photo by: Margo S. Lee
Orange County School of the Arts

Opinion: Take a stance in this election year

Am I an expert on politics? No. The Constitution? No. Economics, foreign policies, and court cases that have set countless precedents? Of course not. In fact, it’s not just me; It’s all of us. Yes, the “experts” are much more knowledgeable than the “common people,” but each debate topic is so complex and our Constitution is so open to interpretation that no one can be the “master.”

I’ve never been the person to write about politics, but I think that this is so important for us before America marks its next chapter in history in November. You may have already seen it all over your social media feeds: We need to vote, and we need to vote to make it count.

In a recent article titled “Vote as if It Matters” by Paul Krugman from The New York Times, Krugman argues—almost pleads—Americans, especially the younger voters, to not throw away their votes and to really think before voting for a third party candidate like Gary Johnson. Now, it is important to note that The New York Times generally provides liberal point of views and that Krugman does criticize Trump and praise Clinton for having the “most progressive policy positions ever advocated by a presidential candidate.” Despite the existing bias, there is a lesson to be learned from Krugman’s article. 

First of all, we need to take a step back and review all the policies that each candidate stands for without looking at the name of the political party. Looking at the name of the party not only influences our opinions when reviewing the policies, but it also can be misleading. For example, in the case of the Libertarian Party, one may automatically favor it because of the strong positive connotation with the word “liberty.” Before one goes to vote for the Libertarian Party because they don’t like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, one should review what the Libertarian Party’s platform is. Especially if you are a strong Bernie Sanders supporter, you just may be surprised that a lot of their ideas conflict with Sanders’ ideas and even may not agree with your idea of “liberty.”

According to John Locke, we give up certain amount of liberty for the security and order under a government, trusting the government to protect our rights in return. Since the Constitution is based on ideas of philosophers like Locke, it is no surprise that most of our debates are based on the central questions of: “How much liberty are we going to give up as citizens to accomplish our goals?” Then there is the whole debate about how what one’s idea of the “ideal liberty” is different from others. That’s why all of this is incredibly complex: there are countless philosophical questions that can be debated for years and years when there really can’t be the “perfect answer.” And that’s why we need to work together, not as opposing parties, but more as human beings trying to solve problems together.

Now, Krugman isn’t alone in the effort to encourage people to not vote for third parties. In fact, at a rally for Democratic congressional candidate in New York, Sanders pleaded Americans to not vote for a third party to make a statement and passionately argued that “this is the time to elect Clinton and then work after the election to mobilize millions of people to make sure she can be the most progressive president she can be.” Or as Krugman would summarize: “nobody cares” about you making a statement with a vote for a minor-party candidate. 

I’m not saying that no one should vote for a minor-party candidate. If one truly believes in the Libertarian Party’s policies, then they should vote for what they believe in. Yet, it is also very true that the chance of a third party winning this election is very slim according to the recent polls and general demographics even though many are against Trump and Clinton. Still, every vote counts despite what many will tell you.

I’m also not telling you who to vote for other than that you need to vote for what you believe in after taking some time to research about each platform…. Because in the end, it’s up to you–therefore, it’s up to us. Whether it’s your very first time voting or your 10th time voting, it doesn’t matter: your vote counts. Yes, even your vote based on the thought “I’m 18 and I think I know what I want from reading headlines from what my friends share on their page” counts. If you are voting this election season, it is critical that you take the time to research exactly what you are voting for.

Yes, I mean what and not who. 

I would like to think that in about a month or so, we will all try to vote for the candidate that has promised us what each of us believes in. I would like to believe that rather than constantly ignoring the goods of a candidate by focusing on their flaws, we would take a step back and see the better of not just the candidates, but also of each other while discussing the real issues on the table.

I would like to take an optimistic–perhaps naive–stance and argue that this election season we need to think about “Who do I actually agree with more?” rather than playing the game of “Who is more flawed?” We are dealing with human beings that have their own backgrounds and experiences, which includes flaws and mistakes like the rest of us. So, if we keep on pointing out flaws instead of trying to figure out what is actually good about each candidate, then the list won’t end. And one would end up voting for a third-party member that they don’t really know about because people are frustrated and aren’t as aware of third party’s flaws since the media doesn’t cover them as much.

I do not mean to justify any wrong doings of any candidate or to say that discussing whether a candidate is worthy or trustworthy is not important (it is). However, I do mean to point out that we are focusing on the candidates’ wrongdoings (the who) so much that we are starting to lose sight of what we are voting for when we vote for a candidate. Perhaps even worse, we are forgetting the importance of trying to understand each other because we are so confident in our knowledge of who the candidate is when we really don’t know what the differing viewpoints are.

No, I’m not an expert on politics. I’m just a student, a filmmaker, a storyteller. But, I’m writing this article because I am a human being who believes that… who hopes that we would start to acknowledge the common morals that we share as human beings before attacking each other about how flawed the who, the candidate, is instead of discussing how to improve the whats, the policies.

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