A commentary on the 2020 election for future voters
I watched as the two candidates screamed at each other on TV, constantly interrupting each other, insults reverberating in my living room as I ate off-brand Cheetos on the couch. Every pixel of the TV shined bright as moderator Chris Wallace desperately attempted to calm the situation down and enforce speaking time limits. In the panel after the debates, the news anchors looked at each other in disbelief, shaking their heads. “What was that?” anchor Andrea Mitchell of NBC asked, face morphing as she searched for the correct expression. Her co-anchors nodded along, soon drifting into another topic.
Though many people called the debates “terrible” and “unprofessional,” I do believe that they reflected America. It reflected the state of America now, where screaming protestors and counter protesters charge at each other to fight on the street, where supporters of candidates buy gaudy political merchandise to adorn their houses and cars with, where the nation is torn and can barely agree on anything at all. In such a giant nation, how could we fix this? I decided to see if I could find the answer locally, from those in our very own community. I am proud to present my own panel of contributors: student Amy Zhang (12), student Shika Adhikari (12), and Syeda Imandar, the president of the local branch of League of Women Voters.
Each person replying is representative of a different segment of voters. Amy Zhang (12) is unable to vote, but keeps up with politics heavily and is excited to eventually vote in the 2022 midterm elections. Shika Adhikari (12) is unable to vote, keeps up with politics sometimes, and is moderately excited to vote. Syeda Imandar is part of the activist/educational branch of voters and involved in the democratic process (including registering voters and providing election information).
Our first topic was how the pandemic was affecting the election, be it politically or physically. Politically, Amy Zhang mentioned that there will be a party separation in voting, with “the majority of Democrats/people leaning toward the left voting by mail” while “Trump supporters are… voting in person.” Zhang finished off by stating that President Trump is “trying to discount mail-in voting” but that she does not believe him because “in the past eight years there’s been barely any cases of fraud out of millions of mail-in ballots.” Shikha Adhikari pointed out the different logistics of the campaign. She stated that she felt there would be “less chances of cyber interference because most of the voting is mail-in or in-person.” Adhikari pointed out the effects that this would have on the campaigns themselves and how she is scared that “the candidates won’t be able to express their viewpoints thoroughly or consistently because of the shortage of debates and interactions between the people.” Syeda Imandar and Adhikari both addressed the issue of possible lower turnout from those “concerned about social distancing.” Imandar tells voters not to listen to the “various rumors about mail in ballots” and that they are a “good way to vote.”
Our conversation moved to the topic of voters, especially future voters. Both Zhang and Adhikari expressed unhappiness with their inability to cast a ballot for their preferred candidate (Joe Biden for both). Zhang feels that this election is “so, so, so important” and that “we need leaders that will unite the country instead of separating it.” Her thoughts echoed Adhikari’s, who exclaimed that “There’s a lot of division within our society.” and “Biden will bring unity, and we need unity in the midst of this chaos.” Both also cited the president’s behavior in their choice of Joe Biden. Zhang cited President Trump’s “sexual assault allegaltions” and “his disregard for science.” Adhikari cited her view that President Trump “did not handle things properly at all in this term” and that, in contrast, Candidate Joe Biden, will be “able to professionally express his views as president.” Syeda Imandar added that all voters should “make the time to do the research” and look at “analytical/nonpartisan information.” Imandar states that voters can watch “candidate forums online” and even “personally contact candidates” to learn more.
Interested in getting additional perspective, I asked each contributor what issues were personally important to them. Amy Zhang stated that “systemic racism and its effects on African-Americans” is extremely important to her. She elaborates that “It’s nuts when you see how these officers treat people who are peacefully protesting. It’s even worse when you see its results on African Americans, how they’ve been disproportionately targeted by police officers.” Shikha commented that she wants “peace of the country,” “unity,” and “a good educational curriculum.” Syeda Inamdar stated that “voting” and making “sure everyone has the access to the right to vote” is important to her. Inamdar also named the specific issue of climate change, and states she feels that “Whether you believe climate change is man-made or not man-made, the issue is we need to address it, because it’s going to impact all of us.”
After getting a personal perspective from each contributor, I asked what seemed like a big issue in general going into the election. Amy Zhang, Shika Adhikari, and Syeda Imander all cited President Trump’s handling of the pandemic. Zhang said she heard that the president was “pushing a Covid vaccine that people are really skeptical about” and that Covid-19 “isn’t being treated as a public health issue, it’s like a political issue.” Drawing from Journalist Bob Woodward’s now released tapes with President Trump, Zhang said “he knew about the pandemic through those video recordings back in January, he knew how dangerous it was but refused to take action until March.” Adhikari said that she does not like that “everyone is in a state of confusion” and that the president’s “unreliable messages” makes her dislike the president. She feels that instead “we need someone who can face the facts and follow proper science, especially from professionals and project that onto the people.” Imander added that a major issue is how a candidate will “manage a pandemic, because you may have a crisis, but the way it’s managed really impacts the outcome.”
Seeing all the difference in answers, I asked if politics was becoming more divisive. Amy Zhang felt that “politics in general is becoming more divided” and that “[my] mom and I have pretty different views about certain things. It definitely leads to fights.” She also blamed bias in the media, such as “political ads that you see on Facebook or on various social media where they present different versions of the truth depending on which way you’re leaning.” She finished by saying that President Trump and Candidate Joe Biden are the “two most qualified people in our country to be the most powerful person in the world” yet “couldn’t get through it (the debate) without constantly interrupting each other, without throwing insults everywhere.” Shikha Adhikari also commented on the candidates and their poor behavior at the first debate, stating that “when it’s a debate to express yourself to the citizens on why you’re a good choice at president, it’s clearly not a good show when you’re resorting to such behavior on stage in front of thousands of people who are watching.” Sayeda Imandar talked about the lack of bipartisanship, and how “in the past, people who were very even on opposite sides of the spectrum, still managed to come together and have a civil dialogue.” Much like Zhang, she blames social media and the speed of information, how “rumors may have passed from person to person by phone, maybe on a newspaper [back in the day], but now you can move misinformation like this.” She snapped her fingers as she spoke to signal how fast it was.
Having talked at length about the two main parties, I asked how each contributor felt about the two party system and third parties. Shikha stated that she would not vote for a third party, and how “usually my family and I only support one party.” Amy Zhang, on the other hand, stated her disappointment with the two party candidates and how she would be researching a third party “called “People’s movement” which supports ideas brought by the people instead of political parties that are funded by major corporations.” Syeda Imandar promoted “ranked-choice voting” because she feels it could cause “ more party participation.” She feels it could help those who “are disillusioned with both party systems because of money in politics and lobbyists and the fact that it costs money to run for election/office.”
I asked a final question on which candidates each contributor liked the most. Amy Zhang cited Senator Bernie Sanders “because he supports a lot of the things I support, which is Medicare for all, Green New Deal, all of that.” Elaborating on Medicare for all, she states that “Americans’ health insurance is one of the most expensive costs. Most Americans can’t afford an accident, a ride to the hospital or any of that. The U.S. is the richest country in the world, but we don’t have enough money to support all this.” Shika Adhikari stated that current candidate Joe Biden was her favorite because “he talked about a more progressive approach- helping with jobs, paying attention to the environment, and it’s beneficial towards many people.” Syeda Imanadar did not endorse or support any particular candidate, but concluded with “ I’m just going to say, one more thing is, if you blindly follow a party platform or you blindly follow a leader, that’s almost cult-like. What the United States affords you to do is the ability to think for yourself. And that’s a very precious right.”