As the presidential election enters the home stretch (obligatory sports metaphor/cliche), the candidates from either major political party are prepared to make their final arguments on why you should hate them the least. Lovett students say that in the process of running for president, the two candidates are tearing this nation apart.
Like many, Senior Senaidra Reynolds isn’t thrilled with the direction the election has been heading. She finds it fascinating that Hillary Clinton can run for the highest office in the nation while being investigated by the FBI. “I just don’t get it,” she says. “I also don’t understand how we as a society could have let these two people come this far.”
Junior Noah Lee thinks that the 2016 election is the worst election in a long time because it “isn’t professional at all.” He also believes that this election cycle is polarizing America to a historic degree. He says that this election “is splitting people apart more than any election has. If you say you’re for the other candidate, people will basically bash you or bash whoever you think is better.”
For him, Clinton and Trump leave very little middle ground for the moderates. “The candidates are kind of like Yin and Yang in the most extreme sense because Donald Trump is strongly pointing towards security over freedom and Hillary is for freedom rather than security,” he says. “There’s no medium at all for any of them.”
Senior Diana Daniela agrees that this election has forced formerly moderate voters onto one political party or the other. She says, “You don’t have a moderate choice. People might be moderate but there is no moderate candidate.”
While the outcome of the primaries might not be favorable for moderates, both candidates were chosen by their respective parties over alternate, possibly more moderate, candidates. One freshman who requested to remain unnamed says, “I think maybe there were a couple of moderate candidates but they didn’t get as much support as those who have stronger and stricter opinions.”
Senior Peyton Bogard echoes this sentiment saying, “I think the best candidates for the presidency were knocked out in the preliminary rounds by Donald Trump. So I think if I could go back and fix it, I would choose a few different people from the primaries.”
According to Stanford political scientist Morris Fiorina (no affiliation to former candidate Carly Fiorina), people like Peyton are very common. Despite popular opinion, the majority of Americans are not feeling the effects of political polarization. In fact, only 15% of the population has moved farther to the left or right in the last few years.
However, this cannot be said by the “political class.” The elected officials and political activists have gone farther to the right and left of their respective sides of the political spectrum. In other words, the left-wing Democrats have moved to further to the left and the right-wing Republicans have moved further to the right.
This difference between the elected officials and their voters becomes a problem when the elected officials don’t represent the opinions of the voters and there isn’t another option. Such is the case in this election.
Unfortunately for many Americans and Lovett students, the process in which the American people choose who will lead the country for the next four years has boiled down to who they hate the least. Junior Danny Nelson says, “I feel that the candidate who wins is going to be least hated out of the two but not the most liked.”
Although Peyton cannot vote, he still finds himself in this exact situation. He reluctantly decided that Donald Trump is slightly better than Hillary Clinton saying, “It’s not because I want to see Donald Trump in the office but because I don’t want to see Hillary in office.”
As a “purple” voter, Senaidra perfectly describes the attitude of the election, saying, “It’s the biggest game of Would You Rather.”
In the most important game of Would You Rather in recent history, Senaidra is glad she isn’t a player. “I’m kind of glad I can’t vote because I don’t like where the country would head,” she says. However, if she could, she says she wouldn’t vote for Trump or Hillary.
However, she feels like voting for a third party isn’t effective unless the party gets a sudden surge of attention. “I feel like one individual vote to a third party candidate isn’t enough.You’d need a bunch of people to suddenly start paying attention to them,” she says.
The unnamed freshman thinks that third parties don’t get enough name recognition to stand against the two candidates in the election. “I kind of don’t think it’s realistic for [third party candidates] to be elected because they don’t get nearly enough money to fund the ads in order to get the name recognition that ultimately gets people to vote for them,” he says.
In a way, he is correct. A September 21st article from Bloomberg states that Clinton’s campaign spent $11.5 million on general election campaign TV ads for a single week in September while Trump’s campaign has spent $2.4 million on that same week. In comparison, Libertarian party nominee, Gary Johnson, set aside $464,000 for the entire month of September according to a CNN Article from early September.
An even more astonishing fact is that Hillary Clinton has spent more money on advertising in one week than Gary Johnson has raised over the course of his campaign. Gary Johnson has raised approximately $7.9 million dollars, $3.6 less than Hillary’s ad budget for a week.
While Trump doesn’t spend nearly as much money on advertising compared to his opponent, his controversial statements earn him more money in advertising dollars than all the other candidates combined. A MarketWatch article from early May estimates that Trump had already received $3 billion in free advertising from media coverage. While the advertising may be in a negative light, as 19th century American showman and circus owner Phineas T. Barnum once said, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
In fact, the candidates are so persistent with their advertising that some people can’t escape the election. Noah says that he is forced to follow the election because it’s everywhere. “Even ads on friggin UnblockedGames.com you see ‘vote for Trump’ or ‘vote for Hillary’ on the little ad thing. I’m like what the heck? I just want to play Wrestle Jump,” he says.
This media prevalence can backfire. Such is the case with Peyton, who gets annoyed at what the presidential candidates say.
“If I tag into a Donald Trump speech, I’d be like ‘alright.’ Then I’d be like ‘wait, what did you just say? Dude, Really? You’re going to make Republicans look like that? There we go. Good job buddy.’” he says. “And then when I watch Hillary’s speeches it’s like, ‘wow, is anything your real words or are you just reading the teleprompter all the time?’”
However, what some find annoying, others might find comedic. Danny thinks that the coverage of elections has become less political and more comedic. “People are trying to point out the funny things or the absurdly stupid things Trump or Hillary did,” he says. “They’re not really watching it in a political sense that people have done in the past.”
Noah agrees with Danny, saying, “It’s certainly the most meme-able election.” Meanwhile Diana compares the election to another form of entertainment: “It’s like a reality tv show at this point.”
At the end of the day, with two outspoken and controversial candidates who may or may not represent the people voting for them, and the first general election debate taking place on September 26th, the fate of the America is in the air and its people are holding their breaths and craning their neck to see if it lands heads or tails.
As Senaidra simply puts it: “Good luck America.”