The town that I grew up in was discernibly a bubble. I moved to New York, doing my best to break free from the suburban sameness I’d grown restless in. At NYU, I believed I would experience new people and ideas, enlightening discussion and a wider look at the world. With the results of the 2016 presidential election came a jarring realization, though — I had begun to occupy a new echo chamber of ignorance and bliss. The world was not my liberal oyster, and there were people out there whom I was not engaging with and was not cognizant of.
I’m spending my fall semester on NYU’s District of Columbia campus, and I’m making it my mission to burst my partisan bubble. I’m going to sit down with students, staff and professors this fall to learn about the nuances of the political views I’m surrounded by and the stories behind them.
This week, I sat down with NYU Shanghai junior Lizbeth Pantoja — who is also studying at the DC campus this semester — to discuss her political opinions.
Emily Fagel: How do you identify politically?
Lizbeth Pantoja: I self-identify as a socialist. If not that, a leftist.
EF: Have you always identified that way?
LP: No. Up until a few years ago, I was firmly a Democrat, but then I thought, the Democratic party is not nearly liberal enough. I consider them to be centrists, mostly concerned with keeping the status quo and creating an image of progress. That’s why I’m more left-leaning than even people like Bernie Sanders.
EF: Are there any particular areas in which you feel like you’re really far left, ideas that put you farther left than Bernie?
LP: Economic policies. One of the big things that I’m a proponent of is basic income. Universal basic income for all people. Maybe not in some minority countries, but definitely in the United States, people seem to take that as a controversial statement, which I don’t think it should be. Regardless of whether you work or you don’t work, regardless of who you are, every single person that lives in the United States should have some form of income provided by the government for them to be able to live. Everyone should have that basic requirement. Because everyone has the right to life.
EF: Did you grow up around Democrats?
LP: I grew up in Chicago — a pretty diverse, liberal city. I always had a tendency to have more leftist views, it’s just that I wasn’t as informed politically as I am now. I did grow up in a low-income neighborhood, from a low-income background. I’m a first generation American. So I’m familiar with a lot of different communities, and there are just certain injustices that I’ve seen in the world. I believe that the power systems in our country fundamentally need to be changed for us to make any kind of progress.
EF: Do you feel like everyone else in the NYUSH community feels the same way as you, politically?
LP: No, there’s definitely a pushback in Shanghai as well. I feel like living outside of the United States and meeting people from all over the world has really given me a chance to understand how the economic structures in the world — which is globalized — affect people not only within our country but in other countries as well.
EF: And what about here at NYUDC? How do you feel so far?
LP: I don’t think it’d be an inaccurate statement to say the majority of students here would identify as Democrats. I feel like that’s the realm of debate that I am constantly in, because a lot of [Democrats], they have a fundamental belief in the system. And I used to have that, as well. So I can understand where they’re coming from, and I can understand a lot of the arguments that they make. I just feel that it’s important to push back against that, so that they do see that there are flaws there.
And I’m not so idealistic to think that [systemic change] is just gonna happen, not even within my lifetime. I think that reform is important because people need help now, they don’t need help in however much time it’s gonna take to unite the global proletariat. I struggle with that a lot. Like, is it really possible to do something like that on a global scale? When free market capitalism is entrenched, not just in individual nations anymore, but within the global system?
It’s not like I think we can only do this and that’s the only thing that I will buy into. I very much believe in policy and reform as a means to help people that need help now. I just think that, at some point, we’re gonna have to look at the fundamental problems, the roots of the problems, that underlie so many issues that we have — not only in the United States, but in the world. And that is gonna require systemic change.
Email Emily Fagel at [email protected]