I'm currently at a semester school in Washington, D.C., and a group of my fellow SEGLettes and I decided to casually do some homework on the lawn of the Library of Congress. Naturally, as politically-minded teens, we decided to discuss the current election. Please note, my comments (that I added after the conversation happened) are in PINK.
The teen feminists:
- Clara Sanchez-Vela --> 16-year-old high school junior in Brooklyn, NY and currently studying in D.C. She loves to dance, act, learn about other cultures, and listen to Spanish music.
- Jaspreet Kaur --> High school junior. She lives in North Carolina but was born in New York City. She loves singing, acting, makeup, and leadership. She loves discussing politics, religion and feminism.
- Kate Flicker --> Motivated high school junior at Greens Farms Academy and is currently studying at a semester school in Washington, DC. She is a featured author in Penumbra, her home school’s literary magazine, and is the founder of EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking). She is also involved in student government, Model UN, and her schools’s chapter of Komera. Additionally, she is an intern for the Yale Center for Asylum Medicine.
- Marina Legorreta --> Junior at Grace Church School in New York City. She is 16 years old and is passionate about politics and feminism.
- Zora Ilunga-Reed --> High school junior born and raised in NYC. In the summer of 2016, she began We the Ppl, a political podcast for people who can't vote. This semester, she is studying at SEGL, a semester program in D.C.
- & Me!
Do you think this presidential race is different from presidential races in the past? How so?
Zora: So, I think everyone's obviously been saying that this presidential race is really different from the ones we've had in the past... I think it's important to remember that we've had Obama (AKA bae) for two terms but I think that this is the way that history goes in cycles. You have average races for a bit and then you have these alternative races. It's really important to look at the world in general (Yeah, it's really important to get the big picture of presidential election history before you start going all alarmist and THIS IS THE WORST ELECTION EVER AHHH!) and how politics is changing, like with Brexit, the Syrian Crisis, the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and all of the terrorist groups in Africa and the Middle East. Everything has become already more conservative in that we feel more attacked on all sides... Media has [also] become more alarmist. All of these factors together contribute to make it seem like this election is really crazy. (Not that this election isn't kinda a hot mess sometimes, but it's not the first one to be that way.)
Jaspreet: But I also feel that in some ways, it's different because with this specific election, Donald Trump has gotten so much free coverage and publicity. (Yeah, it's like his reality show has continued to be filmed during his run, but IRL.) Everyone knows the "super-crazy" things that he has said.
Zora: The other really interesting thing is that we haven't had a celebrity presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan, so I think that's just the way that races change when you have someone famous for something else in the private sector or something. (Ok, I find it really weird that Ronald Reagan was in movies before he was president... Going on his IMDB made me really uncomfortable.) It makes politics seem so much more dirty to me. Also, we have a very new candidate (Donald Trump) and a very old one (Hillary Clinton) (Not age-wise. Donald Trump is like super old. Hillary's not young, but not as old as Trump.), so inevitably, there's a lot of clash there.
Kate: I think it's also people's tendencies, with so much going on in the world - so much fear, so much anxiety - based on all of these different atrocities that are occurring... for their insecurities to manifest themselves in their vote and I think a lot of people are feeling conflicted as to what to do. Again, Donald Trump is so new, he's so different, he's on the total polar opposite end of the spectrum and then, Hillary Clinton is so experienced, and in my opinion, that's why I have my trust in her more than Donald Trump. (Same, girl. Same.) But, I understand that people are really fearful and they want change; they want betterment, which is especially rare in this election because there are two totally polar opposites dealing with the same conflicts.
Jaspreet: I heard this speaker say that you can't blame the people who support Trump because they have grievances that haven't been properly addressed yet, and I think that's a very powerful point because, previously to that speech, I have always thought of people who support Donald Trump as stupid [and I wanted to ask them:] "how could you think that?". Donald Trump's opinions are so radical, like building a wall for example; that's something I'd never even consider doing. (Building a wall between the United States and Mexico is something I'd never even think anyone would ever consider doing, but obviously, someone did.) That's such an important aspect to this. [Because of the fear manifested by current events], they want someone who sounds like they will take care of every fear you will ever have about anyone who's not white. I think that's a very important part of this election, too.
Zora: One thing to remember, also, is that we haven't had another president since the recession. Obama was president during the recession and then he was president right after that. The way that the recession was manifested was that many people lost their life's savings and their 401Ks and all that. There's this feeling of disillusionment among blue-collar, white, lower-middle-class people because of the recession. There's obviously still economic problems in this country, even though we've had a pretty good run recently and they feel like Obama didn't do a good job with it at all, so that's why I think you see the backlash with Donald Trump, because they think they need a leader who will, in the face of something like the recession, be strong and powerful and fight for America, as opposed to being more of an Obama-like candidate. (Personally, I feel that America needs another Obama-like candidate, a.k.a. Hillary Clinton.) Hillary Clinton and Obama are pretty similar.
Kate: There's this fear [among] people that we really do need someone new, because we've had Obama in office for eight years. Obama and Hillary have a lot of the same beliefs and opinions, or at least their parties do. A lot of people are feeling that we need a new person to change things in a way we haven't seen before.
Me: I think there's a fear of having someone new, and also a relief for having someone new, because we've all seen how Obama handles problems, and I guess in some sectors of foreign policy regarding terrorism, we definitely need new leadership, or new kinds of leadership. I think that a lot of people, while they still want Obama, [feel that new leadership needs to be implemented]. Personally, I feel very safe with him here - we're literally blocks away from his house, even though I don't even know if he's there - watching over us and kinda having our backs. I'm sure Hillary Clinton will too, in my opinion. (When she's president, obv.) Donald Trump, not so sure! It's to be expected that there's tension regarding having new leadership in the White House, but we definitely need some new leadership, especially regarding foreign policy. Hillary Clinton has a lot of foreign policy experience, so I think that might go more smoothly than it did in the Obama administration.
Kate: Something else I've found really interesting is that we're all agreed upon the fact that Donald Trump's ideals are very new from what we're used to. Also, his slogan is Make America Great Again. However, while this is going on, his campaign (and America) are kinda going backwards. My favorite Hillary quote is "We need to build bridges, not walls." (Ugh, same. She's just amazing tbh.) I think it's interesting how Donald Trump is a very new figure for these very new problems, but he's not looking for progression - he's looking to go back.
Marina: Fear is definitely really important in this election. If you look at the candidates, Donald Trump is obviously really radical and is instilling fear in all these people, and then [one of the other ones], Bernie Sanders, talked about how we needed to have a revolution. It's something that isn't really typical in American elections. (Donald Trump is so untypical. A figure like him in American politics hasn't ever really happened and it's horrifying to think about him at the forefront of the country.)
Jaspreet: We get a lot of our information from the media, and as each election goes on, they're going to get more and more selective about which quotes they're going to put in the newspapers and everything. I think as people depend more on the media for the "right news", it completely changes the dynamic of the election. The media is only picking what they want to portray. (The media is definitely playing a huge role in making this election more alarmist and !!DIFFERENT!! than all other elections because of the amount of time spent dramatizing it.)
Me: In my opinion, I think that this election, especially since there's a celebrity involved, which hasn't happened for a long time, the media has been turning towards alarmist politics in a way where they're trying to instill fear in the population so that they get more readership - so people keep checking the news to see if Donald Trump said something that will either dramatically hurt his campaign or ensure that he's president (hopefully the former), or if Hillary Clinton did something else with her emails. I think that especially since Donald Trump is such a controversial figure in the media, news sources are using his past celebrity to amp up their voices and readership, which leads to more clickbait. "You won't believe what Donald Trump said this weekend!"
Zora: "Ten crazy things Donald Trump said!" And, just piggy-backing off of what you said, I think it's really detrimental to the country if the media continues to be this alarmist, and if people continue to disregard Donald Trump voters. If you stamp out people's voices, what you do is create grievances, which can lead to massive political change and disruption. I think that's the big problem with the "alt-right" (alternative right, which I think is a completely horrible name for them, because it reminds me of "alt-rock".)
Me: Yeah, alt-rock is much better.
Zora: Assuming Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, if she completely ignores Donald Trump or doesn't put any Trump-like figures in her administration or allow them to speak, it'll be a horrible race come 2020. (It'll totally suck to have those mindsets there, in my opinion, but it's necessary in order for everyone to feel equally represented in the government.)
Marina: I think that's why she chose Tim Kaine, instead of going with a more left choice, because if you look at his policy, it's more moderate-democrat. And he's Christian, so he does appeal to those Republican voters who have been one-foot-in, one-foot-out about voting for Donald Trump.
Me: And, as Hillary said, he's kinda boring -
Clara: He's a rice-cooker.
Me: *snorts* Yeah, a rice-cooker. He kinda takes away from the alarmist politics of the race in the way that he's a grandfatherly figure. I like how Hillary Clinton is moving in the opposite direction of Trump's alarmist politics and I think it's really good to have a figure there who you know won't do anything radical. It's nice that she chose someone who's stoic and solid and has funny eyebrows. (Check 'em out.)
Zora: I would vote for his eyebrows for president. Also, Mike Pence. I read his "On the Issues" article and [it said that] he was one of the people who voted for a policy that would make women who had abortions hold funerals for their unborn babies. That's disgusting, in my opinion. (Yeah, he's a wackadoo.) He seems centrist, like a John McCain-type. But, he's so not.
Jaspreet: I feel like we should keep including young people in politics -
Zora: Check out We the Ppl politics!! (We the Ppl is this awesome podcast that Zora hosts. Y'all have to check it out.)
Jaspreet: It's so important to include little kids in politics so that one day, we can get to the point where there are so many kids involved and so many candidates that they would love to have.
Me: And they're going to grow up under either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, so...
Jaspreet: Yeah, I feel so grateful that, at the age of 15, I know so much about [politics], even though I can't vote yet. I don't want to learn about it at the age of 18.
Marina: Hillary's trying to do that right now. She's trying to reach out to all of the millennials: opening instagram, twitter -
Basically everyone: THE APP!! (The Hillary Clinton app-game-thing is amazing. Download it and friend me.)
Kate: Have you ever noticed, as a Hillary supporter, listening to people's conversations and hearing that they don't like Hillary - kind of like [not liking her] is a fad, almost? I think that the people are using her email scandal as an excuse for a lack of legitimacy in her government. That plays an important role in the election, and a lot of people aren't realizing [that].
Me: Okay, so I'm going to end this here. Does anyone have any final statements about who they think will win the election?
Zora: Jill Stein.
Me: I'll throw a carrot at you.