A Student’s Guide to the 2016 US Presidential Race

SYRACUSE, N.Y.—The presidential election cycle in the United States is a complex beast. Between trying to comprehend the Electoral College system, in which 538 electors representing the U.S. states formally cast votes to elect the president and vice president, and deciding which candidates are worth acknowledging, it can seem daunting to those who are unfamiliar with the three-ring circus.

photo credit: wnep.com

photo credit: wnep.com

The Republicans had their second debates on CNN last Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Like the first debate held in Cleveland, Ohio, on Aug. 6, it was a large group of candidates standing in order from the middle by their rankings in the polls. Some have questioned the reasoning behind this, as it puts the people who are already leading the polls center stage, and in doing so, perpetuates the same result afterwards. However, it is without question that this second debate was not as well-received as the first.

Many have criticized the questions asked of the candidates in the second debate, stating they were “softball” questions. In the first debate, there was criticism of the hard-hitting Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump claimed that Kelly was “too harsh” in her questioning of his previous remarks against women. When juxtaposed with the second CNN debate, it is clear that Megyn Kelly’s questions in the Fox News-hosted debate created a much more substantive dialogue.



The next debate is the first time the democrats will be going head-to-head-to-head-to-head. Airing on Oct. 13 in Las Vegas, the debate will be moderated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper. The five candidates slated to take the stage are former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, former Secretary of State and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. Overall, Clinton polls favorably among the democratic base, but Sanders has seen a recent surge in preceding weeks, especially among young voters.

In key states like Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders has surpassed the democratic frontrunner, who has been engulfed in controversies related to her recent email scandal. This shows a turning of the tides in regards to an often underrepresented demographic in political election cycles: the young voters.

It is true that the majority of eligible voters under the age of 30 do not vote nearly as much as those over 50. This is partially because of the complexity of the voting process, and more importantly, the climate of elections. It appears to be old, white males yelling numbers at each other and implementing as many strawman arguments they can fit in their 30-second responses. Politics is not a sexy topic, but it is important. Democracy, despite its flaws, has somehow gotten it right when the people can voice their opinion in the form of monetary donation to a candidate and a vote at the polls.



In this election, for young voters, there is one topic that is the most crucial: economics. This topic splinters off into many sub-issues that have been brought up in discussion among young adults. Whether it is job prospects, student loans, national debt or the flagrantly inflated price tag for a college degree, the common connection between all of these issues stems from the big topics and education and wealth inequality.

The system has given an advantage to those who come from the means to get the best of the best. Those of us who had to climb an uphill battle to get into college have more financial difficulties that we must face when we graduate. Student debt surpassed all credit card debt in the U.S. last year. This can spell catastrophe to the economy after the baby boomer generation is gone, leaving the “millennials” to clean up the mess. It is self-evident that this is the most pressing issue among young voters in the 2016 presidential cycle.

There are two candidates who have addressed this issue head-on and offered formal solutions: both of them democrats. One is Hillary Clinton, who started a Twitter campaign asking young adults in 3 emojis how they feel about student loans. The other is Bernie Sanders, who introduced a bill in Congress to make four-year college free regardless of income. These two candidates are anticipated to be neck and neck at the polls in the following months, but there is a legitimate concern about the lifespan of Clinton’s campaign, despite the email scandal that has shined the light away from her. Sanders continues to rally in the polls and finds a strong constituency in the younger demographic.

Ahead of the democratic debate in October, voters must keep an eye out on these two candidates, research where they stand on issues and take a minute to think about what issues are most important to them. 

cartoon credit: willemsplanet.com


Amanda Silvestri