“You know, we forget sometimes. In all the talk about democracy, we forget it’s not a democracy. It’s a republic. People don’t make the decisions. They “choose” the people who make the decisions. Could they do a better job choosing? Yeah, but when you consider the alternatives…”
I could think of no better way to describe this election season than with the words of fictitious President Josiah “Jeb” Bartlett from The West Wing. With the lackluster options forced upon us by our two-party system this year, it makes our choices much more complicated. Whatever your political leanings, you have to admit that the two geriatric, white individuals that we have to choose from for the highest political office in our country will never live up to the class, humor, and all-around-coolness of the Obamas. And let’s not even get into Joe Biden. He is probably the most well liked veep in history, second only to Julia Louis-Dreyfuss.
While this election cycle has been one of the most divisive in history, there has been wholesale agreement within the college educated, millennial camp (of which I am a card carrying member), that Hillary Clinton is the only logical choice for President. Her numbers with this group are pretty high and here are a couple reasons why: She hasn’t said she wants to build a wall separating the US from Mexico or ban certain immigrants from the US solely based upon their religious beliefs and countries of origin. She hasn’t made comments attacking minorities or women. She certainly has not said that even if she shot someone in the middle of the street, people would still vote for her…the list goes on.
However, she isn’t running away with this election either; she’s only up by about 10 points in the most recent polls. She has her own skeletons in her closet and her status as just-another-Washington-insider, isn’t doing her any favors. For all of his vitriol and bluster, Donald Trump continues to blunder along, pissing off another group of people or media outlet every day. With every attack, his base grows ever stronger in their beliefs that the election itself is rigged and that their candidate is an underdog.
At this point I will say that I am not voting for Donald Trump. As a blasian (black and Chinese), 24-year-old, straight, law student, growing up in an upper middle-class household in southern New Jersey, his comments on race and ethnic identity are most upsetting to me. Now, I will also say that I am not in love with the prospect of voting for Hillary Clinton, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Most of my friends grew up in similar situations to me and they have similar political views. I am hard-pressed to find anyone that holds opposing views to mine and has a similar background. However, I finally did and, let me tell you, it blew my mind.
I recently got drinks with a guy that I have known since I was five years old. We’ll call him Alex for the purposes of this article. He’s a straight, white male, who grew up about 10 minutes away from me, went to private schools through college, and is now working on his MBA. We were just catching up when the conversation turned to politics. I forget how we got to this point, but all I do know is that he said that he was going to vote for Donald Trump. I was flabbergasted. I asked myself, how could an individual that I have known my entire life vote for a person that has stated his hatred for minorities as vigorously as Donald Trump? I was so confused. And then I started asking some questions.
The most important question for me was why? Why would Alex hold such a view? Was there something that I had overlooked or missed? What he said next was definitely something I had not considered. Alex asked me, “Would you rather vote for a liar or someone that speaks their mind?” That question definitely stopped me in my tracks.
Although I really do not like what Trump has on his so-called mind, I could not disagree that he very rarely backs down or flip-flops on issues; when he says something, that is the end of it and you just have to get over it. Hillary Clinton is a seasoned politician that knows what to say and when to say it. That makes her a very formidable individual, but it is also difficult to pin her down on how she actually feels about some of these issues.
He bolstered his decision by talking about some more specific issues. Job growth was very important to him and he saw a marked lack of growth under the Obama Administration, which Hillary was a part of. Specifically, he spent time volunteering in one of the poorest cities in the nation, Camden, New Jersey. He saw the degradation and the hopelessness on the streets and attributed it to programs that Democrats fiercely support including food stamps and extending welfare programs. These programs, he claimed, created government dependency that stifled innovation and the drive for success.
Alex also raised a point about immigration. He said that, under Obama, our border patrol officers were moved to lower traffic areas and had their resources severely cut so they were unable to protect our border effectively. He stands by the assertion that this country is built upon immigration and that immigration is very important to the growth and evolution of our country. I pressed him on this point, specifically around the idea that building a wall was the answer. He did not confirm nor deny the idea of the wall, but stood by the claim that we need a new approach to border control.
He ended by saying that he does not like Donald Trump. He does not agree with many of the things that he says. However, he cannot vote for Clinton due to her lies and the failures of the Obama administration, one that she supported. That is why he is voting Trump. I took his opinions to heart and carefully considered his points. Unlike many of the other Trump supporters that the media broadcasts, there was no screaming nor racial epithet volleyed across the table; we had measured and cultured discourse about some fundamental values which we disagree on. I certainly did not change my mind about voting for Hillary and he did not change his mind voting for Trump, but we both heard each other which I think is something terribly lacking in this particular electoral contest.
To be clear, I did not fact-check Alex nor was that the point of this article.
The point was to show that college-educated millennials might be more split on their choice for President than we first thought.
The way that the media and my Facebook feed vilifies Trump supporters, it is not a wonder that we have not heard from more millennials with opposing views. I think the other point that I am trying to make is that cultured political discourse is best held with a drink in your hand, and a good friend across the table from you. Take the conversation offline, meet people where they are, and stop threatening to defriend people that you do not agree with.
Condoleezza Rice famously said, if all of your friends look and think like you, then you need a new group of friends.