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‘The worst it’s ever been’: Young Americans on democracy

May 9


Democracy is a flawed and fragile form of government, famously described by Winston Churchill as “the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried.” Churchill’s comment spoke to a world where fascism and democracy were at war. In America today, concerns regarding the erosion of democracy at home and abroad — and about the resurgence of fascism — are on the rise again.

In this 23-minute episode of America Speaks, Dr. Frank Luntz asks a panel of younger Americans what they think about democracy, what threatens it, how to protect it, why it matters, and more. Luntz then asks each participant what they would say to Congress on this subject if they had only a few seconds.

The purpose of America speaks here on Schraeder news is to give viewers an unparalleled opportunity to hear the voices of people who aren’t always heard talking about topics that often get ignored. On today’s segment, America’s first and second time voters sound off on the state of American democracy, its strengths, its weaknesses, and whether or not it will survive and thrive. So let me tell you this interesting question. Does Congress understand your life? Do they understand how hard you work? They do they understand the economy do they get what the average worker and I assume that you guys are average? You just younger? Do they understand your challenges and your economic concerns? Who says yes, raise your hands? Oh, my God, not a single hand goes up. What don’t they understand that you want them to understand the uncle? What does the average member of Congress not understand about your economic challenges?
Um, I don’t think they understand or consider how hard we have to work. You know, I’m working 12 hour days, you know, and I don’t think they take into account how much effort we have to put in to actually make sure that our dates day and our bills are paid. And we have to, you know, take from here to pay their you know, I don’t think they take that portion of it into consideration at all.
Right, what does Congress not understand about your economic challenges?
I think the life that they grew up in years ago with love there can now mean, you can survive a family of one salary. And now you people have double incomes and can’t, you know, support a family and plus, all rich, I mean, longer in government, the more money you have. So, if you were completely out of touch, they don’t really care what we say, because no one had to talk to their heads up. They’re passing really we know what the past because it’s like, the latest buildings passing everyone a night, it was over 1000 pages.
Aaron, what does Congress not understand about your economic challenges?
I think it’s the fact that I mean, I’m a student right now in college, and I live off campus. But even if I lived on campus, I couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t afford an education, I couldn’t afford anything. And even if I was to work every day, for eight hours, I still wouldn’t be able to afford college. I think that’s insane. And then they expect us to succeed in this economy or in this structure with our education. But I can’t afford it. So it’s kind of just like, What am I supposed to do with that?
Margaret? What does Congress not understand about your life? economically?
Plain and simple. It’s not the same as it was when they were elected. Look at my senators, Chuck Grassley was elected in 1980. I’m living now in 2024. And I can’t afford to pay my rent, and I work two full time jobs. It’s not the same as it was when he was elected. And he’s not the only example. That’s all of them. Next
Gen voters are clearly frustrated with the candidates, the discourse, and the direction of our democracy. The big question, too, they have an alternative person or system that would make things any better. Let’s listen. Who’s a first time voter, we’ll be voting for president for the very first time raise your hands. 12345 of you. Most of you, then will be a second time voter. Is democracy working in America? Let’s start with that. Who says democracy is working? Raise your hands? And that two people, three, four people, oh my god. Okay, here’s your chance to tell the world. What is wrong with American democracy right now? Use your hands on the computer. I’m going to call six of you the first six people who raise your hands. What is wrong with American democracy? Maggie, I’m going to start with you.
I think that there is a huge lack of trust in our election system. Right now. our electoral system is the basis of our American democracy theory, fair elections that are trustworthy in a peaceful transfer of power. And I think that has come into question and a lot of recent elections and we have people running for office who really promote conspiracy theories in regards to our elections. And I think that’s very dangerous.
Right? What is wrong with American democracy right now?
I think in the last couple of years, it’s gotten a lot worse with censorship in general, nor free country you Gonna say we want to say whether you believe it or not where you think it’s conspiracy or not, you’re allowed to say what you believe. And if you don’t like it, we have on your day, if you’re the one censoring them and telling them to shut up, if you look, historically, you’re in the wrong. You’re authoritarian. Never in the world has ever been a country that censors the opposing views, and has been for democracy. I thought, I think it’s never been a thing. So right now, we are probably the worst I’ve ever been in terms of any type of authoritarian, not even close to democracy than we’ve ever been in our in our country.
Logan, what is wrong with American democracy right now? Um,
I think that the amount of power that special interests have, we’ve tried so so many times to regulate it, and just to no avail? How slow our democracy is specifically in comparison to other democracies. And the political, namely, the political partisanship and party politics. And most of America’s dismay, it just adds to how slow our democracy is. And it feels like politicians are, you know, voting for things with because their party tells them to or because special interests tell them to not because the people do
join and what’s wrong with American democracy?
Honestly, there’s too many, there’s too much dirty money. There’s too many politicians that are being bought out, you know, like you said, by special interest groups, by the NRA, by so by so many different people to push agendas. And it’s not leading to, you know, everybody’s mad at Biden versus Trump? Well, it’s a lot of pilots, you have to spend a lot of money to run a campaign, I feel like, there’s it shouldn’t be that I think that if you take a lot of the money, if we were to take a lot of the money out of politics and government, we wouldn’t see all this corruption. And lastly, to the that we also need to push a lot harder against misinformation. You know, we’ve gotten to a place where alternative facts become, oh, this is just my opinion. No, it’s a lie. And I think we need to be vehemently against that. Because we have a lot of people, not everybody, you know, we’re all very educated people. That’s clear. But there are a lot of people who have different levels of education, intellect, intellect, and they are really believing a lot of this nonsense, and it’s causing a lot of problems.
Aaron, what’s wrong with American democracy?
I, weirdly would disagree with what Frank said. But I think allowing conspiracy theories to run rampid in our Congress is insane. I think that is what leads to our misinformation. I think politicians should be held to what they say and make sure it’s fact before they spew it on live TV. I just think that bipartisanship and our political parties are more focused about fighting than actually doing anything for the country. And I just think that’s ridiculous.
Right? Do you want to respond to Aaron?
Yeah, well, I’m not a person who believes that the government should be the person or the people of the terminator of truth. I think the people can believe we want to leave. And if you want to leave it, go ahead. It’s a free country. You could we we want to believe if you think that the government should be the people determining what’s truth or fact and you start and most of us way, most polite way, you have no idea about history, because there’s not a single country who has become one who is authoritarian, who did not censor speech by labeling conspiracy theories. That’s a good way to scare the public goes conspiracy theory, but in reality, people could say what they want and when they want, and the moment you limit, the free speech and transfer ideas in a country is the moment the country is doomed. Aaron,
do you want to respond to Frank?
I’m not saying limit free speech. I’m just saying the government should be making sure that they’re not spreading misinformation and making the public go crazy. I just think that’s a basic matter of fact,
Chris, you’re on your head? No. Why?
Well, I agree very much with Frank that the government is not a neutral third party, their bet their greatest interest is not in our knowledge of objective truth. They have a vested interest in controlling how we think so if they can label opinions that are contrary to there’s as conspiracy theories or misinformation, then we don’t really have freedom of speech or thought in this country. My
DD you think Christians, right? Right. Because right, or Aaron’s right.
I’m Erin, I think, like you can see all that but that’s still not like a solution to whether or not we should hold like what role the government should play like, say like, I think inherently per se in government, like every politician in office right now does not have the best interest of the like the average person in mind is what the issue is I you know, I kind of understand I think Christians point but
okay, Sebastian,
I would say the biggest threat to our democracy, our politicians that are more vested I have a more vested interest in notoriety and media notoriety than actually accomplishing things. But I would also say that having worked in Congress, it’s that like, in staff that there definitely are members that care about individual communities and care about their communities. I worked for one, but the biggest problem are the people that are constantly the media clips causing political polarization, which is just dividing everyone and causing this havoc.
Give us an A outwardly you kill you say it’s hurting democracy,
I would see two people AOC and Marjorie Taylor Greene,
I liked that you chose a Democrat and Republican, I appreciate that. The more they thought, the more negative they became. The longer we talked, the more hostile the session became. Gen Z is clearly dissatisfied, not just about the direction of the country, but the direction of their own democracy. Let’s listen. Okay. Next question. Is our democracy in danger of failing? Raise your hands if you say yes. Wow, I’m shocked at how many Margaret’s called Killeen. Maggie I use very explicit language in danger of failing and use all things. So Margaret Killeen? Maggie, tell me why.
I think it stems from a lot of different issues. But a lot of it stems from the fact that we’re constantly fighting with each other. And we’re not even trying to solve the issues that everyone sees we’re fighting party lines, and our democracy is not going to continue to stand if we continue to fight the party lines. Plain and simple.
Clean, why do you think our democracy is in danger of failing,
because with the government, everyone’s in the Senate and everything, everyone’s just on opposing sides, they can’t agree on anything. And then they’ll just pass a bill like, oh, here, we’re spending more money, raise our debt, raise the national debt, they keep raising it all the time. So it’s kinda like, it’s gonna crash and burn at some point, they’re gonna run out of their fake Monopoly money at some point. So because both parties don’t agree, one sides, Republicans that we need to spend this, this and this, Democrats, they want to spend so much money on everything, and they can’t collaborate. So they just keep spending in, it’s just like, gonna crash.
You just call the fake Monopoly money. I think that’s kind of this entire focus group. What bothers you so much about how Washington spends.
It’s just they’re spending it on a lot of different things. So they’ll pass a bill and it’d be how many pages long? We don’t even know what they’re passing, in general. So they’ll be like, Oh, we’re passing this. Like, I know, Nancy Pelosi, if you’ve heard of her, I just remember that one thing. She I pretty sure in a bill there was she spent money and she had a whole freezer just full of ice cream. And it’s like, it went to money went to individual Democrats and everything into their pockets. And it’s hidden in the fine print, I believe, because she had a whole ice cream freezer, and she was showing it off. It was for herself. So it’s kind of like,
what I don’t understand how federal spending and Pelosi these love of ice cream have anything to do with each other?
I think in the when they built pass the bills, we know how many pages long it is no one’s gonna take time to read that. So they just pass it whatever’s on the first few pages and nope, read further into the thing. So we don’t exactly know what what’s in there because it’s hundreds of pages long when they pass things to raise the debt. Maggie,
why is our democracy in jeopardy?
When I think of things that are like, genuinely dangerous to our democracy, I think about like January 6, and I think about when we talk about conspiracy theories, like we’re talking like, truth is not objective or is objective. It’s not subjective. When we’re talking about like politicians straight up lying to people about election fraud, things that are critical to our democracy, the Foundation of America, making those things unstable, making it so that we question, Have faith in our election system. I think that is extremely dangerous. I think that is dangerous to the very core of our democracy and who we are as a country
robbed you. Do you believe our democracy is under threat? Do you believe that it’s in trouble? Um,
yeah, so going off Maggie point actually, like agree with her January 6 is like the limit of, you know, how divided our country is. And, you know, you know, the idea that Trump said that, you know, he felt cheated in the system. You know, that just shows like, how can we believe our own democracy and then he led a group of people that actually believe them to go right to capital. You know, we’re so divided right now. We can’t really I make the decision on what we’re going to do. I think this year is a very important year, I’m on what we want to see happen to the government. And you know, we just need, like I said earlier, we need fresh legs in the government, we need people that are held accountable. We need people that you know, will make the country actually better not care about themselves. Does
anyone here by a show of hands? They got democracy is truly strong. You got two people. That’s it. Question. Why are you so convinced that strong?
Well, I think it’s built on a strong constitution with strong principles. And we have a populace who is fairly well educated on the values of a free enterprise and representative government. It’s important that we continue to teach history and understand it so that we can maintain the strength of it.
Sebastian, why are you so convinced our democracy is strong? I
think January 6, was a good example of how our system of checks and balances is so strong, although there was this big event, this big, horrible event that happened, because of our systems of checks and balances, there was a change of power, and other countries don’t get that benefit. So I think that is just a prime example of why why actually, it is so strong that we we have now an election now coming up.
Okay, final question. Assume that members of Congress are listening to this video right now. And you have 15 seconds to tell them what they need to know, this is your message to your member of Congress and to Congress overall, what would you tell them play Europe? What would you tell them?
I would say we should have ours in mind. And you know, you work so hard. And they need to have us in mind. Before the make decision. You talked about
the DD? What would you tell them?
I think every single person in Congress is someone that has been carefully relatively elected by the people and they should have their people’s best interests in mind. This shouldn’t be like a selfish thing where they need an incentive to look out for the average American citizen. Now
you What would you tell them?
I think I’d say what you say has consequences, major consequences, and what you do has consequences to the real world. And you need to be careful with what you say is the truth. Logan?
I tell them but the most meaningful congressmen and women aren’t the congressmen and women that you see on television or on CNN, they’re the ones that are out there talking to their constituents and their people and actually reading the bills that they pass. It’s an incredibly honorable job. And it’s important that they carry it out honorably.
Right, what would you tell them
and put American first to put America first pass term limits, thought foreign wars and stop spending so much money?
Rob job, what would you tell our
towns you know, do better? Just, you know, just we have we put trust in the in the government. So you know, it’s us that trust to make sure that America has a prosperous future.
Lucia, what would you tell him?
I would say we need health care for all we need food to add guaranteed food and housing for all we need to guaranteed jobs. And we need to add into forever wars in the foreign country.
Jordan 24,
I would say that we need to start they need to start putting country before party. They need to especially the Democratic Congress needs to start slugging it out and being more effective with their messaging to garner voters because the more voters is going to help the country. And lastly, I think that everybody, Congress needs to be eminently folds. Everybody, including the commander in chief or former accountable and nobody should be above the law.
I think that they need to put us first the average person first not considering the one percenters you know they need to put us first British gin.
Poll your constituents on the issues vote in their best interests and you’ll never go wrong by returning your powers to your people. Robert,
I’d say the average American hasn’t yet experienced what starvation looks like not hunger, starvation, but starvation of resources. And 20 years down the line with no action. We’re going to be starving. We’re going to be riding
the lane. I would say for them to kind of try and work out differences and agree on things and also put America first put the people first not themselves and just Spending money just to spend money and try and cause more wars.
Jordan 18,
I would say to listen to the American people, listen to your constituents and represent them to the best of your ability, and to give us results. Erin,
I would say to focus on your people and the future and where we’re going and stop putting money before your people. And politics isn’t a media game.
I would say that my generation and generations younger than us need to be taken more seriously when discussing policies. Because at the end of the day, our futures are most directly affected by those,
I would remind them that our government was founded on the principles of the people, by the people and for the people. And they need to be listening to their constituents and voting in their best interests. Sebastian
spend as little time as you can possibly in DC and get get your boots on the ground in the state or the district in which you represent and don’t be afraid to be bipartisan and stop the stop the partisanship.
Randy, why don’t you tell your member of Congress and the other members of Congress,
stop worrying so much about reelection, stop spending so much time and money on your campaign? If you’re doing right by your people, they’re gonna vote you back in, prioritize educating your constituents, and helping them understand what it is you’re working on. And please learn the law.
Okay, guys, you’re awesome. I appreciate it. And I particularly appreciate how respectful you are to each other. Because I’ve done this and they’ve degenerate into yelling and screaming, let us hope that you are representative of the next generation. I’m going to be curious to see what happens to graduations, they’re going to start in about two weeks. And they there’s gonna be a lot of yelling and screaming at graduations, a lot of disruptions. And I just appreciate the fact that you all were so respectful to each other. That was hardly an endorsement of where we are, and more importantly, where we are headed. Those of you who have watched these segments know how concerned I am about where America sits right now. over recent months, we’ve explored many of the most pressing issues featuring the true voice of the American people. With the 2024 election only six months away, I urge you to go back into the America speaks archives right here at Strayer our news to see, hear and learn what Americans like you really think and really feel about the issues that matter most. I’m Dr. Frank Luntz. Thanks for watching

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