What an election season, am I right? The most disturbing thing about this current election cycle is not even just how polarized the country is, but the fact that instead of talking about pertinent issues such as healthcare, climate change, jobs and immigration, we are focused on whether Hillary Clinton still has pneumonia and the misogynistic comments that Donald Trump has made. The whole nature of the debates was concerning for me. The fact that Donald Trump brought women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault to the second debate is so uncalled for and irrelevant. Bill isn’t running for president, HILLARY IS! Do we really want a president that uses words such as “bigly” and “stupidest”? He interrupted Hillary Clinton in all three presidential debates by interjecting “WRONG.”When will this stop? I completely understand that transparency of these candidates is crucial, however, I think we need to start talking about the issues that are at stake. These are issues that will impact future generations and important policy decisions that will shape the course of this nation for decades to come. And if we want to cultivate a group of leaders with integrity, a sense of responsibility, honesty and effective communication skills, it starts with how leaders running for the highest office of the land conduct themselves in their public and private lives.
It is discouraging as a student studying politics and international affairs to rarely even hear about policy suggestions and prescriptions from the two major party candidates. The debates have become a sort of free-for-all chaotic frenzy of Donald Trump interrupting Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton bringing up all of the nasty things that Donald Trump has said throughout the primary season and throughout his lifetime. The fact that the last question in the third and final presidential debate on October 19 was about “the fitness to be president” is appalling to me. When faced with issues such as immigration, the economy, health care, college education, energy, and climate change, we CANNOT afford to spend time comparing who is less corrupt. We just cannot. Talking about whether the election is “rigged” is absolutely astonishing. Trump is always complaining about how corrupt and terrible the media is. How is this productive? What are Americans gaining from his complaining? It is already very difficult to motivate other students and millennials to participate in civic engagement.
On the night of the third presidential debate, the Wake Forest Communications and Politics and International Affairs Departments, with the help of Dr. Pisapia and Dr. Von Burg, hosted a Presidential Debate Watch with Live Audience Polling. Towards the end of the debate, one of the polling questions was, “Do you believe the talk of a “rigged” election is harmful to American democracy?” The responses were as follows from Wake Forest undergraduate students: Yes: 78% and No: 22%. This response was fascinating to me, in part because 22% of the students present have an underlying feeling of mistrust and skepticism towards the U.S. government and our election process. How can we fix this? What steps can we take to ensure that citizens feel that they can trust in the process and in our democracy?
However, there is hope. The hope comes from millennials who are seriously focused on these crucial topics such as the Syrian refugee crisis and education in this country. Thanks to the efforts of engaged students, my Wake Forest peers are screening documentaries about the importance of bipartisanship, registering constituents to vote, and leading grassroots movements to make a difference in this world, generally with positive attitudes. It has been a wild ride following this election with Wake The Vote! Don’t forget to #votehot on November 8th or even take advantage of early voting!
Daniella M. Feijoo