ROUNDTABLE: Politically involved students debate presidential candidates, propositions (includes results of mock election)

Clinton supporters senior Alexa Mathisen and freshman Héloïse Schep and Trump supporters sophomore Blake Lincoln and freshman Garrett Shonkwiler met for roundtable on Oct. 13 to discuss the election. 

On Oct. 13, high-school students voted in a mock election for a presidential candidate and three propositions: Proposition 62 (supporting the repeal of the death penalty), Proposition 63 (supporting more requirements for buying firearms and ammunition) and Proposition 64 (supporting marijuana legalization).


(Graphic by Marigot Fackenthal)

How do you feel about Hillary Clinton?

Mathisen: Hillary is the best candidate because she has the most experience and connections. She’s shown the most improvement working to get things done.

She can do the most for interests of all Americans, and her policies have been more open than Trump’s.

Schep: She is open toward everyone and has had a lot of experience in politics. On top of that, she is respectful.

Mathisen: I also believe she is the most composed person, and to be commander in chief requires composure.

Schep: After the email scandal, I wasn’t sure I could support her, but she knows it was her fault and admits it.

Freshman Savannah Rosenweig fills out a mock election ballot.
Jacqueline Chao
Freshman Savannah Rosenweig fills out a mock election ballot.

Lincoln: In the eyes of many of the young people in our country, Donald Trump is seen as a racist and a sexist, but they are more worried about being labeled a racist or a sexist by supporting Trump. I think this is why millennials say publicly that they’re supporting Hillary or a third party.

I can’t point to a single accomplishment as to what she’s actually done.

Upstate New York is now considered part of the Rust Belt.

She was part of the Russian Reset, which led to Russian aggression and power in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

She was part of the Iran deal, and it’s led to Iran taking a lot more power and influence in the Middle East.

She was part of the idea that we were going to tell (Syrian president) Bashir al-Assad that they can’t use chemical weapons, but then when we were confronted with force, we backed off.

Then Benghazi. I personally believe that she didn’t mean to leave individuals there, but there were definitely structural and leadership problems. She didn’t listen to the requests for more security. I believe that she lied to those families about the video.

I’m a Republican, and I probably won’t vote for a Democrat candidate in my life. But if it were Tim Kaine or Joe Biden, the choice would be more difficult for me.

Clinton, on the other hand, is a very easy choice for me to reject.

Shonkwiler: She’s a professional criminal and has done things only for money and power.

For instance, Benghazi. It was approaching election time, and she wanted to make it look like they had Al-Qaeda on the run.

She gave up morality for power.

How do you feel about Donald Trump?

Lincoln: I wasn’t originally a Trump supporter. But after looking at Trump’s history as a businessman, I see more of a success record than I see with Clinton. He is someone who can get stuff done.

Shonkwiler: I don’t like Trump. He’s one of my least favorite Republicans. He’s not even a politician. But I’m not sure if I would have prefered someone who is experienced.

He knows about the free market and has the interest of the people in mind.

He’s made his money the honest way.

Lincoln: People are tired of the status quo, both Democrats and Republicans. This is the year of the outsider. People are sick and tired of politicians. More Republicans believe that their party has abandoned them, and I think a lot of Democrats feel that way, too.

That’s why you see the uprisings. The Republican senators and congressmen rejecting Trump will only strengthen his base.

Shonkwiler: He’s also shifting the electoral map. A lot of Republicans are leaving Trump, and a lot of Democrats are joining Trump.

Mathisen: How can you say he’s going to get stuff done when he’s making so many enemies in his own party?

Lincoln: You have a very good point; let me give you an example. In 1996 we knew Bill Clinton was going to win – no one was calling for him to step down. Everyone knew Obama was going to win. Trump has won against all odds because he’s tired of politicians like Paul Ryan. Don’t get me wrong, I like Paul Ryan.

Mathisen: The issue for me with Trump is that he doesn’t accurately represent the lower and middle class, and I know he has a lot of voters who come from those areas. Those voters don’t really know his actual policies. He doesn’t represent minorities, and on top of all of that, his economic policy is almost like trickle-down economics, which we’ve already seen doesn’t work.

Schep: He has worked a lot with women, but I can never see myself voting for someone who’s talked about women like this or deporting minorities. You’re going to have to deal with everyone if you’re president. I just can’t see someone like him, who’s made these remarks, run the entire country. Fifty-one percent of Americans are women, so you can’t just bash them like that.

prop-64Should marijuana be legalized?

Mathisen: It’s really easy to get in the first place, so why is the government not making money off it?

The smoking age and marijuana age should be the same.

Schep: At first the rates will go super high, but after a while, it will go down again. That’s what happened in the Netherlands when marijuana was made legal.

Lincoln: If you legalize it, tax it. Make sure only licensed stores can sell it, just like prescription drugs.

Shonkwiler: If you’re voting for legalizing marijuana because of law enforcement problems with people getting their hands on it anyway, that’s a law-enforcement problem.

prop-63Should there be increased gun control?

Shonkwiler: Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Even if no gun control will increase your chance of getting shot, it’s worth the chance because the government can’t take away your right to own a gun.

Mathisen: Okay, but you’re not the one getting shot. Upper-class white people are not getting shot.

Shonkwiler: But I don’t think more guns increase shooting. In Switzerland almost every home has a gun, and it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

Lincoln: Chicago, Baltimore and D.C. have very strict gun-control laws and the highest gun-murder rate. I believe this is because of gangs, which is more of a socioeconomic issue. You have these poor, traditionally minority kids who are promised money and protection. Then those gangs get guns and commit crimes.

Schep: The problem there, though, is with gangs and not guns. We need to address gangs and socioeconomics first; then we need stricter gun-control laws.

Mathisen: But when I think of gun control, I separate it from gangs because many of those guns are obtained illegally and that’s not going to be enforced.

Shonkwiler: Criminals are going to get guns anyway. If you were a criminal, would you rather break into a house in a neighborhood that banned guns or one that didn’t? Of course you’d want to break into the one that banned guns because you wouldn’t be opposed.

Mathisen: I don’t want to take away guns, but I do support background checks. We just need to make it harder for criminals and the mentally ill to get guns. Many people in the Republican Party are going to be fine.

Lincoln: Let me say this: if someone really wants to kill, they will use anything they can get their hands on. In Nice, a guy killed 80 people with a truck he rented.

And it’s actually a lot harder to get a gun than you think.

propIs the death penalty moral or immoral?

Shonkwiler: I don’t have an opinion.

Schep: Immoral.

Lincoln: Moral, but unnecessarily expensive.

Mathisen: Immoral, and expensive. I think it should be repealed. There are always controversies in the justice system, (and) because of this, I don’t think that views of people should be deciding who lives or dies.

It’s very hypocritical to be all for religion but say that abortions shouldn’t be allowed because that’s killing. A large part of the Republican Party thinks it’s okay to kill someone even after they’ve committed a crime.

I understand that they have committed a severe crime. In the Bible you’re not supposed to kill anyone.

Lincoln: The problem I have with abortion is that people use abortion to go out and continue their lifestyle, which, in the views of religious people, is immoral.

The problem I have with the death penalty is that we wait 20 or so years, and then it’s an expensive procedure. You should wait maybe a month or two.

What about the next Supreme Court justice?

Shonkwiler: I heard an estimate that four or five people in the Supreme Court might retire the next presidential term.

This could be considered more important than the president because the justices could be there for the rest of our lives.

Trump isn’t a good candidate, but he would appoint good Republicans to the Supreme Court.

Lincoln: I think the biggest issue is gun rights – the Supreme Court, especially the more liberal justices, said we’d do a lot more about gun rights.

The social stuff doesn’t really tend to bother me. I didn’t support the gay marriage decision even though I personally support it. I do care about religious freedom.

Mathisen: It’s really the social stuff that gets to me. A lot of times Republicans are more focused on the economy, gun rights and religion. But I feel like liberal justices are more willing to give more time to social issues.

Schep: Ideally, I want a balanced justice system because I don’t want a Supreme Court with justices of all one party.

I feel like Clinton is more credible to make balanced decisions. Of course, she is strong in one party, but she is better for balance.

Mathisen: Right now she is farther to the left than she has been because she wants Bernie supporters. And if we had all liberal justices, we would end up with no vaccines and stuff like that, and we don’t want that.

Obama put forth a pretty moderate candidate. I feel like Hillary after this past year is more willing to put forth more moderate candidates than Trump.

Shonkwiler: Ideally, I think the job of a justice is to uphold the Constitution and not to enforce what they believe. I think Republicans are more concerned with that.

Schep: I’d like to point out that America is not the same as it was when the Constitution was written.

Technology, people and society have changed. It’s what we do.

The Constitution is a very central thing, but you shouldn’t make decisions based solely on what it says. You must think of the consequences. You want someone to be balanced and consider things in the context of society.

Lincoln: I think that it shouldn’t be the Supreme Court’s role of changing the Constitution. That needs to be Congress. Congress hasn’t done anything to add in new laws that relate to the 20th century. It shouldn’t be up to the Supreme Court to add in interpretations.

Shonkwiler: That’s what amendments are for.

Mathisen: I agree.

electionWho do you think will win and by how much?

Mathisen: I think Clinton will win with a large margin, but right now both of their reputations can be easily tarnished, so the margins could grow close.

Shonkwiler: I think Clinton is going to win, but Trump could. His biggest advantage is the voter turnout.

Lincoln: I’d say Hillary wins. Trump’s biggest weapon is surprise and unpredictability. If she does win, I don’t think she will be re-elected in 2020.

Schep: I think Clinton will win, but there is a huge risk of people who are Bernie-or-bust saying that they won’t vote or will vote for a third party. They’re not a huge group, but I think it will be a close margin.

So if you all think Trump will lose, what will happen after that?

Lincoln: I’m worried that there will be civil unrest. There will be people who think this election was rigged from the beginning. This is a very divisive and polarized election, and no matter who wins, people are going to be upset.

My personal belief is that whoever wins should step down and let their vice president take control; that is the only way we can unite this country.

Junior Zihao Sui reads the propositions on a mock election ballot.
Jacqueline Chao
Junior Zihao Sui reads the propositions on a mock election ballot.

Schep: I am terrified because whoever wins is going to have a huge amount of people who don’t agree; they’re not going to magically turn into supporters.

Mathisen: I don’t even think it’s going to be close. But because both sides are so polarized, the Trump supporters will come out.

Shonkwiler: I think that if Hillary wins and goes through with her plans to legalize all these immigrants, it might tip the electoral scale.

If a Republican is elected after Clinton, he might not have a Republican House (of Representatives) to work with.

Will you support whoever wins?

Mathisen: I’m applying to schools in Canada!

Shonkwiler: Only one!

Lincoln: It depends.

Schep: Agreed.

Lincoln: If Clinton wins, I’ll support her, as (that is) the people’s choice. In other words, I will support her until there is evidence that she was not elected by the people.

Mathisen: Right now, I would have trouble supporting Trump. But if he were to win, I believe he would come forward with actual policies that although I may not agree with, I’d respect.

If I were to protest, it would always be peaceful, and I would respect Trump and refer to him as the president.

Shonkwiler: I think Trump will be either really good or really bad if he is elected.

I wouldn’t support Clinton, and I wouldn’t support Trump, depending on what he would do.

Schep: I’m not a party voter, but for me, unless Trump shows a significant turnaround in his attitude for women and minorities, I think it would be hard for me to support him and his values.

By Nicole Wolkov

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