Apocalypse Now: Election 2016 descends

Apocalypse Now: Election 2016 descends

The race to the Oval Office mercifully nears its conclusion as the presidential election looms a mere 18 days away. Soon, Americans will cast their ballots to determine the 45th President of the United States. Although all elections trigger controversy and conflict between the two major parties, this year’s cycle has held a macabre allure for voters. The two main candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, both sport contentious histories, causing widespread confusion and frustration with voters. Like most Americans, social studies teacher Patrick Lawton sees this election as an ideological Catch-22.

“I think this year the phrase ‘the lesser of two evils’ has never been more appropriate because neither person is really wanted by their parties; it’s just what they’ve got,” he said. “I think Donald Trump is a product of years and years of Republicans, and they don’t represent a lot of the people. Whereas Hillary Clinton is a product of a long career. She is a veteran, but she’s not really liked or respected, maybe because she is a woman, maybe not.”

“The lesser of two evils” has often been used in this election to describe the two candidates because of their historically high disapproval ratings from the American people, which in turn creates a more controversial and opinionated election. Academy English teacher Kelly Wayne attests to this.  

“I think this year it’s a lot more controversial, but maybe it’s because I am older and more informed than in years past,” she said. “But, I do think people are very opinionated on who they are voting for, and why they are voting for that person, almost to the point where I feel like friends and families are fighting over this election.”

Despite the voting age limit, senior Breah Ostertag, as well as other students, are capable of participating in this election outside of the polls. Having this opportunity creates a more analytical approach.

“This election is more about making an impression instead of being a good politician,” Ostertag said. “Trump gained so much popularity by being in the media and because of negative things, people actually start listening to what he was saying and agree with it.”

Attempts to poke and prod the issues comes with difficulty as neither candidate is fully supported by his/her political parties, leaving a pit of confusion for voters to fall into. Instead of analyzing the parallel policies of the presidential candidates, voters are weighing personalities and experience.

“Trump is an outsider. He can look at it from the outside, whereas a politician, they are just told what should be done,” junior Charlie Busha said.

Trump supporters focus on his extensive business background and managing skills as more useful than the stereotypical political background. Contrasting this opinion, senior Quinn Chamberlain believes the billionaire’s lack of political experience is the downfall to his campaign.

“Trump is a businessman and America is not a business; America is a country. It should be governed,” he said.

Personal history appears to be trumping political platform as voters must prioritize character traits in such a polarizing environment.  

“I don’t like Hillary because she is very untruthful and has hidden a lot of stuff. But the only reason I would suggest her over Trump is because Trump does what he wants to benefit himself,” Ostertag said.

Although some characterize Trump as deceitful and fraudulent, especially following the release of tapes capturing his misogynist views of women, others are passionate about his advocacies. On the other hand, Clinton’s issues ranging from her email scandal to work as Secretary of State leave voters in a conundrum.

“It seems like people aren’t really thrilled with the candidate on both sides. So there is not a clear cut person that each person is pertaining to anymore,” Spanish teacher Justin Hable said.

This scenario sets a possibly paradigm-shifting precedent in the country’s electoral process.  

“In recent history there has not been such an ugly election and two such unpopular people,” Social studies department head Paul Stellpflug said. “I’ve read that since we’ve been in polling, and doing surveys we ask about approval or disapproval of candidates. Both of these candidates have disapproval rating in the upper sixties low seventies, give or take a little bit. That’s pretty desperate to say the least.”

Stellpflug has difficulty finding a comparison point for this year’s cycle.

“The fact that our first female president potentially is the wife of a former president has never happened before and Donald Trump who is a reality television star and business logo, but a businessman who has never held a democratically elected office before,” he said. “This is way out of the norm, which is just layers of weirdness for the election.”

Such “layers of weirdness” contrasted with past elections only highlights the novelty.

“There was a civility in the past, and here there are just calling each other liars and interrupting each other,” Stellpflug said of the debates. “It’s hard to inspire kids to believe we have a great republic here, when we have these two immature people behaving like this. And with all the scandal, I don’t know how any American can say I am not voting for her, I’m not voting for him because of the scandals.”

Even those who have yet to experience a “peaceful election” are recognizing the peculiar nature of this incarnation.

“Candidates just forgot about truth. They both apparently think truth is just an option,” Chamberlain said. “That what is more important is lying and making the other person seem worse than they are.”

These tactics have reflected into the debates as well, causing bitter dissent with little content.

“Donald Trump was a little immature in the doing of the ‘no’ and interrupting Hillary Clinton,” Lawton said. “It should be that you have two minutes, you have two minutes, 30 seconds, whatever it is. They should abide by that.”

Due to the hisotircally low level of discourse framed by the debates, voters have little in the way of specific policy to sift prior to November 8.  

“They are both so fully scandal-ridden, so please tell me you are voting on policy,” Stellpflug said. “And then ask how many Americans know what their policies are, other than ‘Make America Great Again’ or ‘Stronger Together’.”

Looking for a silver lining, Stellpflug believes the current election cycle may spawn a new era in American politics.

“Might you get people that are sick of democrats because they are sick of Hillary?” he asked rhetorically. “Sick of Trump? Might there be a new central’s party that grows out of this? I hope something happens.”

While the electoral count of November 8 may put the election to rest, the political divide of the country will live on, according to Chamberlain.

“No matter who it is, people are going to be upset,” he said, “No matter if it is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.”

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