Student fellows lead discussion of tumultuous 2016 election

Caroline Kehrli, Staff Writer

On Monday, Sept. 12, students gathered in Academic West for a discussion titled “2016 Election: How Did We Get Here?” The event was led by Mauch Fellows Brady Clapp ’17 and Emily Cottle ’17. The Mauch Fellowship, which aims to increase political awareness and activism among University students, is sponsored by the political science department and the League of Women Voters of the Lewisburg Area. The Mauch Fellows will organize four forums throughout the semester to discuss the upcoming election.

“Through our four forums, Brady and I are hoping to present politics and the 2016 election in an exciting manner that appeals to both the highly engaged and those who simply want a better understanding of what is going on,” Cottle said.

During the Sept. 12 forum, students discussed the candidates who were defeated by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in extremely contested primaries. Other topics of discussion included the role of polling and the importance of voting.

“The 2016 election has been a weird one, and a lot of people just didn’t understand how we got to this point, and why we have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Our goal was to get people up to speed so that they can better form their own opinions going forward,” Clapp said.

The second forum will take place on Oct. 3, and will discuss the rise of third party candidates Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, as well as their impact on this election cycle.

The third discussion on Nov. 7 will center around the prevailing ideology and policy proposals of both Trump and Clinton in the context of their respective party’s stance as a whole, and the final conversation will ensue on Nov. 14, six days after the presidential election. The last forum will debrief and analyze the election’s results as well as predict the direction in which the country will move.

The discussion will “essentially [do] a ‘post-mortem’ of the election, trying to explain what happened and why,” Clapp said.

“I was impressed with how many students showed up. This election has really mobilized the younger population,” Rosalie Goldberg ’18 said.

Following the formal presentation, Clapp and Cottle opened the floor to questions. Students inquired about primary candidates, polling numbers, the impact of the Brexit vote in the U.K., and the importance of voting. For those discouraged by both mainstream candidates, Clapp and Cottle still urge millennials to go to the polls. One option they suggest is to vote for a third party candidate.

While the chances of a third party winning a national election are slim, “the influence that third party candidates are gaining in this election indicates the level of dissatisfaction with the two mainstream candidates and is a signal to both the Democrats and Republicans that a significant portion of the electorate is dissatisfied,” Cottle said.

Clapp also reminds discouraged voters that the presidential election is not the only important decision being made on Election Day. All members of the House of Representatives and a large portion of the Senate are up for reelection; these races are exceptionally important in swing states like Pennsylvania.

“The presidential election is likely to have only a marginal practical impact on your day-to-day lives. It is the down ballot races, the elections for Senate, House of Representatives, and state and local offices, that will probably have the most real impact on you. They are the ones passing laws that affect your daily lives, they are the ones who are actually representing you in our government… If you are dissatisfied with the presidential election, throw yourself into a Congressional race, or a Senate race, or a local election. Make a difference there,” Clapp said.

“The control of the Senate is also up for grabs, and it is, therefore, extremely important that discouraged voters still cast their vote in November,” Cottle said.

Clapp and Cottle also urged students to remember that the deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania is Oct. 11.

“Our goal is to get as many first-years as possible registered, since this will almost certainly be their first election,” Clapp said.

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