Self-proclaimed Democrats senior Héloïse Schep and sophomore Lilah Shorey, Republican senior Aaron Graves and independents senior David Situ and junior Avi Krishna met for a roundtable on Aug. 30 to discuss the presidential primaries and current political issues.
Q: What do you think about the current selection of Democrats and Republicans for the primaries?
Schep: I feel like there are so many Democrats that it might actually be more of a hindrance than something that helps. I’m torn (because) maybe one candidate has my ideal health care policy, but another has a better stance toward immigration and another toward abortion. And if other people also feel that way, it might cause a lot of (them) to be torn and maybe not vote if their candidate doesn’t make it past a certain round.
Shorey: I think it’s a good thing that there are so many Democratic candidates because I’m pretty sure that more people (will) find someone that has viewpoints that they agree with.
I like a lot of the people that are running in the Democratic Party right now. I’d be fine with any of them. They just need to make it, then I’m good with them. I can’t vote, obviously, but my mom is kind of on the same page as me. She’s like, “I will vote for whoever makes it, just as long as we don’t have (President Donald) Trump in office again.”
There’s a lot of people; they have a lot of interesting views. It will be interesting to see who will make it.
Graves: I’m a conservative, but I don’t want to be oblivious to the Democratic Party. There are 20 Democratic candidates. My only issue with that is people don’t have enough time to say what they’re really thinking. You can’t really establish someone’s plan for their presidency if they were to be elected because they don’t have enough time to speak. And it’s almost like you’re meeting someone new every night.
“You can’t really establish someone’s plan for their presidency if they were to be elected because they don’t have enough time to speak. And it’s almost like you’re meeting someone new every night.”
If the field slimmed down, people would have a better understanding of which candidates were for what and against what.
Schep: I definitely agree with Aaron on not getting to know some of the candidates. For people that aren’t (Sen. Kamala) Harris, (Sen. Elizabeth) Warren, (Sen. Bernie) Sanders, (former Vice President Joe) Biden and the big names, I don’t know all their policies. When I’m watching the debates, they’re not all getting the same run time, and I don’t learn their stances on every issue.
It really feels like you’re being deprived of knowing your candidate because there are just so many voices that are always competing for attention.
Situ: And so many Democratic candidates are really similar, but then they have one little different thing.
Krishna: The issue with this whole thing is people are saying, “Oh, it’s too many candidates.” But the DNC (Democratic National Committee) deliberately does like 20 candidates at the beginning because it knows it’s going to winnow the field.
The whole idea is that the DNC knows that (candidates) cannot meet polling requirements. As time progresses and the field winnows, it’s going to be more and more obvious for voters whom (to vote for).
Those of you who identify more with Republicans, do you feel underrepresented with far fewer candidates than the Democrats?
Situ: Definitely. I am 100% not a big fan of the (likely) Republican nominee. I would be very pleased if somebody else challenged him and won it, but looking at history, it’s almost impossible. I really do feel it’s an issue, but it’s more of a president-running-for-re-election issue than a party issue.
Krishna: People like Joe Walsh and (former Gov.) Bill Weld, they’re not running because they’re going to win. They’re either going to go on in advocacy or to raise issues with the presidency, as opposed to actually presenting a legitimate primary challenge because Trump has like 84% Republican approval.
Situ: It’s definitely more of a statement than a real goal of actually getting the nomination.
Graves: What I see a lot with televised debates now is funny — it’s really a reality show. The people that can present themselves the best (do the best). That’s why Trump did so well: He’s been on TV for so long. He knows how television runs (and) what people are interested in seeing.
A lot of people, especially the Democrats, are using this as a medium to get their name out there. Maybe they’re running for mayor or a Senate seat, and they would have been unknown to the populace. Now they have a voice, and they get their name out there. Even though they know they’re not going to win, they can still use TV for promotion.
Let’s get into a few hot-button issues. Which candidate’s policy or sentiment toward health care do you most align with?
Situ: I’m not a big fan of the Medicare for All program. I just don’t think it’s feasible currently, and trying to say that you will make it happen is a bit of a disservice.
I like Biden’s approach — expanding the Affordable Care Act — a little better because that seems a lot more reasonable. It seems like it could get more support behind it and end up (happening).
A lot of these proposed plans would just peter out. They wouldn’t get enough support. I’d rather favor something a little bit more moderate that could actually pass and maybe help versus something that would supposedly help everybody but never pass.
“I’d rather favor something a little bit more moderate that could actually pass and maybe help versus something that would supposedly help everybody but never pass.”
Schep: I agree. When I look at Medicare for All, I’m like, “Yeah, I totally approve of this. I think this is a great idea.” Coming from a country (the Netherlands) that has more government health care, I do support it. But on the other hand, you have to look at the makeup of Congress and what will actually pass.
Which candidate’s policy or sentiment toward gun control do you most align with?
Krishna: Right now, I think Biden’s the only one with a comprehensive gun safety plan, a buyback program, which was something that (Rep. Eric) Swalwell supported before he dropped out. I think that’s a good idea.
Trump’s like, “OK, fine, we’ll do red flag laws. We’ll open mental institutions.” And then he backs out after pressure from the NRA (National Rifle Association). So right now there’s no progress.
Banning assault weapons is a pretty good idea because they aren’t really necessary. There’s the argument that we need guns to protect ourselves from the government, but I don’t buy that. Simple handguns are fine, but assault weapons are (not).
Graves: I disagree with you, mainly because if you look at the statistics, (most) gun-related incidents are from handguns. Very few are from assault rifles.
The thing about banning assault rifles is this little thing called the black market, where you can buy anything from AK-47s to M4 (carbines), anything you need or want. There’s no real way to monitor that, so banning assault rifles won’t do any good. If they don’t care about breaking the law because they’re going to do something catastrophic, they’re not going to mind going on the darknet and risking a few years in jail.
Situ: A lot of the proposed plans don’t actually focus on any of the issues and seem to demonstrate a lack of knowledge. A lot of things people are banning are just cosmetic features or features that don’t actually affect any usage of how the gun works.
In addition, most assault weapons or fully automatic weapons are banned in the United States, or at least in most states. There are only specific weapons that you can own that are like that, and it’s a very intense process to actually obtain those weapons. It’s not a cheap process, either. You can’t just go to the store and buy an automatic weapon.
Schep: For me, with the number of shootings that have happened, it’s a problem. It’s larger than (in) any other nation — it’s intense. It’s really a part of normal life in a way that it shouldn’t be.
But how you tackle that is something else because, like Aaron said, it’s the handguns that are a large majority of the weapons that are used, and how do you ban those? Without going into the actual Constitution and changing amendments, it’s pretty difficult
Banning not handguns but assault rifles might be more of a symbolic meaning to people because of the fact that there’s nothing stopping people from getting them. Even if assault weapons are not doing the statistical majority of shootings in the United States, it might be more symbolic.
Even if the process is long, should anyone really own that type of weapon?
Climate change is another hot-button issue. What do you think of its current treatment in politics?
Graves: There are those that believe it doesn’t exist and those that think we’re going to be fried in a few years. So there’s a wide range of perspectives.
The main problem is people are focusing on the wrong things. People are focusing on plastic straws and these kinds of details, when most of the carbon emissions come from large corporations from China, the United States and India. I understand why they’re going toward smaller details because it’s hard to take down or limit carbon emissions from an Indian company if I’m here in Sacramento. We’re doing what we’re able to do, but we’re focusing on the wrong things if we want to decrease it on a larger scale.
Situ: I feel like a lot of politicians use climate change as a bargaining chip. They don’t really mean anything. They just try to one-up each other, like, “You want to put (in) $1 million? I’ll put (in) $2 million and research.” They’re just saying, “I’ll do this, this, this and this,” just to try and get more votes, and they don’t really care or consider how their plan would work or whether it will be effective.
Definitely, there should be some more support of that issue. Exactly how much (support) is up for debate, depending on the candidate.
But a big thing we should focus on is research. At a certain point, you can’t limit (carbon emissions) anymore, and you can’t really get people to stop. We do need to put a big focus on research into reducing the pollution that we have now and trying to reverse some of what’s already happening.
Schep: I think that research should be a bigger deal. It’s a very pressing issue. I wish it would come up a little bit more in the debates, not as a bargaining chip, but as an actual issue because it’s the one thing that is going to affect us all, no matter what party you are (in).
As far as concrete plans go, the versions of the Green New Deal are probably the most comprehensive. Bernie Sanders seems to have a pretty comprehensive view of the steps that he would take.
Krishna: Bernie — regardless of whether he wins the nomination, which I don’t think he will because Warren’s a superior candidate in many ways — serves to shift the Democratic Party further left. Without Bernie Sanders, you wouldn’t have any talk of Medicare for All. You wouldn’t have tax increases as much of a cornerstone issue in the Democratic Party right now.
All these ideas, regardless of which candidate wins, are constantly going to be derided by Republicans, especially Trump. He’s going to say, “Oh, it’s socialist.” And that’s something that’s not even a joke anymore. That’s legitimate criticism that Republicans make of Democratic policies. So ideas like the Green New Deal and free college not only can’t pass, they’re also really not feasible, especially in today’s climate.
Schep: The money is the big part. It’s the same for climate change and reducing student loan debt. You can easily get it from taxes, especially taxing people with more than like $50 million in assets. If people aren’t going to agree with that, that’s another thing. In America, it’s a lot harder to increase taxes. People are a lot more resistant to that, so that might be a bigger issue for all these plans.
Situ: At the moment, our goal shouldn’t be increasing taxation. Our goal should be making sure people actually pay their taxes because tax evasion is a big thing. The really wealthy people are not paying the full taxes. They have very inventive ways to get around paying. Increasing taxes? It’s really not going to end up doing that much.
Graves: The other thing is, the people that do pay their taxes, if you raise taxes upward of 70% on the top 1%, what’s making them want to stay here? If you’re giving up so much of your income to taxation, there’s no real feasible way to stay here and maintain your current (standard) of living. Nobody’s going to want to do that. There will be some that feel that they’re helping better society by paying taxes.
But those that really work hard, say doctors, and get paid great sums of money don’t want to work their butts off and pay 70% in taxation. They’ll find jobs overseas, elsewhere, wherever it may be.
Schep: But when you look at Warren’s plan for canceling student loan debt, it’s only a 2% increase, and it’s on people that (possess) like $50 million in assets or more. How is that 2% really going to affect you, if you’re already rich beyond bounds? I can’t imagine how you would ever use $50 million in assets. You can still, with these plans, get extraordinarily rich, well beyond living comfortably. You don’t really need all that money.
Situ: Not all of somebody’s wealth is liquid funds. A lot of this money is actually real estate, stocks or things that have some kind of passive effect on the economy. It’s not just that they’re hoarding money in a vault and they’re just sitting on it.
Are there any other issues that you believe aren’t being addressed enough in the primaries or in current politics?
Krishna: The whole electability argument. Biden is probably No. 1 in the polls, almost entirely on the fact that people think Biden’s electable. I like Biden; I would probably vote for him. But we need to shift away from this over-importance on electability and focus more on candidates’ actual arguments and policies.
If you just focus on electability, you’re not actually voting for the candidate that you want. You’re just voting for somebody you think other people want.
The big question: What’s your prediction for the presidential election?
Schep: As much as I want in my heart for someone besides Trump to win, when I look at the wide range of Democratic candidates that we have, it’s impossible for one person to capture them all. Biden is doing really well, but last election, (former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham) Clinton was doing well and did win the popular vote.
But there were people who were like, “Bernie or bust! If Bernie doesn’t make it, I’m not going to vote.” Or they would write him in or whatever. I am really afraid that that’s going to happen again — that there are people who are so pro-Warren, -Harris or -Sanders that if those candidates don’t win the Democratic primary, they just won’t vote at all.
Shorey: I totally agree with you. I can totally see that happening again. I’m really hoping that people learn. If they just write someone’s name in like, “Bernie, because that’s what I wanted,” or people write in Oprah and stuff like that — it’s just stupid. You’re wasting your vote.
If you really want someone other than Trump to be in office, vote for them. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like Biden as much as Warren or Harris.
Trump will most likely win if people can’t come together. It’s going to happen, and then people are going to be pissed off again. And it’s going to be their fault for not going out and voting for the other Democrat just because the person they really wanted to win didn’t make it.
“Trump will most likely win if people can’t come together. It’s going to happen, and then people are going to be pissed off again.”
Schep: I totally understand people that are like, “I don’t just want Trump to go out of office. I want a person in office that I actually think will enact the change that I want.”
It does create a kind of dangerous precedent for whoever’s the next president, if it’s not Trump, to get away with things, people just saying, “Oh, you know, they’re not Trump, it could be worse, whatever.”
Graves: President Trump’s going to win for two reasons. One, his strong voter foundation. It’s remained there and hasn’t fluctuated all that much. Secondly, the Democrats are banking on this youth bulge to vote for them. My only fear for them is that people won’t actually vote as they anticipate.
People will go on social media and be like, “Yeah, I want change!” And then they don’t vote. There’s all this talk of how they want change, but nothing’s going to happen.
If those two conditions are met, Trump will win for sure.
Situ: I’ve got to agree. Trump is pretty likely (to be president) right now. I don’t see many Democratic candidates picking up enough votes.
A lot of the Democratic voters might be just like, “Warren or Bernie or bust.” If that happens, there’s just no way. The only way is if every (Democrat votes for their) chosen candidate. And even then, you’ve got to get some new voters. Right now, with Trump’s rather consistent voter base, I don’t see that happening.
Krishna: If Biden wins the nomination, he’s moderate enough to peel off Republican voters and essentially undermine Trump’s base. (Trump) also relies too much on evangelicals. Some evangelicals tend to be Democrats.
If Warren, Bernie or Harris wins the nomination, I don’t see Democrats winning at all. But if it’s moderate Biden, he’ll undermine Trump’s voter base and take the dub.
—By Larkin Barnard-Bahn
Originally published in the Sept. 17 edition of the Octagon.