Students Share Their Thoughts on the Election and the Nation’s Political Climate

October 28, 2016

For months now, talk of the upcoming elections has been everywhere. It has been virtually impossible to open a news site or to scroll through Twitter without encountering yet another article on Donald Trump’s latest offense or Hillary Clinton’s turbulent career. Given the intense scrutiny on both candidates, a narrative has emerged in the national media of millennial voters abandoning both Trump and Clinton, and instead voting en masse for third-party candidates.

To learn about about Hoyas’ opinions on the elections, the Voice asked Georgetown students to share their perspectives on today’s political climate. In the heat of an election season filled with scandals, insults, racism, and sexism, several students shared their views. While our interviewees may not be representative of the campus or young people in general, they can offer their own perspectives as well as some insight into the direction of this country’s political climate.

The following interviews have been edited for clarity.

Jawad Pullin (COL ’18)

“There are ideological ecosystems on this campus for libertarians, hard-right Catholics, and many minority groups on campus. They often discuss views amongst each other and don’t often venture beyond their safe spaces. But for the most part, Hoyas engage in a lot of political discussions on campus and it makes us smarter and more reasonable and more respectful of one another as a result. One example that comes to mind is the Jeh Johnson commencement controversy from the end of last semester. One doesn’t often see Latinos, UndocuHoyas, and allies engaging in impassioned debates about immigration reform with moderates, conservatives, and free speech advocates. But on the Facebook event page, that’s what you saw. It was very heated. A lot of barbs were thrown both ways. But deep down, I think most people were aware that a consensus could be reached.”

Jawad identifies as a Democrat and is voting for Hillary Clinton. He is a member of Georgetown College Democrats.

Marcela Barrientos (SFS ’18)

“I’m from New York, and I was there at Occupy Wall Street, and so that was my introduction to any sort of political conversation, if we can call it that. And it was just this terrible disillusionment and disappointment and frustration with students who I guess were my age back then. And they didn’t really have any resources or any sort of means to speed up change they wanted to see so they took to the streets, and even with Trump supporters now, I think though they’re often dismissed as racist, ignorant, I think that’s kind of villainizing poor, working-class people without the resources, so naturally they tend to just give up on ‘the establishment’ and try to look for other means. It doesn’t make sense to the rest of us, but we are pretty detached from their reality.

“So I can’t vote. I’m not a citizen; I’m a permanent resident. If I could vote, I’d probably vote for Hillary because I feel like it’s my duty as a citizen to vote, but otherwise, I don’t think my vote would make a difference anyway. I’m from New York so she’s set there, but still, I don’t agree with Gary Johnson’s views and Trump doesn’t benefit me in the slightest sense. I’m not trying to get deported, so my only other option is Hillary.”

Marcela is a member of the International Relations Club’s outreach board.

Kevin Chao (COL ’18)

“There have always been certain issues where there is one position that is tough to express on college campuses, especially with contentious issues of personhood and individual liberty such as abortion and gay rights. But Trump is unusual in that supporting him at all has become anathema on our campus. It’s tough because I personally think his views are uninformed, dangerous, and offensive in most cases, especially with regard to his policies on Muslims and freedom of the press, both of which are First Amendment issues. But I do think dialogue is important, and we ought to tolerate people who advocate these things. Tolerance doesn’t come under condition of reciprocity. We need to tolerate others’ right to express intolerant opinions.

“I’m voting for Gary Johnson. I can’t bring myself to vote for either of the major-party candidates, and I think we need to come to the realization that voting for a doomed candidate is not a wasted vote … If the Libertarian Party can hit five percent of the popular vote this year, they will have access to federal campaign funds next election cycle. This is counted nationally, so your vote will still count even if you’re in a solid red or solid blue state. I doubt most students would support Gary Johnson because of his ignorance of foreign affairs, his desire to scale back federal regulations, or simply the fact that he can’t win. But he checks the right boxes for me. A weaker federal government, and one that’s less engaged in international issues, is just what we need.”

Kevin identifies as a libertarian and is a member of Georgetown Young Americans for Liberty.

Julie Antonellis (COL ’17)

“I think sometimes this campus can feel like a liberal echo chamber, so the environment’s not too conducive to bipartisan conversations. I do think Georgetown’s Institute for Politics and Public Service has tried to promote bipartisan conversation by bringing diverse speakers or fellows to campus.

“While I acknowledge there’s been some political polarization, I don’t think we’re as divided as it may seem. Most of us agree on issues such as universal background checks for gun owners and the need to address income inequality in some way.”

Julie is the editor-in-chief of The Georgetown Progressive. She is voting for Hillary Clinton.

Peter Hamilton (COL ’18)

“What’s driven me more towards voting for [Trump] than anything else has been the extreme, vile, vulgar, and disgusting attacks on both Trump and on his supporters … I think that just because someone is white, lower-income, didn’t go to college, and lives in the South doesn’t mean that their opinion immediately should be discounted from politics, or not represented. And that goes for every minority: just because you’re black, or a woman, doesn’t mean that your vote shouldn’t count. A lot of time, though, people just look at his supporters and say, ‘Oh, it’s just those dumb people from the South,’ and that really upsets me because they’re people too.

“One of the main reasons I am voting for Trump is the Supreme Court. I think it’s important to have conservative justices, and I personally think that Trump isn‘t going to do any of what he says he’s going to do—he’s not going to build a wall, he’s not going to ban all Muslims, he’s not going to do any of that—just because of limits on presidential power. I think if you look at the cost-benefit analysis, the cost of electing Clinton is thirty years of liberal Supreme Court justices, and the cost of a Trump presidency is that maybe we lose some international standing, but we would have a conservative Supreme Court, and we would have a president who, as long as we maintain the status quo, wouldn’t destroy the United States.”

Peter is a member of the College Republicans. The College Republicans has not endorsed a presidential candidate for the election.

Mason Hill (SFS ’17)

“I was much more a Republican of convenience, because that was the straightforward way to get internships, being a white male from Kentucky … As Georgetown students probably know from Capitol Hill internships, in the minutiae of that, when you’re in the weeds, it’s really just pick a side and play with it. Or at least that’s my personal attitude towards it.

“I think there’s been proportionally more Trump supporters at Georgetown than other groups of millennials, particularly on the East Coast. As someone from Kentucky, I always say, Trump’s a New York Republican problem, not a southern Republican problem, as the narrative tends to be. The Trump supporters on this campus … they’re not coming from a place of empathy with Trump supporters, but it seems to me to be coming from a place of careerism.

“You have all kinds of misogynistic, racist, anti-semitic tropes that are embedded in [Trump’s tirades] … But Georgetown students in their personal conversations about the election generally fail to dive deeper than, ‘Oh, it’s a bunch of rednecks voting for Trump.’ Well, let’s unpack that term. What do you mean by that? Why would somebody vote for Trump? My issue is more in terms of the academic discourse … I don’t think you can identify this gap in liberal democracy without having a more in-depth conversation about that … I’ve been disappointed in Georgetown students’ unwillingness or inability, particularly in the SFS, to use either the empirical tools to try and explain Trump or the humanistic tools to try and empathize with Trump supporters.”

Mason is a member of the International Relations Club. He is voting for Hillary Clinton.

Ari Goldstein (COL ’18)

“It can be difficult to be a young independent in a political system that is built around the two major parties. I haven’t interned on Capitol Hill, for example, because I know that interning for a member of Congress will forever stamp my resume with that political party. I also was not allowed to participate in the mock Iowa caucus that was held by GU Politics this spring since a caucus is inherently a partisan event.

“I think we have a pretty solidly bipartisan campus culture, but that has certainly become more difficult during this election cycle since there are so few outspoken Donald Trump supporters on campus. Frankly, I think that’s fine—let’s continue to focus on genuine dialogue between liberal and conservative ideologies rather than getting sucked into the Trump-obsessed political drama that has taken over the media.”

Ari identifies as an independent and is voting for Hillary Clinton. He is the Chief of Staff of the Georgetown University Student Association.

Lizzy Grannis (COL ’18)

“I am certainly not voting for either Clinton or Trump. I’ve been told that I should vote for Clinton because I’m a woman and women have to stick together, which was one of the most asinine and sexist things I’ve heard this year. I’m not going to vote one particular way just because I have a vagina. I’m going to make a smart and informed decision for the good of my country. Assuming I would do anything else is an insult to my character.”

Lizzy identifies as a libertarian and is a member of Georgetown Students for Johnson.

Jose Altamirano (COL ’17)

“I think the current trend of social consciousness on politically-charged issues of race, gender, immigration status, ability, et al., is new for conservatives. They are used to debating liberals on the role of government, or tax reform, or health care reform. They are not as used to discussing Black Lives Matter, or rape culture. They want to debate these issues as if they are policy differences, when those who support BLM or the existence of rape culture see these issues as matters of fact, carrying the weight of truth, and that those who disagree are guilty of a serious moral flaw. I believe that this is a source for the tension that has been seen in recent months between conservatives and their more left-leaning peers on campus.

“I am far more interested in my state’s (North Carolina) down-ballot races for U.S. Senate and governor. I think students should pay far more attention to down-ballot races, since they can impact their families’ lives on a greater and more immediate scale.”

Jose is voting for Hillary Clinton. He is involved in the Institute of Politics and Public Service.

Max Rosner (COL ’18)

“I was active in the College Democrats my first semester at the Hilltop, but I was a bit upset that many of the meetings began by ridiculing conservatives. Early in the second semester of my freshman year, I began to get involved with No Labels, a national bipartisan organization. Georgetown University became one of the first colleges in the United States to start a chapter.

“Campus often reflects the bitter partisan divide in the country. For example, I am the Grand Knight of the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus. For years there had been, and probably still continues to be, tension between us and H*yas for Choice. If you eavesdropped the pro-choice’s table in Red Square, you would often hear degrading comments thrown at the Catholic and pro-life community. The same can probably be said about my side as well. That’s why I’ve reached out to leaders of organizations who staunchly disagree with our values and ideals. If we want to make change, conversations must begin that are rooted in a the dignity of the other … Neither side is totally correct. There is almost always merit it to the other side of the argument. Mutual respect begins right at home. I room with a staunch Trump supporter, a passionate Bernie bro, a Gary Johnson enthusiast, and an apolitical voter. We have terrific conversations not just about politics, but how we came to have certain views. Empathy matters.”

Max identifies as a moderate Catholic Democrat and is voting for Hillary Clinton.

Charlotte Kovach (COL ’18)

“Whether or not you agree with this assessment, someone I know just called this election the choice between a crook and a creep. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I will not vote for Hillary Clinton, but I also will not be voting for Donald Trump. I cannot vote for Trump because I do not feel that he embodies Republican ideas, or upholds moral standards. I will not betray my principles simply to vote along party lines, and I don’t think anyone else should either. I’ve agonized over this election for a long time and decided to vote for Evan McMullin. I’m actually very happy with this decision, and I think my reasoning makes a lot of sense to other conservatives on campus.”

Charlotte identifies as a moderate Republican. She is a member of the Institute of Politics and Public Service’s student advisory board, and is on the executive board of No Labels Georgetown.

Jasmin Ouseph (SFS ’19)

“While most students here are liberal, and many students demand basic respect and tolerance in discussions, I don’t think this prevents meaningful bipartisan discourse. I don’t subscribe to complaints about liberals demanding people be ‘politically correct’ or ‘sensitive’ because that just means one is going to be held accountable for saying racist/sexist/queerphobic/problematic things.

“I am voting for Hillary Clinton. Well before the primaries, even while I supported Bernie, I acknowledged that she was the most qualified candidate … The most disagreement I’ve faced— despite from unabashed Trump supporters—has come from several of my more radical friends that refuse to compromise their beliefs to vote for who they used to call ‘the most moderate conservative in the race.’ As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich put it, ‘Hillary is the best candidate for the system we have. Bernie is the best candidate for the system we need.’ At this point, Bernie is not an option, and I live in Florida so I’m definitely taking my vote seriously. I don’t vote for people or parties, I vote for outcomes, and I know that the outcomes of voting for Hillary are better than the outcomes of not voting for her.”

Jasmin supported Bernie Sanders during the primaries, but is voting for Hillary Clinton. She is a member of H*yas for Choice and GUSA senator.

Maximilian Fiege (SFS ’18)

“I’ve found [political] divides to run along school lines. Students who study global issues and political theory throughout the College and SFS tend to have the most refined positions on issues, whereas I’ve noticed that students in the MSB, NHS, and College who don’t regularly get exposure to public policy lack a similar level of nuance. I lay blame on a variety of factors for this, namely the polarized media, the affluent background of the average Georgetown student, and lack of coursework in political science or global affairs. Essentially, I believe the divide arises from the fact that many students base their beliefs off of biased inputs because they believe it to be the norm, without ever being put in the position to defend it under scrutiny. “I will be voting for Hillary Clinton in November, as I consider 2016 to be the first great inflection point of the 21st century. The policies enacted in the next presidential term will determine how the USA navigates a ‘G-0’ world, and whether or not we will be able to hit 2050 climate change targets. I do not care how Machiavellian or cavalier Hillary is, all I know is that she will be able to negotiate with the international community from a seat of respect and push scientific innovation as a national agenda. That some people consider spineless schmucks like Trump or Gary Johnson as suitable alternatives is offensive to me.”

Maximilian identifies as a progressive.

Matthew Maury contributed reporting.

More: ,

Read More

Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] year, in the weeks leading up to the election, the Voice interviewed students and asked for their perspectives on the national political climate. In those interviews, students discussed how they planned to […]