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Bucknell Institute for Public Policy: Predicament 2016: The Dilemma of Voting

Zachary Krivine, Contributing Writer

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When I was very young, politics grabbed my attention. I remember falling in love with American history quickly, so it became natural for me to pay attention to proceedings within the American government. I remember very vividly watching the Sunday morning ‘talking heads’ with my father, not necessarily knowing what was going on, but being fascinated nonetheless. Looking back, I would hardly say it was policy debates, campaigns, or filibusters that piqued my interest at seven years of age. Without a doubt, I was drawn to the honor and tradition that came with holding public office.

I therefore couldn’t imagine a higher calling for an individual than president of the United States. Walking along the halls that Thomas Jefferson walked. Sitting in the same office that Abraham Lincoln sat. These were no average men. The United States arguably the most powerful nation in history, and therefore demands the highest level of leadership from its chief executive. That is not to say that anyone who has won a presidential election is a great man (William Howard Taft). But the United States has not always lived up to its founding principles, and when the country seems to be tearing itself apart, it is the great ones that remind us what that office entails. The opportunity to add an individual into that group of exceptional leaders should be a privilege.

For the first time in my life, I can vote in a presidential election. And I will vote, as people around the world and throughout time have died to give me the opportunity to do so. But it is with no great pride that I do so: 2016 has witnessed the rise of Donald Trump, which has been nothing less than depressing. In late 2015, when he suggested his infamous Muslim-ban, Trump went off the deep end. A man claiming to be of the Republican Party, the party of the Constitution, suggested an explicit violation of the First Amendment. He suggested bombing the families of terrorists, an outright violation of the Geneva Accords. This is notwithstanding his blatant racism. He has been fickle on many issues, and it has become so normalized within the media that his most recent comments do not attract media attention. I invite everyone to visit Trump’s profile on PolitiFact.com, where they update his lies—and seldom truths—daily.

Then we arrive at Hillary Rodham Clinton, an uninspiring, scandal-ridden elitist. Do I understand why she’s so artificial? Of course. She’s an established politician who has been around long enough to know the  artifice that comes with the job. Having wanted the office for so long—and dealing with the sexism that comes with that—I would also imagine she’s impatient at this point. Yet that doesn’t change the fact that she’s a horrible candidate. Democrats can play down the email inquiry all they want, but the fact of the matter is that she lied to the American people about her private email server. On Sept. 9, Clinton referred to half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” Whether you like Trump or not, this is no way to refer to a group of Americans whose votes you ultimately want. There are now shirts you can buy that read “Proud Member of the Basket of Deplorables.”

President Barack Obama recently addressed this issue, noting that if you were to read transcripts of presidential elections from the late nineteenth century, the political discourse would not sound far off. He’s not wrong. In 1828, John Quincy Adams accused Andrew Jackson’s mother of being a prostitute, and his wife as an adulterer. But the fact that this kind of discourse is nothing new should not make Campaign 2016 any more digestible. We have evolved as a nation and need to hold ourselves to higher standards. The president we elect should be an individual whose actions we aspire to emulate and whose guidance we look for. It is easy to put the blame on other people as to how we have reached this state, but we need to take responsibility for our own country. Is this the first time I’m voting? Yes. But it certainly won’t be the last.

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Bucknell Institute for Public Policy: Predicament 2016: The Dilemma of Voting