Back in 2016, I remember helplessly watching the Presidential Debates wondering “How did we get here?”. The Election of 2016 seemed like America’s rock bottom until the Election of 2020 came to fruition. The Election of 2016 seemed so divisive that over 100 million eligible voters did not vote in 2016. However, the upcoming 2020 Election has made young people realize how much power we truly have in our democracy despite our dissatisfaction with both Biden and Trump. We have realized that voting as a political statement is more powerful than not voting out of apathy towards both candidates in 2016.
This election is expected to shatter voting records by millions of votes, making it a historical election. This year, young voters make up about 37% of eligible voters. College voters have tremendous power in swinging this election in favor of Biden/Harris as they tend to vote blue more often than not, and to examine this trend, I asked college students why they are voting for Biden/Harris this year and what this election means to them.
Like most voters, young people – especially first-time voters – are disturbed by the compulsion to choose for the “better of two evils.” Luis Hinojosa, a first-time voter and Dartmouth student said, “I find it difficult to have to vote for either of two candidates that I find to be less moral than I consider myself to be. However, after seeing how Trump handled the presidency, it is clear to me that he doesn’t care about every American. Therefore, I would rather see someone else take the helm; it doesn’t hurt to give someone else a chance.”
For women and members of the LGBTQ+ community, another four years of the Trump administration is “literally terrifying” because it poses threat to their very existence. The Trump administration has repeatedly worked to limit access to contraceptive and abortion services for women and has passed a barrage of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Alicia Renda, a woman and member of the LGBTQ+ community at Hofstra University, is voting for Biden/Harris because “Trump’s America is personally terrifying” and because she is “worried about the people of color whose lives will be affected [by Trump’s America], especially immigrants and other people who can’t vote”. She spoke to me about how she doesn’t “fully support Biden and would love to have a candidate that is younger and more in touch with the populace”, but is settling for Biden because he is “the best we have right now”.
For the past four years, the Trump administration has come under fire multiple times for consistently bailing out the Top 1% of America, increasing the wealth gap. Unemployment rates have skyrocketed and tax cuts have been consistently awarded to owners of massive corporations, rather than ordinary citizens. To Ari Garnick, a first-time voter from Dartmouth College, this voting for Biden/Harris was a no-brainer because “pretty good beats abysmal every time”. He believes that the Biden/Harris platform will elevate America by “improving the standard of living for many of its least advantaged citizens (and non-citizens)”, allowing for greater distribution of resources.
Similar to Ari, Umama Suriya, a South-Asian first-time voter at the University of North Texas, believes that voting for Biden/Harris is a no-brainer because it is “our only logical option of trying to have a better America”. Umama also expressed concern with Trump’s actions as he has “not done a lot for America” and may have even made America worse. She believes that the Biden/Harris ticket is the only way to rectify Trump’s mistakes.
Throughout all of my interviews with college students, there appeared to be a consistent theme of “settling for Biden“. This became increasingly apparent to me during my interview with Ian Farm from Dartmouth College. First-time voters such as Ian are aware that “Joe Biden won’t save us”. It is up to us to “save ourselves and each other”. Ian expressed a sense of pessimism with the Biden/Harris administration’s policies but ultimately decided to vote for Biden/Harris because they will “cause fewer preventable deaths than Trump by COVID-19, and will at least pretend to make an effort to help the community”.
Like Ian, Emma Meehan, a first-time voter from The University of Texas at Austin, disagrees with many of Joe Biden’s policies. However, she disagrees with President Donald Trump on many more key policy issues than she does Joe Biden, especially his denial of climate change. She expressed to me that “Biden’s climate change and tax policies are enticing to progressives and would help in addressing major issues the country faces”. As a woman and ally to the LGBTQ+ community, Emma believes that Biden is “far more equipped than Trump in dealing with issues that affect minorities, the LGBTQI+ community, and women”.
In addition to their incompetency in dealing with women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights, the Trump administration continues to be ignorant in the midst of conversations about racial equality. First-time voter Eve Carrott (Dartmouth College) expressed her support for Biden/Harris after watching President Trump “use his power to imbibe his ignorant racial prejudices into the law”, especially after his response to the Black Lives Matter Protests.
While the Black Lives Matter Protests have been advertised as a form of “leftist” anarchy by many conservatives, some voters believe that another four years of the Trump administration would actually be anarchical for our country. Parker Himley, a queer and neurodivergent woman from Georgetown University, expressed her disapproval for the Trump Administration during our interview. “Fuck Trump. We’re not going survive another four years”, she said. To young-voters like Parker, voting for Biden/Harris is a last-ditch attempt to save democracy and the freedom that American prides itself on while remaining cognizant of necessary reform.
Finally, the Biden/Harris ticket appears to be the better platform across almost all social issues. Aliza Schuler, a first-time voter at American University, believes that “misogynism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, or racism of ANY KIND is unacceptable, especially in the White House”. She is voting for Biden/Harris during this election because “our universe simply cannot handle another four years of Donald Trump geologically, fiscally, socially, or emotionally. We need out”. In addition, a victory for the Biden/Harris ticket would mean that Senator Harris would be “the first woman and woman-of-color to hold a vice-presidential position, which would be a stepping stone to having a female president someday”. Aliza is optimistic that the Biden/Harris ticket will get us “one step closer” to having a female president in office, while a Trump/Pence victory would be a major setback for having women in leadership positions.
Across all of these responses, there appears to be a clear trend of “picking the lesser of two evils”. A Biden/Harris ticket was no one’s first choice, but it was a far better choice than the Trump/Pence ticket in terms of racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights, climate change, and unifying our country as a whole. Across Gen Z and millennial social media platforms, this trend has been nicknamed “Settle for Biden”, indicating that we’re just trying to make the best of an unfavorable situation. As young people continue to battle for our futures, the solution remains clear: voting!
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