The most accurate term I have heard to describe this election season is “dumpster fire”. No one really wants to deal with this disaster so we, the voting public, have been left with the warm glow and putrid smell that comes with garbage being burned. With the type of candidates we have to choose from, it’s no wonder the general public’s emotions range from completely apathetic to righteously upset. The negatives keep piling up for each mainstream candidate and as each scandal develops it eventually fades away as the next scandal is born.
Donald Trump, more than any other candidate this election season or in recent election cycles, has been effective in garnering support for his positions. Trump neutered mainstream Republicans with playground rules coupled with conspiracy theories to cement his crowning as the leader of the GOP. From saying Jeb Bush has “low energy,” to implying that Ted Cruz’s dad was involved with the Kennedy assassination, to calling Marco Rubio, “little Marco,” Trump has treated those on the right that opposed him as idiots to be destroyed.
Trump’s decisive language does not stop with his fellow Republicans. He started his campaign with the promise of a giant wall on the southern border of the United States to keep undocumented immigrants out saying, “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists.” He has insulted women, his most high profile being Megyn Kelly of Fox News, calling her a “bimbo” in a tweet after Trump accused her of being on her period during a debate of which she moderated.
Trump has taken on veterans, insulting Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam veteran and former POW, saying that, “[he] like[s] people who weren’t captured.” Not to be outdone by himself, Trump also attacked a Gold Star family who was critical of him during the Democratic National Convention saying the wife was not allowed to speak, tipping his hat to his alt-right and nationalist supporters who think Muslims are bent on destroying this country. Trump has asked Russian hackers to look into Hillary Clinton’s emails and implied that gun owners should shoot Clinton. Of course, Trump and his surrogates say his more outlandish statements are “sarcasm,” which either means Trump and those that speak for him don’t know what sarcasm means or it wasn’t sarcasm at all.
Trump’s scandals and inflammatory rhetoric are, quite frankly, too much for me to list in this one article. The New York Times has listed 258 people, places and things Trump has insulted since declaring his candidacy. And while most of them are grotesque, I find the most erroneous target to be the media. Trump has revoked the press credentials of 11 news organizations. All of these news organizations have printed or posted pieces critical of Trump, something the press is not only allowed to do but is supposed to do. Recently his campaign has said they’re giving those organizations their press credentials back but who knows for how long? But the fact that Trump is so willingly able to silence his critics should be concerning, as we don’t know if he will continue to do so as President.
While Hillary Clinton has largely stayed out of the spotlight when it comes to gaffes (she hasn’t had a press conference in over 260 days, something out of the ordinary for a Presidential candidate) she hasn’t been immune to scrutiny. Her continued issues with her email, Benghazi and now the relationship between The Clinton Foundation and her role as Secretary of State have given reason to be concerned about her potential tenure as President. While most of her scandals are not as big as some media outlets have suggested, the fact remains that while FBI Director Comey didn’t suggest criminal prosecution of Clinton for her mishandling of classified information, he did remark during a congressional hearing that had an FBI employee done the same thing, “they would face consequences for this.” To which, Clinton has not and will not face any consequences beyond continued scrutiny from the right and the media.
Clinton also faces accusations of flip-flopping on certain issues depending on what will get her elected. Clinton once said the Trans-Pacific Partnership, “sets the gold standard in trade agreements” and she now opposes it. An opposition that conveniently showed up once Sen Sanders started pushing the Democrats to the left. Clinton once inferred, in support her husband’s 1994 Violent Crime and Control and Law Enforcement Act, that African-American youths were “Superpredators.” Clinton has since apologized for those comments. Clinton, now the champion of LGBT rights, once supported the position of letting states decide on gay marriage as opposed to the recent sweeping decision by the Supreme Court.
We’re seeing something here we have not seen in recent history. While it’s been a political trope to say, “You’re voting for the lesser of two evils,” this election has set a historic precedent for dismal approval ratings.
So who do you vote for? You could go third party with either Jill Stein of the Green Party or Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party but both of them have their own failings. Both candidates at least give passive support to anti-vaxxers and leave little for America’s mushy middle to agree on, not to mention there is no chance of either party actually winning the election. But should that matter?
While college students are traditionally marginalized when it comes to voting, who gets elected could have an affect on you. Trump supports raising the prevailing wages on H-1B visas in the hopes that American businesses will hire domestic workers at entry-level positions. If he’s right, this could have a profound impact on you getting a job once you graduate. Clinton and Stein have both suggested that some public colleges and universities should be free. Imagine not walking away with any student loan debt. Clinton, Trump, and Stein have all said the minimum wage should be increased. They differ on the amounts, but an increase in wages may have an effect on your pocketbook if you’re at or near the minimum wage right now. Clinton, Johnson, and Stein have all said that there should be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, although Trump has started to soften on his hardline immigration stance as of late. If you or someone you care about is an undocumented immigrant, who you vote for could change the way undocumented immigrants are viewed in this country.
Overall, I would agree with part of what Ted Cruz said at the Republican National Convention, “Stand and speak and vote your conscience.” You absolutely should speak your mind and vote your conscience, so if voting for a third party is what you want, do it. If Trump or Clinton realistically represent you as a person, by all means cast a vote for either one. But, and this is important, if your conscience doesn’t allow you to vote for any of the candidates, you don’t have to vote. Having the right to do something means you have the right not to do it as well. Not supporting a system of government you don’t agree with is the most American thing you can do. Just don’t dress up as a Native American and throw tea in the ocean if you don’t. It’s 2016. We shouldn’t do that stuff anymore.