BY REED SHELTON
With the 2016 U.S. presidential election edging closer, Salisbury University students – some of whom will be casting a ballot for the first time – are beginning to voice their opinions on the race for the Oval Office.
Senior political science major Chris Ek is still undecided on which candidate he will cast his vote for at this point, six months into an unusual election cycle featuring non-politicians, brain surgeons and self-described socialists.
“I’m actually very excited for this election because I feel that no one candidate has credentials that stand out over all the others,” Ek said. “It’s very intriguing, but it’s scary at the same time because I don’t see one particular leader that seems best to me.”
Ek says he admires Senator Hillary Clinton’s (D) experience as Secretary of State, but worries about the controversies surrounding her. He commends Senator Bernie Sanders’ (D) progressive approach to topics such as the high cost of college tuition, while at the same time having concerns about how or even if Sanders would be able to implement worthwhile changes.
Even Republicans on the other side of the aisle are not without values and faults, he said.
“I usually wait until close (to Election Day), before I take a strong stance,” he said. “Right now, for me, there isn’t one candidate that fits the definition of a president that I’d want. I’m willing to wait and see.”
Ek acknowledged that his “wait and see” attitude is unusual in an election that seems as polarizing among American voters as it is unusual.
And according to political science associate professor Len Robinson, the 2016 race for the Oval Office may be the most bizarre our nation has ever witnessed.
“It’s so atypical that we’re probably hard-pressed to even find a previous electoral cycle that we can go back and compare this to,” Robinson said, calling it, “for better or worse, the most-exciting campaign I’ve seen since I started paying attention to politics.”
Partially driving this departure from the norm on the Republican side, he said, is a frustration both within their voter base over a sense of it abandoning the values they believe it stood for, and with successes from the Obama administration such as those surrounding health care and gay rights.
“Many people in the hardcore conservative base see this as an assault on their traditional values,” he said, citing as an example some Trump supporters’ desire to go “back to the twentieth century.”
On the other side of the aisle, some campus Democrats like senior philosophy and political science major Nick French have been attracted to “underdogs like Bernie Sanders,” a social democratic and long-time critic of many U.S. policies, because he addresses underrepresented issues, French said.
“There’s undeniable proof that the wealth gap is increasing, and we have a severe crisis of income inequality in America,” French said. “The top one percent earn eighty percent of the nation’s wealth––and it’s eye-opening.”
Along with rectifying that inequality, French said, Sanders also champions the cause of establishing universal health care as a human right, not a privilege.
“I believe that everyone should be entitled to health care if their nation can provide it to them, which we can,” French said.
French is hardly alone as a left-leaning college student. According to a 2014 poll by the Pew Research Center, the Millennial generation (those born between 1981 and 1996) vote Democrat 51 percent of the time. Republicans, however, garner only 31 percent of that group.
Graduate business administration student Mike DiMayo is one such outlier. He’ll enter the ballot box for the first time this election, casting his vote for a Republican, who he believes best embodies his own concerns for the country.
“Gun control is a big issue for me,” DiMayo said. “I hunt, and I don’t think that guns are the problem. Just the people pulling the trigger.”
Additionally, he said, repairing the economy is a major concern for him, but not in the way liberals have in mind.
“I don’t like the idea of taxing the upper class even more––they work hard to get where they are,” he said. “I’d rather see higher taxes on things like alcohol, tobacco and even marijuana.”