The Politics of Politics

Quinn Johnson, Writer

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goodNext November, millions of American teens will be able to vote for the first time in a Presidential election and help determine the future of our country. Some have been eagerly anticipating this moment for years; some are barely aware of its impending arrival. At this article’s printing, three Democrats and a whopping 16 Republicans (including everyone’s favorite toupee-wearing, outspoken businessman, Donald Trump) have their hats in the ring. Trump’s meteoric rise, however maligned, deserves praise for turning the conventions of political campaigns on their head. Trump touts himself as a man who believes that, due to his wealth, he cannot be bought. His outspoken, straight-from-the-gut opinions, like them or not, ensure he receives near-constant media coverage without paying a dime. If he can keep up his breakneck momentum for the next year, there’s a chance we could see Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s chosen candidate; an unlikely event that would nonetheless demonstrate the true irony of the American Political System. With so many choices, it can be hard to figure out who you want to align yourself with, especially for a student just entering into the wide world of civic responsibility.

“I don’t know who I’ll vote for… It depends on both parties’ candidates,” says self-identified Centrist Senior Ryan Erdahl, who professes no preference between Republicans and Democrats but “would consider” Ben Carson if he wins the Republican primary. However, many Seniors have been anticipating this moment and are excited about the chance to exercise their constitutional rights. Senior Adam Sloma is planning to vote for Senator Bernie Sanders, an outspoken candidate who flouts convention and relies exclusively on grassroots support. Sloma would’ve considered the more traditional candidate if Vice President Joe Biden would’ve run, but Joe is off the fence and has bowed out. Sloma cites Sanders’ determination to repeal the Supreme Court’s Citizens United verdict and the “get money out of politics” angle that Sanders touts. Also, Sloma insists, “[Sanders is] a socialist and I’m a socialist.”

Civics/AP Gov teacher and raging Justin Timberlake fanboy Mike Schaefer sees a lot of support for Sanders among the student body, because his policies of “free college and more personal freedoms for individuals [resonate] pretty effectively, much like Obama’s message resonated with high school kids 8 years ago.” Schaefer plans to use the election buildup and the inevitable publicity and sensation that accompanies it to aid his teaching in the coming year, even giving extra credit to students who took notes on the seemingly endless September 16th GOP debate.

Despite the evident passion many people have for this election, we’re still over a year away from that fateful November Tuesday, making it difficult to find polls on youth support for the candidates. One wonders if the short attention spans of teenagers can handle another year-plus of head-spinning political rhetoric, but as we transition into adulthood and its accompanying responsibilities, and with so many issues directly affecting us in the next few years of our lives, one would hope that the Class of 2016 (as well as those Juniors who’ll be able to vote in the election) will retain their level of interest. Besides, the outcome if far from certain, as Carly Fiorina’s recent jump in the Republican polls after her stellar debate performance aptly demonstrates. As Schaefer points out, “At this point in 2011, everybody thought Herman Cain was going to be the next president.”