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Redmond students weigh in on the 2016 U.S. presidential candidates
The U.S. presidential election is about nine months away and while the day for the nation to select its next leader is a long way off, it is a topic that comes up in conversations almost daily.
One place where these types of conversations have been cropping up has been in the local schools. In some social studies and government classes, teachers have been bringing up the topic with their students in a variety of ways, from informal discussions at the beginning of class, to assigning students to find and read articles on their chosen candidate.
“This is an exciting time to be a government teacher because it is an opportunity to teach kids about the process and follow candidates from the Iowa caucus to the official selection at the national conventions,” said Redmond High School (RHS) AP U.S. government teacher Holly Appelgate. “The opportunity to discuss candidates, debate performances and mudslinging is interesting and relevant for seniors in high school.”
The Reporter met and interviewed a number of high school seniors from RHS’s AP U.S. government classes, The Overlake School’s honor’s U.S. history class and The Bear Creek School’s government classes in Redmond to see what they thought about the upcoming presidential election and who should be leading the country next. All of these students are 17 or 18 and will be able to vote for the first time come November.
ELECTION AT A GLANCE
For McKenna Trussel (left) from RHS, the first words that come to mind when she thinks about the presidential election are “sad, disappointing, frustrating.”
Currently, the 18-year-old said she is not particularly passionate about any specific candidate as she feels no one running really represents what people want and likened supporting any given candidate come November to choosing the “best of two losers.”
Erin Hood, also from RHS, has similar thoughts. The 17-year-old described selecting a candidate to vote for as choosing the “lesser of two evils.”
While the idea of no good option in terms of candidates was a common thread among the teens, a number of them also noted how polarized the race to the White House has become.
Ellis Bareuther, 18, from Overlake said both the Democrats and Republicans have their own sets of beliefs that fall on the far side of their respective sides and there is an “all-or-nothing” mentality that does not allow much room for anyone whose beliefs may fall somewhere between the two.
Seventeen-year-old Katerina Fomichev from Bear Creek acknowledged that there are some candidates who do fall somewhere in between, but there are “certainly prominent voices that stick out from the crowd.”
Elizabeth Young, 17, from Bear Creek added, “Both parties appear to be more interested in protecting their party values than working together to do what’s best for the country and the people.”
Alex Okun (left) said he also does not see much realism when it comes to the candidates discussing issues. The 18-year-old from RHS said Republicans tend to focus on scapegoating and making outlandish promises to make people feel better about themselves, while Democrats make promises of public benefits.
DRAWING PARTY LINES
Although they were not asked about which party or candidate they plan to support, a number of the high school seniors did share which way they may swing.
Maggie Leist from Bear Creek said at this point, she is leaning toward the Republican Party.
“We have had a Democratic in leadership for eight years and during that time, so much change has occurred,” the 17-year-old said. “The U.S. has become stronger in so many respects but we have also lost sight of who we are, what principles we were founded on, where our identity lies. With all this change, we need a fresh start with a different party and a new president with novel ideas and solutions to current problems, someone to remind Americans what it means to be a part of the greatest nation in the world.”
Young is also a Republican, though she admitted that the party has not inspired much confidence in her.
And while Hood (left) was raised in a conservative family with Rush Limbaugh and Fox News playing in the background, she said she has not chosen a party to back yet. But this does not mean she knows who she won’t vote for.
“My current platform is ‘not Donald Trump,’” she said.
Fomichev is also not a fan of the billionaire-turned-candidate.
“If someone had told me five years ago that Donald Trump would have been the frontrunner for the Republican Party I would have laughed this off,” she said. “But today, we see that this is an unfortunate reality (in my opinion).”
Reed Christianson (left) from RHS is a Democrat and currently supports Hillary Clinton, although he used to be a Bernie Sanders supporter.
The 18-year-old said he feels with Clinton, he can wake up and not be scared to read the paper — meaning there would not be any major changes. He said Clinton is the most stable candidate — describing Sanders as too extreme. Christianson said Clinton would go about making change one step at a time, while Sanders would try to solve an issue by the end of the day. Clinton also has the most experience with foreign affairs, Christianson said.
Eileen Vert (left) from Overlake said while she identifies as a Democrat but has not chosen a candidate, as a young person, she feels pressured to support Sanders because he is viewed as “cool and hip.” The 18-year-old said she agrees with Sanders’ policies but his lack of foreign policy scares her.
THE YOUTH VOTE
As November will be the first time these teens will be eligible to vote, their experience and knowledge in politics varies. Some have been following politics for a long time, even helping with campaigns at the local level, while others had only limited knowledge of the country’s political and election process and have learned more through their respective classes.
“I’m very impressed with how the students have been so curious and active in learning about what is going on this year,” said RHS AP U.S. government teacher Rob Noteboom. “I don’t know what this election may say about the political health of the country but it makes me very hopeful to see these young people be so engaged and want to understand why all this is happening as they prepare to cast their first presidential vote next fall.”
And no matter their interest level and involvement in the process, the teens acknowledged the importance of young people voting.
“I am excited to be voting for the first time and I believe all eligible voters should cast their ballots as Americans often take for granted the ability to freely elect their leader,” Fomichev said.
Bareuther (left) said many people think their single vote won’t make a difference and don’t see the point of voting. However, he said, there are a lot of people who think that and if they all voted, those collective numbers could make a difference.
This being said, Vert said she would like people to educate themselves before they vote so they are not misinformed about the candidates.
And despite their young age and relative inexperience, the high schoolers did have a few key issues they are concerned about.
A few of the common concerns included climate change, higher education and student debt, the country’s economy and national debt and foreign policy and affairs.