As American citizens prepare to flock to the ballot boxes on Nov. 8, anxiety over who will be our southern neighbour’s future head of state is rising. After nearly a year and a half of a constant barrage of political debate and discussion from popular media outlets, celebrities and friends, voter turnout is expected to break records. Even a small Canadian campus like Mount Allison’s cannot escape the political frenzy.
American-born student Maureen Abegdibi said she will probably begrudgingly vote for Hillary Clinton. She echoed a common concern among many disenchanted voters, claiming to not be “comfortable with all of her policies, with her history, with her as a politician and as a moral person,” but she thinks that “the alternative is much more dangerous.” She added, “I’d most definitely feel more inclined to vote [for Bernie] Sanders.”
Abegdibi felt that the rise of populist candidates Donald Trump and Sanders highlighted a broken political system. “Sanders happened because Democrats were sick of the establishment. Trump happened because Republicans are sick of the establishment.”
She said that the fundamental difference between ex-Democratic candidate Sanders and current Democratic nominee Clinton is their approach to dealing with the American political system.
“[Clinton] is interested in being a part of the system, whereas [Sanders] recognized that there was something wrong with it, and wanted to take it apart,” Abegbidi said. “I think what he was saying really resonated with a lot of students, so that’s part of the reason why he had so much support last year.”
Libertarian party nominee Gary Johnson and Green party nominee Jill Stein have spent considerably less time in the public spotlight than either Trump or Clinton. Abegdibi said that while it would be nice to incorporate more parties into the electoral process, she believed that as the two-party system currently stands, a vote for Johnson or Stein would be a vote wasted.
American student Isabel Sears-Surface embraces the idea of voting for third-party candidates during smaller elections. “It’s ridiculous to have those parties only visible during the presidential election but keep them invisible for smaller elections. People forget that voting third-party at the local level, like school boards, mayoral positions, [or] state representatives, can be very valuable.”
However, Sears-Surface felt that voting third-party should “definitely not [happen] at the federal or presidential level, because all that is doing is splitting the vote.”
“In American elections, what tends to happen when you split the vote is that you get something you’d want even less,” Sears-Surface said.
While most students at Mt. A are not American and cannot vote in the upcoming election, many still have a lot to say. Canadian fourth-year student Liam St. Louis stated he would happily vote for Clinton. “She’s an impressive woman,” St. Louis said. “She strikes me as someone who will know how to deal with dysfunctional American politics.”
St. Louis felt particularly drawn to Clinton due to her greater political experience compared to Trump. “American politics are broken, and being able to navigate [the political system] is the only way to get anything done. I think she’ll move the Democratic party leftwards and forwards,” St. Louis said. “So in a way, she’s actually less ‘establishment’ than you’d think.”
Second-year Canadian student Riley Barrett said he would vote for Trump if he were an American citizen. Barrett felt that Clinton’s precedent of lying and manipulating the system was enough to get him to support the Republican candidate.
“Frankly, I think that Hillary will lie through her teeth to get people to vote for her,” Barrett said. “People don’t really look at the email scandal, but it’s a great example: the sheer fact that she would get a subpoena, and for her to then delete 30,000 of them and whitewash them…it’s so suspicious.”
Barrett felt that despite his weekly gaffes, Trump’s aggressive and emotionally charged approach to public speaking was enticing rather than off-putting. “He’s said things I would have never said to people in real life, but I do think he doesn’t try to hide his true opinion like Hillary does,” Barrett said. “It doesn’t bother me that he’s not politically correct – he’s saying things that are already on people’s minds, and more importantly, what’s on his mind.”
Considering the implications of Clinton’s countless odious scandals and Trump’s setbacks after tripping over his own controversial sound bites and inflammatory rhetoric, this exhausting presidential election presents voters with a very difficult decision, the result of which will reverberate far beyond the United States.