumbing down of discourse that is associated with Donald Trump, but I think that it is possible to find a balance between overly complicated discourse that is unintelligible to the average American and completely throwing policy nuances out the window.  

This concept of accessible discourse is something that is discussed frequently within the context of women’s and gender studies.  As a person moves into higher level courses in the area of gender studies, the entire discourse becomes highly theoretical to the point where someone joining in to the discussion for the first time would be completely lost.  This puts us in a difficult position, because feminism and politics are meant to be accessible to everyone, but how can we make them accessible when the discourse is heightened to a level of unintelligible theory?  Not everyone has the same kind of access to education, so it is impossible to expect the general population to follow a discussion of policy theory in any given presidential debate.  

A few days ago I spoke with The Open Mind host, Alexander Heffner, who believes that the simplification of discourse for a general audience is a travesty.  He argued that with the kind of at-our-fingertips access to information in the modern day, the complexity of discourse should not be so lowered to the point where Donald Trump is considered a good presidential candidate.  I disagree, as I believe that the candidacies of Donald Trump as well as Bernie Sanders, are the result of anger in the populace, not the lowering of discourse.  Trump and Sanders have both become adept at explaining policy ideas in terms that the average American can understand, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing.  Discourse needs to be adjusted for the audience it is aimed at, because nothing will be accomplished if your policy plans sound like gibberish to the voting base.  

My real concern is that candidates now have few venues in which to speak to the sector of the populace that is deeply aware of policy issues and to show that they know what they are talking about beyond their ability to rile up a crowd.  There need to be more venues for political expression, and these new outsider candidates need to be able to prove themselves capable of performing at a level that is expected of a president of this country.  However, on the campaign trail I think that discourse can be simplified while still communicating important ideas and policy plans, and candidates should strive to strike this balance.

 

--Sydney Spreck is a St. Olaf sophomore from Stillwater, MN, majoring in Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies.  She is in New Hampshire as part of a St. Olaf political science class studying the presidential primary elections.