Teaching the 2016 Election: In Search of a Sorting Hat for Political Houses

by Barb Laimins, Teacher Mentor Liaison


An apt analogy for the four political parties who are holding conventions and nominating candidates this election cycle just might be found in the popular Harry Potter books.

"Try me on and I will tell you/ Where you ought to be"
    – J.K. Rowling, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"

A magical sorting hat assigns all the students of Hogwarts to the appropriate house at the start of every school year. Once the hat is placed on the student’s head, it is able to match the student to the house that aligns with the beliefs that each student values. Slytherin and Gryffindor are the major houses of Hogwarts and garner the most attention. The two other houses of Hogwarts, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, beliefs and values are often overlooked.

Similarly, the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions are given full coverage in the media but two other parties, Green Party and Libertarian Party, often go unnoticed. Both parties offer voters candidates for national/state offices and develop platforms that contain their ideology and vision for the future, but they struggle to gain visibility through the mainstream media.

The Libertarian Party has published their party platform and have chosen their candidates, Gary Johnson for President and William Weld for Vice President with little fanfare. The Green Party will hold their Annual National Meeting in Houston, Texas August 4-7 where they will nominate their candidates for President and Vice President and approve their platform, the Green New Deal.

Sadly or fortunately, students don’t have the benefit of a “sorting hat” that determines their “political house.” They have to inquire, research and hopefully take action to discover which political party coincides with their beliefs and values. Students can compare the platforms of the four parties to begin their discovery as they answer the compelling question: Do any of the political parties represent me?

This exercise seems particularly important in the context of the 2016 Election given the unpopularity of the two major party candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Young voters have shifted decisively to Democrats in recent cycles and fueled Senator Bernie Sanders’ surprise challenge to Clinton in the Democratic primary. While Sanders will make his case for Clinton in a prime time speech at tonight’s Democratic National Convention, his supporters are reluctant converts. Some may join #NeverTrump Republicans in a dance with third party alternatives, providing further intrigue.

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