Election 2016: America’s Favorite Sitcom

No matter where we look nowadays, there is always some sort of reference to the upcoming presidential election to slap us back into the pessimism of reality. Whether it’s online, on television, or on a sign conspicuously posted in a window of the Sigma Chi house, this election is hard to miss. But why exactly is this election so unusual?

It’s evident that there is a wide variety of opinions circulating about this election, so I decided to sit down with a few members of the SMU community to hear their opinions on the trends present in this election season. I had the opportunity to speak to Honors Humanities professor and PhD candidate Mr. Andrew Forrester, freshman pre-law student Heather Smith, and debate team president Aabid Shivji.

This election has been described by many as one of the most controversial in history, but is that really the case? When asked about this, Ms. Smith said that it is more controversial mostly because “information travels a lot faster than it did in earlier elections,” while on the other hand, Mr. Forrester took the stance that “politics is always dirty” and that this election isn’t necessarily more controversial than any of the earlier ones. So it appears that even the controversial nature of this election in itself is controversial.

If nothing else, the candidates in this election are great entertainment — which might be a nice quality if they weren’t running for such an important office. Nevertheless, there are some stark differences between the two candidates’ rhetoric and supporters. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, while 30% of Clinton supporters are pessimistic about the future of America, a staggering 68% of Trump supporters felt the same. Ms. Smith provided this explanation:

“Trump is promoting the idea that a lot of things need to be fixed in America, and that things are really bad, and that we need dramatic change. Versus Clinton who is more for incremental change…”

On the same note, Trump’s support is noticeably low among millennials (27%, to be exact). When asked about why this may be the case, Mr. Forrester had this to say:

“Millennials as a whole are more likely to be Democratic or left-leaning — or at least left of center. Generally, support for the GOP is from Evangelical circles, and these supporters tend to come from an older group of people who equate Christianity with Republican politics. The younger generation is less comfortable with this link. Additionally, I think that millennials are an ironic group of people, and Trump is just fuel to the fire of ironic mockery.”

While, on the other hand, Mr. Shivji had this analysis to provide for the phenomenon:

“I think young people in general… feel like the ‘big guy’ is a problematic figure, regardless of what side of the political spectrum you’re on. This would explain the interesting percentage that supports a 3rd party candidacy. Trump’s support being low, conversely, is an indicator of younger people still being around people with so many different interests… Younger people don’t have access to the same echo chamber that adults over 30 have developed in their place of work, friend circles, and social spaces that allow views such as Trump’s to become acceptable and commonplace.”

In case you weren’t already aware, Trump and Clinton are not the only choices in this race. You’ve also got the Aleppo-gaffing Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, the recently arrested Jill Stein of the Green Party, and many more who are currently losing to Harambe in some polls. When asked about what effect third parties are having on this election, both Ms. Smith and Mr. Forrester agreed that they are having a higher degree of impact on this election than in previous cycles. More specifically, Mr. Forrester provided this analysis:

“I think that they are seen as — if not a viable option to win — at least a viable option to communicate distaste for the two parties, for the problems in the two parties, and for the corruption in the two parties. And so, if nothing else, I think they give people an outlet to express their dissatisfaction with the current standing of politics.”

Despite the hilarity and ridiculousness of this election cycle making it appear like more of a sitcom, it is important to remember that it is still a real election that will affect the world for years to come. All of the people that I interviewed wanted to advise the students of SMU to research more into the candidates and actually make an educated vote on November 8th. Mr. Shivji, more specifically, wanted to remind everyone that it isn’t just the presidential election that is occurring this year, but also the debatably more important congressional elections. Remember, the deadline to register to vote in Texas is October 11th, so register soon to avoid missing out!

This article was written by Alec Mason. Click here to see more of Alec’s work.