On Tuesday, November 8th, Americans, including some Lovett students, cast their ballots to choose our country’s next president. Of course, that followed scandals, proposals to arrest both candidates, and nasty debates. I’ve heard countless students say that they’re thankful they aren’t old enough to vote in this election because the political climate right now is so controversial.
Even so, they were given an opportunity to express their own political views in a mock election here at Lovett, run by Mr. Jewell’s law and government class. This followed an assembly to educate students on both candidates.
At the assembly Mr. Jewell spoke for a few minutes, and then showed a student-produced video that demonstrated how much we don’t know, and then provided suggestions to gain political literacy. The video was in the style of a newscast, and students acted as correspondents, interviewing people around the school and asking them basic questions about our political system. Our lack of knowledge was highlighted when almost no one was able to say how many electoral college votes were needed to win the presidency, and one man thought that Obama was our 46th president (he is actually our 44th).
Wilson Dobbs, one of the anchors, recalled the video as his favorite part of the whole mock election. “I liked researching this, because everyone only understands a little bit but it’s actually more interesting,” he said.
They chose to focus on doing videos instead of live action or debates because of the powder-keg nature of this election. The main issue that was debated was bias. “When we planned the assembly, we really did argue about what to cut. Some stuff was considered too biased,” said Mr. Jewell.
At the close of the assembly, students were encouraged to research candidates before making their choices. The next week was the mock election, which included the middle school.
Over the course of the day on November 8, students in Mr. Jewell’s class were dismissed from their normal schedule to stay at the polling booth from 7:30-3:30. Even in the early morning, members of the Lovett community, armed with IDs in hand, lined up at the booth, just as their parents would do. We had a late start for actual senior and teacher voting as well.
Once at the polls, everyone used an iPad to answer a short survey. They were asked whether they were a teacher or student, and if they were a student, whether they were voting for the same candidate as their parents were. The ballot options were Clinton, Johnson, and Trump. According to Alina Buckley, Jill Stein was left off because the class wanted to mirror the Georgia ballot.
Just like the real election, Trump won.
There were some interesting trends. While Trump did secure the majority in every year, the gap closed over the grades, as there were progressively more Democratic votes. It jumped from being lowest at 35% in sixth grade to highest at 41% in eleventh. The most Republican-voting grade was the freshman class, which was polling about 68% in support of Trump.
This election was driven by rhetoric, according to sophomore Shelby Jordan. “I supported Trump. I think that because he’s funny and entertaining on stage, people in the high school and middle school were thinking more about the [Hillary] scandal side of the election when they voted,” she said.
Even with individuals like Shelby behind him, the entire country seemed surprised at the Trump win. In fact, very few news sources predicted his success besides the LA Times and Breitbart. The triumph was shocking to senior Max Russ, who “was surprised, because it seemed like Hillary was going to win.”
Even in our school, the jury was out. While senior Celia Schwarz, head of the Young Liberals club, was rooting for Hillary and anticipated her success, junior Kiki Huang correctly predicted that Trump would win, at least within the school election.
Many students on both ends of the political spectrum seemed to accept that Trump had a large base of support at Lovett. “I thought that Trump would win because we live in Georgia and we have an environment at this school which is dominated by much more traditionally conservative, wealthy individuals,” said senior Ben Rau.
Ben’s point on student voting extends far further than Georgia. In fact, Mr. Jewell and Mr. Buczek explained that the way students and kids vote is commonly how their parents do. Trump winning Georgia and Lovett is not terribly surprising. “I always find it interesting that students who will challenge their parents on everything will swallow their political beliefs,” said Mr. Buczek.
This phenomenon circles back to political education and literacy, Lovett’s main impetus in holding a student wide election. Senior Harriet Knox, one of the students who ran the mock election, explained that ways to educate yourself as a student include “taking the class, or watching the news. But don’t keep it to one network, because networks can be biased.”
Ben Rau, who followed the election closely, agrees with this. While he was a Hillary supporter, Trump’s win makes sense to him, because he feels that there was an overwhelming support of change that drove Trump’s platform. “My hope is that Trump does follow a traditional businessman’s model of compromise and have it work out instead of being the controversial person that he comes across as during the campaign,” he said. Indeed, many mourned Trump’s election, seeing it as a sign of bigotry and hate in America.
But many Republicans agree with that interpretation. Students who were in support of Trump also hope for a moderate take on the presidency after a powder-keg campaign. Evan McKown, a Trump supporter from the get-go, said “that the presidential campaigns do not reflect the true values of the United States. This presidential election has shown to be a very different and interesting campaign, full of shots and very little debate on policies.”
At the end of the day, Lovett is a community regardless of political controversy. At the end of this election, what we can most hope for among the student population--and among the larger American populace--is increased civic engagement.
Celia Schwarz put it well when recounting how she deals with individuals whose political views clash with hers. “Even if I don’t agree with the other side, I still like you,” she said.