Decision 2016

Author: Andrea Vale, Casey Nash, Liz Hynes, & Joe DiSipio

Decision 2016Patrick Semansky (Associated Press)

The idea that one’s vote won’t decide an election is perhaps the strongest it’s been in a long while. A quick glance at the New York Times shows an almost laughable “Presidential Forecast” predicting the upcoming election outcome: Hillary Clinton, 89 percent; Donald J. Trump, 11 percent.

But that same concept has never been more relevant to Kimberly Hogan. This is her first time voting, in any election. And when Scholastic spoke to her with only two weeks to voting day, the 18-year-old Walsh Hall freshman was still undecided.

“I want my vote to count,” Hogan says. And she believes wholeheartedly that hers could. Hogan is from Florida, a prominent swing state.

“That’s part of the reason I’m so undecided,” Hogan says, “My vote might actually count a lot more.”

A medley of personal circumstances has led to Hogan becoming the perfect prototype of an undecided voter for this year’s election. Besides being from a significant swing state, Hogan was raised in “a pretty Republican community.”

“Both of my parents grew up pretty poor,” she says. “My dad was on food stamps, my mom’s an immigrant from Vietnam, and they both worked really hard and now they’re both in decently high paying jobs.”

“My upbringing was great,” she says, describing a household in which members take off their shoes before entering, and in which Vietnamese dishes and a celebration of the Vietnamese New Year are familiar constants. Although Hogan was raised Catholic, she wouldn’t call herself particularly religious.

If she’d been raised in a heavily Democratic community, it’d be over: Clinton. But coming from a Republican community during an election in which the Republican candidate is perhaps the most outlandish to ever run, her natural conservative tendencies are stalled.

Hogan says that if she had been able to vote in the last presidential election, she would “probably” have voted Republican.

“Just growing up in a community like that … the economy is one of our biggest concerns in the town I’m from,” Hogan says. “The community is pretty Republican, but obviously Trump is not everyone’s ideal candidate.”

Hogan cites her views on healthcare reform as an example of the Republican in her.

“My mom works in a hospital, and she says Obamacare created a lot of problems,” she says.

But abortion brings out the Democrat. “I’m not as pro-life as most of the Notre Dame community,” Hogan says, “But I have faith that wherever the country lies, I don’t think we’re ever gonna be like, ‘No abortions ever, (even) if you might die,’ and I don’t think we’ll ever be like, ‘Let’s just give abortions to everyone, no matter what’s happening’ ... The president alone isn’t gonna be able to all of a sudden put forth a really strict abortion policy. It’s the rest of the government (that) will (have influence).”  

Despite her mother being a Vietnamese immigrant, Hogan says immigration policy doesn’t affect her vote.

“It probably should, considering my mom is an immigrant,” Hogan says. “I’ve reached a point where I just kind of focus on the people and economic policies, so immigration isn’t playing a huge factor in my decision. I’m also not the most informed person about politics, and I will never try to say I am.”

She’s been affected by immigration, economic concerns and healthcare. Though ultimately her scale is slightly lopsided towards a Republican vote, Hogan is comprised of contradictions, a walking example, perhaps, of the problems with rigid party lines.

Despite living in a heavily Republican community, Hogan labels her parents as her biggest political influences, thus making it fitting that she is as of yet undecided — one parent is Democrat, and one is Republican.

“The funny thing is, I think my Democrat parent is leaning towards Trump right now, and my Republican parent might vote third party, or write-in a candidate,” Hogan says. “We just really don’t like Trump or Clinton. Clinton’s obviously been in office before, but there have been some issues with (her). Especially where I’m from a lot of people are like, ‘Hey, this is kind of a problem, maybe we shouldn’t vote for Clinton,’ but at the same time Trump just says a bunch of ridiculous things and isn’t someone we would want everyone looking up to ... Neither of them seem like great options.”

So, considering her bipartisan parents, Republican hometown, history of socioeconomic growth and immigration within her family and stances on abortion, healthcare and the economy — who will she vote for?

Hogan is undecided in one of the most passionate elections in recent history. If you encounter someone from your opposing side — or someone who, because they’re undecided, becomes a potential opponent — it’s no longer just politics. It gets personal, quick.

“I don’t feel super OK being undecided this late,” Hogan says frankly. “I have my absentee ballot. I’m ready to fill it out.”

She describes her persistent journey of undecidedness as increasingly agonizing.

“I flipped back and forth a lot,” she says, “I don’t like Clinton or Trump, and I was hoping some miracle would happen, like a Republican would come out who was just more of a normal dude who knows how to talk better, and that obviously didn’t happen ... I kind of just sat there for a while hoping for a miracle to happen so I wouldn’t have to vote for Clinton or Trump or a third party, because I feel like that’s throwing away your vote. Since that doesn’t seem to be happening, I think I’m just gonna have to pick someone and go with it.”

But when presented with an escape option for her decision, would she ever simply consider not voting? Hogan stands her ground.

“The presidential election only comes once every four years, and I think it’s a pretty big deal, so I don’t think I would never not vote,” Hogan says.

And although many Democrats and Republicans alike would balk at the fact that she wouldn’t immediately vote against Trump, Hogan sees a safety net that she thinks others have perhaps overlooked when presented with the gravity that the title “President of the United States” holds.

“We have the checks and balances for a reason,” Hogan says, noting that even if Trump were elected to office and began plans to build his proposed massive wall along the Mexican border, other government officials would prevent him from making it a reality.

“(Trump or) Clinton alone isn’t gonna be able to make some big decision,” Hogan says, “We have a great form of government where you have to go through so many people to get something done that I don’t think that either of them are gonna be able to totally screw up the whole country.”

Ultimately, despite the struggles it has presented, Hogan sees being an undecided voter as something of a blessing in disguise.

“I feel comfort in the fact that I’m not on one side or the other because I think both candidates have major faults,” Hogan says. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who seem blind to the fact that their candidate could potentially do something bad … I feel like I might be seeing a bigger picture.”

Oct. 25, Hogan said she was finally starting to lean towards one candidate. “I’m trying to see both sides, but I’m also really ready to fill out my ballot and turn it in.”

Just a few days after speaking with Scholastic, Hogan finally made her decision and cast her ballot. She says, “As to who I voted for …. I plead the fifth.”

by Andrea Vale


What is the most pressing issue this election cycle? 

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Main Issues

Abortion

Yes, this is a big one here at Notre Dame, the country’s premier Catholic educational institution.  And you can bet a large contingent of people here will base their vote solely on this issue.  Traditionally, of course, Republicans are pro-life and Democrats are pro-choice; the delineation in this election is not quite so clear.

Trump has been widely criticized for his shifting and unclear stance on abortion.  In 1999 and 2000 he made several comments expressing discomfort with the issue — saying “I hate the concept of abortion” — but clearly stating his pro-choice beliefs. He began publicly endorsing the pro-life stance at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference. In a Bloomberg Politics interview in 2015, he said he is “pro-life … with caveats” such as in cases of rape, incest, or maternal endangerment, a stance he currently holds as part of his official platform. He also endorses the defunding of Planned Parenthood, despite acknowledging in February that the organization does “a lot of good things for women.” In March he notably said that women who have abortions should “face some sort of punishment,” before quickly releasing a statement saying only doctors administering abortions would face legal repercussions. His platform states that life is a fundamental right, and that he opposes any government funding for abortions.

Clinton is less ambiguous on this issue, maintaining that there is a “concerted, persistent assault on women’s health across our country,” and consistently supporting Planned Parenthood. She is pro-choice but has historically supported late-term abortion restrictions, a point at which she disagreed with former Democratic nominee candidate Bernie Sanders.

Healthcare

Healthcare policy is a significant point of contention between the two candidates and an issue that affects everyone. It could be especially important for graduating students entering the job market and looking for healthcare coverage. Both candidates pledge to reduce healthcare costs for all, though each has a drastically different plan for doing so.

Trump calls for a total repeal of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, calling it an “incredible economic burden.” According to his campaign website, he wants to institute reforms that will “broaden healthcare access, make healthcare more affordable and improve the quality of the care available.” These reforms, centered on a free-market ideal, include allowing the sale of health insurance across state lines and loosening market restrictions on drug companies.

Clinton has always supported Obamacare, saying she wants to “defend the Affordable Care Act and fix it.” Her priorities include expanding Medicare, reducing the cost of drugs and extending coverage to all, including undocumented immigrants. She will continue government support of reproductive healthcare, including funding of Planned Parenthood. Other major points are an increase in funding for community health centers and increase in size of the National Health Service Corps.

An independent study conducted by the Rand Corporation predicts that Clinton’s reforms would increase the number of insured by 9.1 million, while Trump’s would decrease insured numbers by 20.3 million. The same study found, however, that Clinton’s plan would cause the federal deficit to rise $82.7 billion higher than would Trump’s plan.

Immigration

Few issues are more relevant than immigration. This election could very well determine whether some 11 million undocumented immigrants are targeted for deportation, and it will also affect the status of those seeking refuge in the U.S. Notre Dame publicly announced its willingness to accept undocumented students in 2013, so this will affect members of the Notre Dame family directly.

Trump has for the most part held to his hard-line policies for the duration of his candidacy. He has famously insisted that he will direct construction of a wall along the southern border of the US and that “Mexico will pay for [it] … 100 percent.” In a December 2015 statement, he proposed a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” garnering significant criticism from both sides. He has since softened his position slightly, albeit still calling for significant pre-entry screening for potential immigrants.  In his August immigration speech, he proposed formation of an “immigration task force” to focus on deportation of undocumented individuals who have committed crimes. He has consistently supported mass deportation of the undocumented, making those who wish to return apply for US citizenship from their home country.

Clinton has repeatedly stressed her support of “comprehensive immigration reform” and will establish a “pathway to full and equal citizenship within her first 100 days in office,” according to her campaign website. She directly opposes mass deportation and has pledged to uphold Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which were enacted to prevent familial separation in the deportation process. She has also publicly denounced Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, saying she would welcome Syrian immigrants who undergo the proper legal procedures for entry. In stark contrast to Trump, she does not prioritize southern border security and says she does not think Trump’s wall “will ever happen.”

by Casey Nash


Is Mike Pence Scandal-Free? 

Many see the Indiana governor as Trump's straight man, but he's no stranger to controversy.

Weeks before any official pick was announced, the Trump campaign made clear that its ticket’s vice presidential candidate would play an especially pivotal role within a Trump presidency. In a May interview with Huffington Post, former campaign manager Paul Manafort disclosed that Trump’s vice president would be “an experienced person to do the part of the job [Trump] doesn’t want to do... He sees himself more as the Chairman of the Board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO.”

The title of CEO/COO has now fallen to Indiana governor Mike Pence. This virtually unprecedented delegation of power could make Pence the most influential vice president in history. Pence’s addition to the ticket, coupled with Manafort’s revelation, has brought Pence’s decisions as governor of Indiana under national scrutiny. While some may view Pence as a safer, steadier choice to offset Trump’s volatility, he too has had a career fraught with controversy. 

One of Pence’s most publicly controversial moments as governor involved his passage of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which aimed to protect Hoosiers’ rights to religious expression. The bill was met with wide backlash from opponents who claimed the bill would enable business owners to discriminate against LGBT groups. Critics often cited the (rarely occurring) example of a baker refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, saying this kind of behavior would be legal under the new law.

Pence has repeatedly insisted that the bill was about inclusivity rather than discrimination — about protecting rather than restricting rights. The bill even included an amendment meant to protect LGBT people (added later after resistance to the bill in its original form). However, intense media backlash and a highly-scrutinized damage control PR campaign has left Pence struggling to change the bill’s narrative. His backtracking angered liberals and conservatives alike: Those on the left thought his actions were “too little too late,” while conservatives felt they had been “stabbed in the back.” The spectre of this bill has done little to improve the Republican ticket’s poor standing with the LGBT community and even puts his reputation with some conservatives into question.

Though the religious freedom bill is the most discussed issue haunting Pence, another less-cited controversy is Pence’s handling of a 2015 HIV outbreak in Indiana’s Scott County. The disease spread primarily due to injecting opioid drugs with dirty needles. Health officials across the country encouraged Pence to set up a needle exchange program, which is often regarded as the quickest, cheapest and safest way to curtail the spread of syringe-spread diseases. 

Those who oppose these programs usually cite concerns that a government that provides clean needles inadvertently encourages drug use. This is an ethical quandary that even proponents of needle exchanges share. Being opposed to such programs himself, Pence hesitated, waiting over two months before finally acquiescing. By the time he finally approved the exchange, roughly 90 cases of HIV had been reported within Scott County.

Pence was nationally lambasted for his hesitation, especially after internet users unearthed his congressional campaign’s website from online archives. In his platform, he promised to renew the Ryan White CARE Act — a congressional act that provided funding for sufferers of HIV/AIDS — only after a thorough audit. The audit would need to determine that “federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate spreading of the HIV virus.” Needle exchange programs naturally fell into this category. 

But the real issue was the sentence that followed: “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” Many critics interpreted this as Pence suggesting that taxpayer dollars be used to fund conversion therapy, a practice attempting to change sexual orientation which has been outlawed in several states. Others assumed Pence was referring to abstinence-only education, which has been largely criticized, since many of the 27 states that permit it are also the states with the highest rates of teen pregnancy. Whatever “sexual behavior” Pence had in mind, the revelation of his statements did not play well in the wake of the HIV outbreak. Some political analysts theorized his actions may have cost him his 2016 gubernatorial reelection bid, had he not dropped out to pursue the vice presidency.

Another instance in which Pence failed to control an unpopular situation involved his attempt in 2015 to create Just IN, a taxpayer-funded, state-run Indiana news outlet. Just IN would not only aggregate local news, but would also “break news … publishing information ahead of any other news outlet,” according to a press release. This attempt at forming a government-owned news outlet led many to respond with outrage, saying it infringed on First Amendment rights. The uproar from Hoosiers resulted in Pence’s hasty termination of the project, dismissing the entire operation with a statement that it had all been a “misunderstanding.” In a political career as long and controversial as Pence’s, this incident is but a blip on the radar. However, when combined with his running mate’s tendency to revoke the press credentials of media who offer unflattering portrayals, it raises eyebrows.

Pence has become the darling of the Republican party this election season. His calm consistency offers a refreshing balance to his more volatile running mate. After the reveal of Trump’s 2005 comments in which he bragged about what famous men were allowed to do to women, many high-profile Republicans rescinded their support — some have even decided to write Pence’s name in place of Trump’s. As refreshing and reassuring a change as Pence might seem, he comes with his own fresh set of controversies. If Pence wins the White House — and an extremely hands-on vice presidency with it — he will have to contend with the political controversies of his past.

by Liz Hynes


A Tale of Two Bubbles 

Every few minutes, a high pitched ping rings throughout the office. Another news alert has reached inboxes inside the Beltway. 

Anywhere else, headlines are often just headlines. In D.C., they can often dictate the pace of the day.

Coffee and elevator conversations will certainly be shaped by whatever candidates said that day or whatever “October surprise” is crawling across Twitter timelines. Within an hour, everyone knows the state of the horserace and the coming implications.

This is how the hyper-informed, overly obsessed of D.C. follow presidential elections. 

When one is on campus, sitting in a dorm on West Quad, what happens at a rally in rural Pennsylvania seems to have little effect upon the lives of Notre Dame students.

On campus, politics and elections are understood, discussed, even dissected, but often seem far away and inconsequential to college life, unless the debate is over college tuition reform.

This is the consequence of of two distinct bubbles; one inside the Beltway, one in the Bend. 

Over the past year, I have straddled these two bubbles; both shaped my understanding of politics and of the world.

It is easy to say I can’t wait until the election is over so I can forget about all of this or that my vote won’t mean anything anyway. It’s easy to get caught up in your own life, in your own problems and not listen to all the noise.

Although it feels true, this attitude creates a disconnect that often goes unnoticed. But as the election season has passed, we have seen how dangerous a bubble can be.

For those left out, those within the Washington bubble are the hated “elites” who have no idea or care for what their lives are like.

Both parties have seen this anger come to fruition this year. Sanders and Trump both represent an anger among those on the outside. They have popped the bubble. 

It is easy to write off ‘fringe’ ideas as crazy when you are so deeply in the weeds as many of my colleagues and friends in Washington are, and it is just as easy to believe you are invincible to the true effects of politics from the comfort of a dorm room, but both these assumptions are dangerous.

For one thing, rational people usually have a reason for their anger. Even if you don’t agree with the way the anger has been channeled this election season, there are still legitimate reasons for people to be angry. We cannot forget that. 

This insulated attitude and its reaction has led us to this point where more than 25 percent of members of our generation say they prefer a meteor strike to either presidential candidate.

If there is anything to be learned from this election, it is to pop our own bubbles while we can and step outside our comfort zone. Either that, or pray for a comet.

by Joe DiSipio

Joe DiSipio is a junior economics major, studying in Washington D.C. this fall through the Notre Dame Washington Program. He is an intern at “The Hill.”

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