It’s that time of year. Well, almost. Amidst all of the enormous unrest that has happened over the past few months in the United States, there is one subject that remains constant: the 2020 Presidential election. July 26 marked exactly 100 days before the election as the political climate of the country has become increasingly more divisive. For many people, the 2020 election couldn’t come any sooner, while others desperately want to avoid November.
I cannot emphasize enough how important this election is going to be. Even our current president, Donald Trump, is realizing the importance of the election. Over the past couple of weeks, President Trump himself has suggested changing the date of the 2020 election, as national polls have him consistently trailing former Vice President Joe Biden. I know what many of you are thinking: Trump is on the ropes. He is taking some solid jabs to the gut, some roundhouse kicks and even some smacks upside the head. All Trump needs is one more clean strike and he is done for. KO. Don’t you just wish that elections could be settled in a boxing ring?
But seriously, although Trump may be down, he is certainly not out. It may be promising that national polls have Trump trailing Biden by a considerable margin, but we’ve been here before. Back in 2016, the vast majority of political analysts, newspaper industries, and broadcast networks had Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump without much trouble. Specifically, Clinton was projected to have the support of likely voters, well-educated voters and public surveys. Also, during the presidential debates, political analysts reassured us that Clinton “won; it wasn’t even close,” while Mr. Trump “committed unforced errors.” It seemed reassuring to me back in 2016, but look what happened. A once promising future was taken away with a rapid descent into oblivion.
As it has been almost four years since he was elected, we have seen the type of president Donald Trump has turned out to be. From endorsing a temporary ban on seven different Muslim countries, to removing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, to calling African countries “s***hole countries,” and most recently disregarding COVID-19 safety guidelines by holding a large political rally in Arizona this past June, his term has been a complete disaster.
We have witnessed Trump and his administration making an endless string of political blunders, insensitive comments both in person and on social media, and creating the largest amount of societal schism in the U.S. and abroad in our lifetimes. Plus, let us not forget that Trump has been more synonymous with scandals than any political leader has been in years. Even after everything that has happened since the 2016 election, I am afraid these unfortunate circumstances might continue after the results in November.
If you take anything from this piece, let it be this: we need to vote. Regardless of your political opinion or background, it is absolutely essential that we vote. Voting in the 2020 election can be a step toward rebuilding society. Four years ago, we did not do our job as voters. In fact, close to half of eligible voters in 2016 didn’t even vote. As a result, most people were faced with the reality that America was regressing into a new era of fear-mongering and hatred. Unfortunately, lack of participation has become increasingly common in recent elections, both in the U.S. and throughout the world. For example, in the UK’s general election in 2015, only 66.1% voted; the other 35% of people were declared as the “unheard third.” The amount of people who are not voting in political elections is reflective of the rise of distrust in our political institutions and elected leaders.
Why aren’t people voting in elections, and what are the consequences of this inaction? On one hand, there is a true indifference to voting in general. Due to the rise of the internet and social media, voters have been less eager to participate in voting. For example, since the 1992 election in the UK, there has been a steady decline in he number of people who have voted in elections. Specifically, because of social media echo chambers and unethical use of voter data from companies such as Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, people have been more willing to get their information from unfiltered and unreliable sources on the internet. Social media has caused several controversial public incidents in many campaigns as well. For example, during the 2016 presidential election, President Trump bought two digital ads that accused Biden of trying to give Ukrainian officials $1million dollars to remove a legal case against his son, Hunter. While this accusation was false, it generated a lot of publicity and was seen by over 4 million people.
Even more importantly, there have been deliberate attempts by municipal and state governments to deter people from voting. In fact, during the 2018 midterm elections there were several cases of voter suppression, particularly of marginalized voters. Voter suppression was prevalent in states such as Georgia, Texas, Florida and North Dakota. In fact, while all of these states had competitive races, there were policies in place to intentionally limit voter participation. In Georgia, where 70% of voters were black, there was voter suppression during the midterm elections targeted at African-American communities. Specifically, Georgia instituted a “pending” status for black voters due to apparent misspellings on their registration forms. While there was an attempt to eliminate the pending status against African-American voters, Georgia was still able to enforce restrictions such as questioning voters’ citizenship status. Voter suppression is very much a threat to the outcome of elections and is something to keep in mind in the coming 2020 election.
Where do we, as college students, come in? With everything that has happened over the past couple of years, I think it’s safe to say that many people will be incentivized to vote. As the tight-knit community that we are, Bates can do its part this coming November. It’s going to take a full campus-wide effort to make an impact. I’m not just talking about making a few posts on Instagram or having a few occasional chats with friends; I’m talking about student-led organizations, faculty, and the administration supporting voting participation initiatives. However, having said all of this, we have to hope that everything works out between now and November. Especially with COVID-19 still affecting the vast majority of states in the country, who knows what the state of campus life will be in November. When we look back at 2020, it will certainly be a year of unexplainable phenomenon. Nevertheless, I still remain optimistic despite the very uncertain future that lies ahead.