This year, many Americans have their attention on the presidential election, which sits in the middle of a pandemic, a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the nomination of a Supreme Court justice. With America’s increasing political polarization, those casting their votes for the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, cannot wrap their heads around why anyone would vote to re-elect the Republican nominee, President Donald J. Trump and Trump supporters can’t see why you wouldn’t.
The Fort Lewis College campus is no anomaly; debates have brought heat to FLC’s app, and supporters of both candidates try desperately to win support on campus. Biden and Trump supporters file onto campus daily, some staying quiet and some determined to be the loudest in the room. No matter whom you support, the message across campus is clear: vote. Yet, not everyone feels like voting is the solution to problems faced by their own communities.
Hear from FLC students, who told The Independent how their upbringings, cultures, families, values, passions, worries and hopes factor into who they’ll be casting their vote for, if they’re casting one, in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
The Trump Vote
Braxton Bruce, third-year
For Braxton Bruce, third-year FLC student, his upbringing and values are what plays the biggest roles in his decision to vote Trump 2020. Originally from Birmingham, Ala., Bruce said his “bible-belt upbringing” has unquestionably played a role in his decision to vote for Trump, with the Republican party’s adherence to Bruce’s conservative values of faith, family and policy.
“Being from the South, I’ve only been surrounded by conservatives, and therefore I have grown up learning about the good things about that party,” Bruce said. “I’ve never really been exposed to supporters from the left. I know there are great ideas from each side, however I am just naturally biased because of where I’m from.”
Bruce said his involvement in small business has also factored into his vote for Trump. Bruce owns a small business, a mountain bike team and coaching program, and said that while it has not been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, he’d like to know that whoever is elected in 2020 will have his interests in mind. Bruce’s family members also own several small businesses, and he has seen first-hand how Trump’s policy has directly benefited them, Bruce said.
Additionally, Bruce has a brother and step-brother in the military. Trump’s actions towards the military, both through his support for active-members and policy towards veterans, have struck favorably with him, Bruce said. Bruce said that under the Trump administration, veteran unemployment has seen a decrease.
In terms of his overall leadership style, Bruce said that he liked that America took a break from seasoned politicians. Bruce said he likes Trump’s get-to-it attitude that is more reminiscent of a CEO than a politician. Bruce said he acknowledges that many dislike Trump, but attributes that to the fact that Trump has stayed focused on his goals in order to accomplish things instead of “spreading himself too thin” in order to be liked by everyone.
Jacob Bollinger, third-year
Most impressed by Trump’s handling of the economy during his first term, Jacob Bollinger, third-year FLC student, is voting to re-elect Trump in the upcoming election. Bollinger said that some of the things that most stood-out to him in terms of the economy under Trump have been lower unemployment rates, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a better stock market. Bollinger acknowledges that Trump hasn’t always appealed to some people’s personal feelings, but thinks a president should be judged by his economic policy and performance for the country, not just how the president makes people feel, he said.
Bollinger said he didn’t always like Trump but had an experience at a 2016 Trump rally in Tulsa, Okla., Bollinger’s hometown, that changed his perspective on Trump. Bollinger said he had gone to the rally to actually watch an entire Trump speech and judge the then presidential nominee for himself.
“Actually hearing him speak and watching his whole rally really showed that a lot of stuff he said was taken out-of-context,” Bollinger said. “I went home and then saw all of the headlines about what he said and how out-of-context it really was.”
Specifically, Bollinger said that at the rally, Trump pointed at the cameras, referring to the media, and said that they lie. Then, at the same rally on a different topic, Trump said that Hillary Clinton had called all Trump-supporters deplorable.Later on the news, it was presented as if Trump was pointing at the cameras and calling them deplorable. This was a pivotal moment for Bollinger’s support for Trump, he said.
During Trump’s first term, Bollinger said he was impressed by Trump's handling of North Korea. He said that toward the end of Obama’s presidency, it felt like everyday there was a question of nuclear threat from North Korea. He liked Trump’s immediate action on the matter, citing Trump’s visit to North Korea, and his meeting with Kim Jong-un. This type of leadership makes Bollinger feel safer, he said.
The Biden Vote
Rubie Trotter, third-year
Rubie Trotter, third-year FLC student, said that her love for the environment and progress for women are driving her to vote for Biden in the upcoming election. Trotter said that she doesn’t think that Biden is the perfect candidate, but feels she is voting for the “lesser of two evils.”
Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, is a big reason why Trotter is casting her vote for Biden, she said. Trotter said that she is attracted to the idea of a female vice president, as Trotter wants to see better representation for women in politics. Harris’ stance on women’s rights, such as her firm pro-choice stance, are other reasons that Trotter wants to see Harris in office, she said.
Trotter said that her personal values, citing her upbringing in a family that taught her to be environmentally conscious, conflict with the Trump administration's agenda. Trotter grew up around sustainable farming, which inspired her to major in organismal biology with a plant concentration. Trotter is researching ways to eliminate plastic from garden centers for her senior thesis, she said.
Trotter said she thinks that the deregulation of big business that has taken place under the Trump administration goes against sustainable use of our environment.
“It’s in favor of big money at the expense of our future,” Trotter said.
Trotter said she finds hope for environmental conservation under the Biden administration. Trotter said she acknowledges that Biden isn’t the perfect environmentalist, but his policies would have more to offer in terms of sustainability, again using the phrase “the better of two evils.”
Skyler Kling, third-year
Some are less focussed on electing Joe Biden, and more so on removing Trump from office. This is the case for Skyler Kling, third-year FLC student, who said that Trump’s disregard for science, human rights, and equitable opportunity for all ensured her vote for Biden in the upcoming election.
Trump has been no stranger to criticism over his on-going handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Kling is just one of the many critics. Kling said that acknowledging and accepting reputable scientific findings is critical now more than ever, with climate change and COVID-19 presenting some of the biggest issues faced by America today. Biden has been very clear about his adherence to science and has demonstrated better role-modeling for the American people by consistently wearing a mask and promoting their use, Kling said.
Fundamental to Kling is respect and advocacy for minority rights, she said. In elementary and middle school, Kling said she attended a bilingual school and grew up knowing a lot of people who were immigrants or children of immigrants. Currently, Kling volunteers for La Escuelita, a program run by local immigrant resource center, Compañeros. The program focuses on community outreach for Latinx communities. Kling said that witnessing fear among these populations when they moved to the US in hope of prosperity has been something that has made her passionate about immigration policy. Kling said that in that aspect, Biden is the more hopeful candidate for her.
Likewise, Kling said she wants to see more support from the president on issues of diversity and inclusion, particularly around the Black Lives Matter movement. Kling said she thinks that Trump’s ongoing inability to condemn white supremacy and refusal to acknowledge racism in this country has been divisive and has increased polarization in the country. At the least, Kling thinks Biden will be less aggressive and more understanding toward BLM protesters, she said.
“We’re in a time where things are moving, and we have the ability to start addressing and making systemic and social change,” Kling said. “Our current president doesn’t acknowledge that.”
The Third-Party Vote
Anna Todd, first-year
Anna Todd, first-year FLC student, is casting her vote for neither Trump nor Biden, but rather the Libertarian presidential candidate, Jo Jergensen. Todd’s father is Libertarian, but Todd said she leaned more to the left prior to this election, like her mother, a Democrat. However, faced with the options of Trump or Biden, Todd decided to branch out and learn more about the Libertarian candidate from her father, refusing to vote for somebody that she didn’t believe in, Todd said.
Todd said she was surprised to find out how much she agreed with the Libertarian party. She said she likes the idea of smaller government, with more power to the people. The Libertarian party’s stance on LGBTQ rights and ending the war on drugs are two things that draw Todd to the party, she said. Todd said she likes how voting for the Libertarian candidate doesn’t always mean accepting and adopting the candidate’s viewpoints. For example, Jergensen is pro-life, while Todd is pro-choice, but regardless, Jergensen will fight to uphold pro-choice policies because of the bigger Libertarian goal of smaller government.
Jergensen has yet to face a sexual assault allegation, which is a big reason why Todd does not want to vote for Trump or Biden. Even though neither candidate has been convicted, the allegations were enough for Jergensen to initially appeal to Todd, she said. Additionally, Jergensen is a woman, which Todd likes, she said.
Todd said she realizes that Jergensen has a small chance of winning but still thinks her vote matters. She said she’s no stranger to hearing that this election is too big and important to vote third-party. However, Todd said she disagrees and, instead, thinks that voting third-party in this election is exactly what she needs to do to raise awareness that the American people have more than two options.
“A lot of people ask me if she’s so smart, then why isn’t she up there debating with the other candidates,” Todd said. “I would rather question why they don’t want her there and why they don’t want another perspective.”
Ensuring the Libertarian candidate is on the ballot in all 50 states every election, fighting for a seat at the presidential debate and gaining better media coverage of their candidates are some of the major obstacles faced by the Libertarian party, Todd said.
Wyatt Wilson, third-year
Some are choosing not to vote in the upcoming election, like Wyatt Wilson, third-year FLC student. Wilson said his Native American identity is his biggest reason for not voting in the 2020 election.
In the upcoming election, Wilson is not voting for a president because he said that both Trump and Biden have made attacks on tribal sovereignty and the natural resources that reservations across the country hold, but also because of the way voting has been presented to Native Americans.
“Native Americans barely got suffrage a mere 56 years ago, and within those 56 years, nothing has really changed,” Wilson said. “We’re constantly given this narrative that says if we vote for the right people, change will happen.”
Wilson said that he thinks this narrative is false in a lot of ways because many of the rights and big changes seen in the Native American community haven’t come from voting or a politician, it has come from community organizers taking to the streets and lobbying. With this, Wilson said he doesn’t endorse being politically disengaged, but wants to promote grassroots organization which Wilson calls “a fancy word for what Indigenous people have been practicing for generations.”
“It’s really almost traumatizing and damaging to push this narrative that voting will give us the liberation we seek when voting, in essence, is a colonial idea,” said Wilson.
Wilson said several Native American non-profits have been pushing the idea that voting is sacred, in an attempt to increase Native voting participation in preparation for the upcoming election, an idea that Wilson has been in opposition to on his social media. Wilson said that voting is a colonial idea, and so to call it sacred is a cultural bypass.
“To proclaim voting as sacred is to suggest that it comes from our communities, which it doesn't,” said Wilson. “It's almost like they’re trying to guilt-trip us.”
Wilson said his solution to continue his fight for his community is to continue to rally his own community, supporting the “least of us” and continuing to fight for a full seat at the table. Wilson said he takes inspiration from the matriarchal structure of his Navajo Nation and its history in the face of a patriarchal colonizer. When the Navajo Nation was negotiating their treaty rights with the federal government, women were not allowed at the table to negotiate, despite the female leadership structure of the Navajo, Wilson said.
“Our women negotiated in secret,” Wilson said. “Our men would leave the meetings and go talk to the women who would deliberate, and the men would return with the women’s ideas. A lot of people don’t know that: our women negotiated our treaties.”