Photo by Les Stukenberg.
PRESCOTT – With a hands-open gesture and shake of the head, one Prescott High School senior exclaimed to a fellow U.S. government classmate: “What? Insane!”
The other boy needed no explanation. The two did not skip a beat in a dissection of what will likely go down in American politics as one of the most historic presidential campaigns and elections in memory.
In Brenda Lee’s government class, the seniors spent about an hour reviewing the election, offering astute observations about what they think occurred, what went right and wrong for both candidates, as well as the role third party candidates played in the results.
Like the nation, students in the class were divided on their candidate choice. They were unanimous, however in their surprise that business tycoon Donald Trump emerged the victor in the race for the most powerful seat in America.
Brooklyn Mengarelli, 17, said she felt Trump had an appeal to a younger generation of voters because he is not a career politician and was straightforward in his approach to tackling issues that will impact their futures. She said she preferred Trump because she could not abide Clinton’s dishonesty and the scandals that have marked her political life.
Still, she admits that while she rooted for Trump, she believed the pundits who predicted Clinton’s victory.
Brooklyn said she was pleasantly surprised with the results, but like several of her fellow students said Trump now has to unify a divided nation, a challenging task but one she believes he can do by standing firm on policies that were part of his platform: securing the nation’s borders, creating jobs and lowering taxes.
His approach may need to be toned down a bit, but she said she appreciates that he is firm and confident in his speech and will be a strong leader even as he strives to work with other world leaders.
Classmate Luke Hardy, who also is not yet old enough to vote, said he, too, favored Trump as the “lesser of two evils,” and was one of the 177 high school seniors who voted for Trump in the mock election. In that election, Clinton received 65 votes, Green Party candidate Jill Stein won 42 votes and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson won 56 votes.
Yet he, too, was stunned with Trump’s ultimate victory.
Luke said he was riveted to the election coverage. When Trump took Florida and North Carolina, with a close race in Ohio, Luke was pretty certain that Trump was going to win despite all predictions.
To what does Luke attribute Trump’s success? His straightforward, no-nonsense style and his determination to “flush out the corruption from the political system.”
He admits he’s a little nervous about what a Trump presidency will look like, but suggests he will be under considerable pressure to reach out to all those voters – about half the nation’s voters – who did not support him.
Senior Kaitlin Repass was able to cast her first presidential vote, and her choice was Clinton, one she made after watching all three debates, researching positions and listening “not only to what the candidates said but what others said about the candidates.”
For Repass, Clinton’s stand on social issues, particularly gay and women’s rights, were the clincher. She, too, appreciated her political experience.
Now that Trump has won, Repass said her hope is that the political divides will be closed so that the nation will prosper, and the rights she holds dear remain protected.
“It’s been an insane election,” Repass observed. “I don’t know if this will be the best four years of our lives, but I don’t think it will be the worst. I don’t think he will be the best president we ever had, but I could be wrong. Either way, I think things will be all right. It’s important to me to stay positive. Maybe he’ll be good.”
What Repass finds to be the most impressive part of this election, candidate rancor and animosity aside, is the voter turnout, particularly among first-time voters.
“The point of democracy is that we do have a voice, and our votes do matter,” Repass concluded.