The students in Valerie Hennings’ “Campaigns and Elections in the United States” course at Morningside College know the importance of the right to vote.
This 300-level course covers different aspects of the history of political means and methods and how politics has evolved since the World War II.
The class consists of juniors and seniors, so each had the opportunity to vote in past elections. They are looking forward to voting in the mid-term elections on Nov. 6, and told the Weekender what issues will be influencing their votes:
Kyle Fowler, Libertarian: “The biggest thing I’ve been paying attention to is education reform. I’m also seeing a lot of prison reform, but it doesn’t get talked about enough. Gun rights is another one of my major topics.”
Jessica Higgins, Democrat: “Some issues that influence me include education, because I’m a college student. I’m also really into the environment and everything that affects agriculture, as well. The tariffs on the trade war have been on my mind.”
Anthony Patton, Independent: “My issue is one that doesn’t get a lot of attention. It’s the polarization between the two parties. I tend to look for candidates that are more moderate and willing to get stuff done rather than taking a hard left or right ideological line that seems to be emerging since the 2016 election.”
Leah Phillips, Independent: “The top thing I look at is the budget, the deficit and the debt, followed by education. I’m going to be a teacher and I have a little one at home. I don’t see the budget talked about enough or in relation to education. I’d like to know how they are going to pay for what they want to do.”
Why did some of these students choose to be affiliated with the parties they are currently a part of?
“I’m not much of a fan of either party,” said Fowler. “I like some of the ideas of either party. I’ll agree with the Democrats or the Republicans on some things, but both are too big-government for me.”
“I chose to be a Democrat because I grew up in a very conservative town,” said Kailyn Robert. “I was in that environment for the vast majority of my life, and it wasn’t always a positive environment. It made me shift my thinking to a new perspective. Many of the issues that I care about…women’s healthcare, the environment, gun reform and immigration reform…my ideological stances tend to lie more with the Democratic Party.”
As Patton stated, the two major political parties have become extremely polarized, especially within the last two years. But what do some of the other students think of the current political climate?
“It’s a very charged atmosphere, lots of tension,” said Fowler.
“I think it’s very divisive,” said Higgins. “Whenever I talk with people who are part of the Democratic Party, and on the other side with Republicans, they are very angry with each other. It’s not good right now.”
“I think a certain amount of hope emerged at John McCain’s funeral,” said Patton. “The speeches that were given by former presidents Bush and Obama and former vice president Biden showed a lot of hope and potential for bipartisan work going toward a better future. Right now, though, there is a lot of fear at the top trying to swing people’s votes.”
“What comes out about it in the media, it looks like they are not using post-formal thought,” said Phillips. “They aren’t able to bring things together from both sides and meet in the middle.”
Why do these college students believe every capable voter should go to the polls and exercise their right to vote?
“I have seen a lot of people that think their votes don’t count,” said Higgins. “Also a lot of people go out and buy lottery tickets thinking they might win money. A vote has a lot more chance of giving you a government that will actually work for you.”
“It’s our civic duty to vote and stay at least somewhat engaged and informed,” said Sveinn Michael Storm, a Republican.
If you lean one way or another politically, you are going to root for your side to have more control of the government, so why would it be bad if one side or the other had complete authority?
“Checks and balances are important and it also creates a form of compromise,” said Higgins. “Our government system was never meant to be efficient. Having one party control over most of the inner workings of the government is dangerous because most of the smaller voices are not heard.”
“When one party gets control of the government, it makes the pendulum of what is happening in the government swing harder,” said Phillips. “It increases inefficiency. When the other party takes control, they push the pendulum even farther.”
“It’s the government’s job to represent the people and what the people want,” said Robert. “If it’s one-party rule, there is no way it is representing the majority of the people. Without at least two parties, people won’t be represented fairly.”
As representatives of the youth vote, these students believe it is important that their peers show up to the polls on or before Election Day.
“It’s a large voting base that has a lot of different interests, but they don’t mobilize effectively,” said Patton. “Their wants and needs in the political system get left out because they don’t mobilize and use their large numbers to their advantage most of the time.”
“The youth have a chance to choose the representatives for their own futures,” said Josh Brown, an Independent. “This makes it important for them to get out and vote.”
What do these students think may be the results of our upcoming election?
“I don’t make predictions anymore,” said Robert.
“The Congressional race is going to be a lot tighter than we first predicted,” said Fowler. “Especially after the Kavanaugh hearings, the Republican base seems much more energized than they were before. They are catching up right now.”