“If you don’t participate you have no impact at all:” Politically active community members discuss the 2020 presidential election

By Oreoluwa Ojewuyi, Staff Reporter

With the presidential debate right around the corner on September 29, the SIU community discussed their political leanings, thoughts on public policy and opinions on the presidential candidates. 

Partisan divisions seem to be greater than ever,  yet individuals on the left and right found some common ground. 

Scott McClurg, a political science and journalism professor at SIU,  identified the most important issues to people on both sides of the political spectrum. 

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“The most important issues to Democrats are race relations, COVID-19, health care, immigration,” McClurg said. 

McClurg said younger generations with left leaning values tend to focus on environmental issues regarding climate change, and social justice issues like LGBTQ rights, and police brutality.

“Conservatives are an interesting case. They care about economic freedom, immigration and the idea of America First,” McClurg said. “The President talks a lot about relations with other countries.”

McClurg said younger generations with right political leaning tend to focus on second amendment rights, and pro-life candidates. 

Emily Caminiti, the chair of Young Democratic Socialists of America at SIU, defines her political beliefs as “achieving the end of capitalism through electoral means.”

Caminiti said prominent figures in the Democratic Socialist party have tried and failed to get into the electoral system, citing Bernie Sanders who ran in the Democratic presidential primaries and caucuses in 2016 and 2020. 

“Social democracy is the main focus of Democratic Socialism,” Caminiti said.

Zachary Meyer J.D, former candidate for state representative and SIU Law school alumnus, aligns his views within the lens of the Republican party. 

“Being a Republican is a core focus on our individual freedoms without extensive government involvement in our day to day lives,” Meyer said. 

Caminiti and Meyer shared their opinions on the platforms of the Republican and Democratic presidential election candidates. 

“I believe that President Trump has been doing a tremendous job. He has passed many bills that have helped everyday citizens,” Meyer said.

Meyer said Trump has made astounding accomplishments despite the ridicule he has received throughout his presidency. 

“The President passed criminal justice reform. He is hoping to secure our borders to help make sure that the American citizens are safe,” Meyer said. 

Meyer said Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris present issues politically. 

“Kamala Harrris’ record as a prosecutor is concerning to me with her withholding evidence. I believe Joe Biden won’t be able to make the full term if he is elected as president,” Meyer said. 

Caminiti isn’t satisfied with either of the presidential candidates.

“Donald Trump and Mike Pence are horrible human beings,” Caminiti said. 

However, Caminiti found Biden and Harris to be inadequate Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidates.

“Neither Biden nor Harris align with my own values. I’m willing to vote for them just to get rid of Trump,” Caminiti said. 

When it comes to mail-in voting due to COVID-19  Caminiti and Meyer are on different sides of the spectrum. 

“During the Illinois primary, a lot of cases were tied to people going into vote. It’s safer to vote by mail and it should be expanded,” Caminiti said. 

Meyer said mail-in voting can present multiple issues when it comes to voting on time. 

“Mail-in voting can be delayed, lost in transit, or delivered to the wrong address,” Meyer said. “The best and safest way to ensure that your vote is recorded is to vote in person.” 

Caminiti said Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic reflects poorly on the nation as a whole. 

“State governors did what they could when it comes to COVID-19 without a coherent federal response,” Caminiti said. 

Caminiti said unemployment protections will soon run out. 

“We could’ve had a rent and utilities freeze so everybody could self isolate while this happened. Trump’s response to the coronavirus could be called a crime against humanity,” Caminiti said.  

Meyer said new information comes out everyday about the virus so the federal government is unsure what steps to take to keep everyone safe. 

“If you look at the statistics, suicides have skyrocketed, and many businesses will not be able to recover,” Meyer said. 

As a small business owner Meyer said he believes businesses should have been allowed to be open since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“Small businesses are the backbone of this nation, especially in small areas like Southern Illinois. It should be up to the business owners if they want to close; they should not be held hostage by the government,” Meyer said. 

Caminiti and Meyer both value policy surrounding the economy but their means to an end differ.

Caminiti said the economy greatly matters to younger generations because these generational cohorts will have to deal with bad economic conditions in the future. 

“We are expected to have less money than our parents did and possibly shorter lives because of the health effects of poverty,” Caminiti said. 

Meyer, on the other hand, said the economy has recovered over the past four years as a result of Trump’s presidency.

“Jobs are coming back, the economy and all the markets are at a record high,” Meyer said. 

Caminiti said the companies need for profit above all else is not sustainable, especially from an environmental perspective.

“These fossil fuel companies are responsible for all the climate denialists around now. They consistently muddied the waters about this so that they could keep making money,” Caminiti said. 

Meyer said there is no science to tell what will happen as a result of a changing climate. 

“The earth has its cycles. It’s something that is changing and should be addressed but there are ways that it must be done to ensure that we’re not destroying our economy and the livelihoods of people who are alive today,” Meyer said. 

Caminiti and Meyer voiced their opinions on current social justice movements like Black Lives Matter. 

Caminiti is in support of the movement,  massive police reform and defunding the police. 

“I want that money to be reallocated to things that address the cause of crime like poverty, mental health centers, education, just community resources,” Caminiti said. 

Meyer stands behind peaceful protests in cities across the United States.

“I support police officers but I do not support murderers. The right to protest and have free speech is something that makes America great,” Meyer said. 

Meyer said we should increase funding of police departments. 

“We need to ensure officers have more training, and put more officers on the street to receive backup,” Meyer said. 

Clashes between opposing groups at Black Lives Matter protests have also amplified conversations of gun control and the 2nd amendment.

“There should be more measures of record keeping when it comes to guns. I do not want to ban them completely but there should be a reduction in the types of weapons that we use,” Caminiti said.

As a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment, Meyer said Americans stand at risk of losing our nation without gun use. 

Tuition for collegiate education is another issue that is splitting the polls. According to Bernie Sanders’ campaign platform, Sanders proposed to “cancel all student loan debt for the some 45 million Americans who owe about $1.6 trillion and place a cap on student loan interest rates going forward at 1.88 percent.”

In 2018, the Young Democratic Socialists of America at SIU launched a petition to end student debt and make SIU tuition free. 

“People are often deterred by the cost [of higher education] and get stuck in low wage jobs that they are not passionate about,” Caminiti said. 

Meyer is opposed to making college tuition free. 

 “There will be an influx of people and the degree will become worthless. It will drive down salaries because of supply and demand. It reduces the value of the degree,” Meyer said.

One thing Caminiti, Meyer and McClurg can all agree upon is the power of voting. 

Caminiti gave a message to younger voters who might opt out of voting in local, state and federal elections. 

“I understand they feel dejected and broken down but there are local issues that are important,” Caminiti said. 

Meyer said regardless of political affiliation all citizens who can vote should. 

“They need to make sure they are informed on what ballot initiatives there are, what the candidates stand for and try to get involved as much as possible with politics and voting. No one should go in there blindly,” Meyer said. 

McClurg said if young people opt out of voting they will make no impact at all. 

“Individual people don’t change things, groups of people do, we’re all part of a group. As young people they can be very important,” McClurg said. 

Reporter Oreoluwa Ojewuyi can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @odojewuyi

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