Co-authors Angie and Dana decided to sit down and talk about what is making us tick about this election and why it’s important to stay engaged. The issues that are coming out won’t magically disappear on November 8, so we offer our perspective on why this election feels so different from past ones, and what regular folks can do about it.
Question: What do you think is different about this election versus past elections, and why?
Angie: I believe that this election has highlighted our need for real leadership like never before. I think the conservatives in the country have witnessed the most liberal administration we’ve experienced in our generation’s lifetime. People who love Obama don’t see it that way, but people who really stand by truly conservative principles feel very strongly about this fact. Obama was successful in passing the Affordable Healthcare Act and advocates for more government spending in public education for free preschool and college. He also advocates for a higher minimum wage and more government regulation through the EPA, IRS, etc.
I think many voters see this election as pivotal because our debt is out of this world, we’ve had more violence due to police shootings, violence in gun-free zones and terrorist attacks on our soil since Obama took office. His policies have not made us safer or richer, so it’s time for something different. The interesting thing is this: WHY are these two people the best choices to represent each party in the general election? Is this honestly the best we can do? Can we PAHLEASE have a do-over? I think the reason that people are so emotional about this election is because people are reeling over how to choose between the lesser of two evils. I don’t think either party thinks their nominee represents the true heart of either party. Democrats mostly loved Obama and want more of him. Conservatives want smaller government and to protect pro-life values and are very concerned about Supreme Court appointments. This election has the potential of being the last of the Republican party as we know it, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Dana: I think what makes this election different is that so many of the promises that we believed have failed over the years. Trickle-down economics never trickled. Crime bills put way too many people in prison for non-violent or minor crimes. The war on drugs seemed to make illegal substances more popular. Our unprecedented military might is wasted fighting abstract concepts like terrorism that have no true organized targets (edit: by abstract concept I mean, how can you go to war against something that is not a government entity, a physical location, a regime, or a nation? You can't bomb thoughts and ideals, only people and locations). Education is supposed to be a priority but lofty ideas like No Child Left Behind and Common Core strips teachers and students alike of their ability to learn creatively or think independently. Other nations benefited more from trade deals than our own. And far, far, far too much leeway is given to corporations who pay no taxes, choose not to employ Americans and set up headquarters overseas, despite having the most lenient laws imaginable.
And here we are. The middle class. Left with stagnant wages while CEO pay gap ratios make staggering increases while employees look to welfare resources to fill basic needs like food and healthcare (and yes, healthcare is a basic need for all children). Trying to figure out how to save $200,000 for in state college for one child as college tuitions remain unchecked. Afraid to start a business because we can’t save enough to get 6-12 months of basic needs money in the bank.
America is a wealthy nation. Even the poorest citizens have roads, access to public transportation, free libraries and free education. But the middle class can only take so much before we buckle. And we are buckling. That’s why I think this election is different. We are all desperate in our own way. Non-elite Republicans want to shake up the establishment so they can have a fighting chance to support their families and compete. Democrats want to redirect spending from needless wars and hapless bailouts to social programs that lead to higher education, improved health and equal access. And everyone needs a scapegoat, whether it’s greedy capitalists or illegal immigrants.
Instead of learning our lesson and accepting that these politicians will never make good on promises, Americans keep looking to the next great savior to fix everything. That’s not coming in the form of any politician. Politicians are not what makes our nation great.
Q: What is the biggest driver behind your voting decisions?
Angie: My faith in God and my desire to ensure my children will not inherit a country with astronomical debt, no moral compass and unsafe streets and borders. I also feel a sense of responsibility to honor the people that died for our freedoms by continuing to adhere closely to the constitutional principles on which our country was founded.
Dana: I vote based on my major voting blocks: being black, being a woman and being a mother. I want to influence politics according to those groups because I can make a better world for myself and my children that way. I used to try to vote based on my Christian beliefs but that proved downright impossible. We are all born sinners, and I can’t put my faith in any human with the expectation that they’ll reflect the heart of Jesus. So I vote based on which candidate, local and national, who can help me create a better world. Party is irrelevant. Who is the person? What is their voting record? Do their ideals and vision of the future align with mine?
Q: What could Americans do to really change the direction of our nation?
Angie: #1: Educate themselves. This is a YUGE (see what I did there?) deal to me. Voters that vote simply for a party rather than issues drive me crazy. I can respect anyone that does his/her research and then votes for whomever closely resembles his/her beliefs and values; however, those that go and push a button for R and D are perpetuating the problem with our country. Interestingly enough, if we focused on issues rather than party, we wouldn’t have two big government parties that don’t reflect the majority of the American people. We would actually have candidates in office or nominated for office that reflect the core values of men, women and children. As it stands now, our parties are controlled by special interest groups because we have done NOTHING to change that.
#2: Recognize who holds the power: THE PEOPLE. The people hold the power in these elections. If one would stop voting party lines and demand that elected officials do what they were elected to do, our country would look very different. Every single elected official works for you and me. So many of them want to make careers out of politics. That was the absolute last intention the founding fathers had in mind when creating our government. Elections were supposed to determine the fittest servant leader who could temporarily lead until the next person could fill those shoes. Not everyone will agree on issues, and that is why we have the right to vote. If we get rid of the control of special interest by not voting for people who put pork in their bills or reelecting people who blatantly lied about their objectives in office, we could start changing how the system works. It will take a few cycles, but we can do it.
Dana: Love each other. Seek to understand people who think differently from you. Read the Constitution at least 20 times. I struggle with the Constitution y’all. Earlier I said that my three major voting blocks were with the black vote, the women’s vote and the mama vote. Not a single black person, woman or mother participated in the writing of the Constitution. It would have been really nice to have another voice included. But if you read it, you see that it was probably one of the most inclusive documents ever written, which is mighty strange for a bunch of old white male dissenters. Something else was at play when they drafted this document, and I think it was divine intervention. These men were fully aware that all men were created equal. Thomas Jefferson participated in slavery, but knew it was wrong, calling it a moral depravity and considering it the greatest threat to the survival of our newly formed nation. George Washington and John Adams hated political parties and thought they would divide our nation in ways that don’t make sense (how prophetic is THAT?). So they looked outside themselves and their limited beliefs to create something bigger.
The Constitution reflects a vision for the nation they WANTED, not the nation they had. It even says it right in the preamble: a more perfect union. They knew it wasn’t perfect, but the document describes a nation where all men were free, the citizens enjoyed peace and well-being, and most of all, the people make the decisions. We’ve relinquished our power as a people to political parties where decisions are only made in favor of the ultimate elite (and yes, the Clintons are the best example of this phenomena), and we seem to have forgotten that regular folks can and should run for office and win.
Q: Did the last debate change anything about your vote? Why or why not?
Angie: No. I’m still undecided about what to do. I know that I will never vote for Hillary…not because she’s a Democrat or a Clinton, but because I think she is not best for our country. She has caused more heartache through poor decision-making than anyone else I can think of in politics. I don’t trust that she will protect our country because she has been unable to do that thus far, for example: the decisions she made not to help in Benghazi. Also, her poor judgement with keeping a private server for VERY confidential matters really strikes me as a rookie move. I don’t think an “I’m sorry” really covers how bad that decision was and how it could really hurt our country in the long run. She doesn’t care to protect unborn life in the name of women’s rights, and I fundamentally disagree that it’s the right of a woman to take her baby’s life. I also don’t want to vote for Trump. I don’t think he is a good man, and I don’t believe he has the right motive for wanting to be President. He is too power-hungry for me. He is also someone that I don’t want my sons to look up to in any way. How can I say to them or my daughter that I voted for this narcissist who doesn’t value women and has flip-flopped on every issue because he once was a democrat? I distrust him immensely. So, I am praying about how to cast my vote. I will vote, but the debate didn’t clear any of that up.
Dana: Listen, this is hard question because I’m still butthurt about Bernie. In the last debate Trump brought up Bernie Sanders so much that I found myself wishing that Bernie was there to debate him. I’m probably voting for Hillary. Again, it’s based on my three voting blocks: black, woman, mother. I know, I know, there’s a lot to say about why Hillary doesn’t support any of those blocks, and they’re probably all true. But I’ve seen what happens when politicians who are actively OPPOSED to those blocks get into office, and I’d really not like that.
I didn’t intend to vote for Hillary so I’ve had to do an unreasonable amount of research on her. It turns out, the more I learn about her from unbiased sources, the more I like her. Are you mad about the missing emails? Read some of them. She comes across as a concerned boss with a lot of compassion for her staff. Benghazi? OK. That was horrific. Now name one Secretary of State in the history of secretaries of state who wasn’t responsible for needless American deaths. And it’s just as easy to point blame for the Benghazi deaths on the Congress who cut funding to the Embassies the year before. The more you read, the more it becomes clear that 33 hearings and seven investigations really does sound like nothing more than a witch hunt, combined with 25 years of opposing politicians hellbent on making the Clintons sound like unadulterated evil. And while she’s made grave errors with broad consequences, I can’t say I’d have done any better in her position. I’m human. Sue me. Please don’t sue me. I’m so, so human.
I don’t think the Clinton legacy favors me much, and I do think she represents the status quo more than she represents change. But there are some policy ideals I like. She’s interested in making us the super power of clean energy. I’m all about that. As an entrepreneur with an international family, global trade is important to me. I’d like to partner with other nations to bring great products and services to America, and bring those dollars home. I studied abroad in Ecuador and worked on global trade campaigns for clients so I have a strong understanding of how global trade can be good for America beyond buying cheap trinkets made in China. I admire her record as Senator in New York. Her immigration views benefit our family, and I think she would spend less time trying to repeat the Affordable Care Act and more time to fix the gaps or errors and reduce the costs, which is a more efficient and effective solution.
Trump has made it super clear that if your skin has extra melanin you’re either poor or a criminal. He constantly talks about putting young black males in the 17-20 age range “back to work” because they’re 50% unemployed even though that unemployment category is essentially the same for young males of all races. They’re in high school and college or learning a trade, what do we expect? He doesn’t seem to have a grasp on foreign policy and what it means for America. He doesn’t seem to know how the lawmaking process works because he accuses Hillary of not reforming taxes as a Senator when any income producing laws must come from the House, not the Senate. My husband is an immigrant and Trump doesn’t seem to respect them at all, even though my husband has paid more taxes than some Americans will ever pay in their whole lives.
So to answer the question, I was considering a protest vote, but the debates are making it seem less dire from my point of view. Hillary was not my first choice, but she’s more than capable of doing the job and she’ll represent our nation well. I did not think she won the last debate, but Trump’s post-debate behavior is more important to me. Holding personal vendettas against pageant contestants and Republicans who don’t support him is a huge turnoff because it demonstrates his ability to take criticism.
Q: Why do you think people are so up-in-arms about Trump’s statements (aka the video)?
Angie: I honestly don’t know. Trump has never hidden his disrespect of women. He has lied about it on several occasions, but his actions have always pointed to his view of women as being mere objects. Any man who can speak about his daughter so disgustingly would speak of any woman in such a way. Why in the world is it so surprising that he would degrade women and basically condone sexual assault 10 years ago? I wasn’t surprised at all. I have been surprised at how quickly Christians are defending him and how quickly Democrats are jumping on the “moral bandwagon.” It’s hypocrisy at its best for both sides of the aisle.
Dana: Having been a political target for Trump (for my race), I understand how shocking it can be when he turns to a group you identify with personally. I actually enjoyed Trump as a reality show host and business man, and I found him funny and rather charming. It was shocking to hear his rhetoric against immigrants and minorities at first, because he was likable. So I think targeting women – specifically affluent white women – took that huge voting block by surprise. But I don’t think people are any more up-in-arms than any other groups. His statements will hold the same 1-2 weeks in the news cycle as the other disparaged groups and it will move on. What’s sad about it is that Trump supporters don’t seem to understand that at some point, he will disparage everyone. The Republicans helped him get to where he is today, and he is already declaring war against them. If his die-hard supporters begin to criticize him, he’ll turn against them too. Trump’s loyalties are to himself, and he’s never made any declarations to the contrary.
Q: If you could change anything about our electoral system, what would it be?
Angie: I don’t like how our current system is designed. I think corruption is running rampant in every election. Dead people, felons, illegal immigrants have all been voting in elections. This should outrage people! I honestly don’t know how to change this, but something should be done. I also do not like the Electoral College. I know it was created for a reason and to try to incorporate a fair way to vote, but I personally feel that my vote doesn’t matter. Tennessee will be a red state no matter what. And truthfully, I usually have voted republican, but there have been times that I haven’t voted republican and instead voted independent or democrat. I just want to feel like my individual vote counts. The 2000 presidential election is a great example of why things should be updated. It’s a shame that a man can get the popular vote in the country and not be elected President. That feels like the power is taken away from the people.
Dana: I agree with Angie on this one. Get rid of the Electoral College. For the same reasons. And as long as we’re making wishes, I think what would be absolutely best for the country would be to not have any political parties at all. Imagine a world where we evaluate the president based on the decisions he will make and the character he demonstrates instead of what the party will make him do or how much money they will give him. Imagine a president who can both oppose abortion and support women’s rights to make decisions for their own body without compromising himself. Imagine a president who can drastically reduce government spending while also redirecting poorly aligned programs to support veterans. Imagine a president who allows education to be handled on the state level and chooses not to woo schools with funding based on test scores. That’s what would happen without party lines.
Realistically, I don’t know what I could change. There have already been efforts to limit campaign contributions but then you have lobbyists and superPACs finding loopholes everywhere. I think at this point the only thing that could change the electoral system is having the people rise up and ask for massive change. Stop letting politicians rule like monarchs and instead let them be servants to the people who elected them.
The one idea I think that would be the most effective is setting word limits on all bills. Bills must be 2,000 words or less, and amendments must be 750 words or less. Sound crazy? The constitution with all 27 amendments contains about 7,500 words. And that document rules our entire nation. It’s possible. Maybe I should run for President.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. How would you answer some of the questions? Did you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with what we said? Let us know, we want to hear from regular folks like you!