On Tuesday in the New Hampshire primary, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump emerged victorious for their respective parties. Trump won 35.3% of the vote, with John Kasich following behind with 15.8% and Ted Cruz with 11.7%. Sanders won 60.4% of the vote, with Hillary getting 38.0%.
I was originally pro-Hillary, but as Bernie has risen in the polls and I have learned more about him and his politics, I have begun to research him and his politics, and I find that I agree with him on a lot of issues. And I think it was actually Bernie who said it best when, at the end of the Democratic debate against Hillary, he said that either he or Hillary would make a better choice for the country than a Republican. And I don’t even necessarily agree with that, but I do agree with his respect and general classiness towards Hillary and towards the entire presidential race. If he won the nomination, I would be sad because I support Hillary, but I wouldn’t be distraught.
A few weeks before the election, I went to a local bus station in Boston and interviewed New Hampshire residents about the upcoming primary. I asked them primarily why they thought Donald Trump was so popular, and whether or not that popularity would translate into votes in the election.
The answers were interesting. He was popular because of name recognition—The Apprentice—because of his strong opinions about border control and ISIS. Because he wasn’t a pushover. Because he wasn’t a career politician.
(Also this a total side note, but why is it bad if the President is a career politician? I know that the government can be corrupt sometimes, but in general, I want to believe that the people who dedicate their lives to civil service are doing it out of a desire to be helpful to their country. So what if someone has spent their career in politics? Shouldn’t they be well-versed in politics if they’re going to be, like, the head person in politics? I need someone to explain to me why that would be a bad thing.)
Most people laughed—uncomfortably—and said that while he was popular, they hoped that he wouldn’t gain votes in the election. As a journalist, I don’t think I’m supposed to have any sort of opinion, but I’m a bad journalist and a good human, and it makes me distinctly uncomfortable to know that Trump has the majority vote in New Hampshire.
I will be the first to admit that I don’t know everything about politics. I probably know 15% of what there is to know, but as a millennial coming to age in America in 2016, it’s fucking terrifying to think that a celebrity bully could garner the majority in any state. And that’s what Trump is; he’s a bully. He’s a bulldozing, immature, graceless bully, who’s used to getting what he wants.
Personally, I look at a few categories to see what I need to know about a candidate: civil rights, tax reform, gun control, abortion and drugs. As of October 2015, Trump would move to defund Planned Parenthood. Only a few months previous, he said that in general, he supported Planned Parenthood, but that abortions needed to stop. In a few short months, he went from qualifying to outright damning.
On same-sex marriage, Trump says it’s fine “for now.” But that, frankly, threatening statement is almost more terrifying than an outright damnation of same-sex marriage. At least with people who outright oppose it, I know where they stand. With Trump’s “for now,” I have the feeling that like a villain in a movie series, it’ll rear its head in the near future and come back with a vengeance.
I find it scary that I can live in a country where the leading presidential candidate for his party can propose to take away basic human rights—that we just got—and that that is not an immediate deal-breaker. How would people react if Trump tried to re-segregate schools? Or take away women’s votes? By threatening to take away one group’s civil liberties, it shadows over everyone’s civil liberties. Because when Trump threatens same-sex marriage, he challenges the idea that these basic human rights are up for negotiation.
It’s a common fact that to run for president, candidates often become more radical and more of an outlier than they would normally. And so it’s not necessarily surprising that the far-left option—Sanders—and the far-right option—Trump—gained the votes in New Hampshire. What is surprising is that we are allowing Trump to gain strength and momentum.
I want two nominees who are respectful and strong in their opinions and classy. I want nominees who respect the general population, who protect my civil liberty and who have my best interest at heart. I wouldn’t be comfortable if Trump gained the nomination. I would be afraid. What country has a leader who is banned from entering other countries—like the UK and Canada? What country has a leader who proposes banning an entire religious group, branding them as terrorists? What country has a leader who labels an entire population entering the country as rapists, criminals, and terrorists?
By engaging in hate-speech and fear mongering, Trump proves that he is not in this race for the interest of the people. I want nominees who, if they get into office, I wouldn’t have to worry about what would happen to me, or my friends, or my peers. I want a President who, even if we have differing politics, I can trust to protect me on the most basic levels. We shouldn’t live under the threat of something happening to us. And this isn’t just worrisome for same-sex couples, or Muslims, or Mexicans. This affects all of us. Because who our President is says who our country is. We can’t have a country that casts doubt and aspersions onto vast swaths of its population. We can’t have a country that threatens to take away the most basic, human rights.
And so as the primaries continue and the race gets tighter, I suppose my plea is this. Educate yourselves on the candidates. Educate yourselves on who they are, what they stand for. Separate yourself from the hate-speech, the fear mongering, and the emotional tugs at “a greater America.” Acknowledge that candidates, any candidates, will use things like ISIS and marijuana and gun control and hide behind bluster and savage words and strong promises. Separate the magic from the material. Seek the truth, and make smart decisions.