The presidential election this year is like Christmas for journalists. All around Boston University, aspiring reporters scour the news for the latest lede on Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The influx of information is like unwrapping presents under the tree. But journalists aren’t the only group buzzing on campus about this election. This is the first presidential election many BU students can legally vote in, and vote they will.
Since classes rejoined in September, there has been an undeniable hype around the election. This is not surprising. After all, we are choosing the new ruler of this nation come Nov. 8. But, the general hype is not so general: this election is one of the most followed in American history. Though the second presidential debate came in with only 66.5 million viewers, the first presidential debate had upwards of 84 million viewers, the most in U.S. history. This unprecedented following adds to the exposure of the candidates themselves while also ratcheting up the perceived importance of the election.
I asked Lindsey Fourt, a Democrat-Socialist junior at BU who is voting for Clinton (though she supported Bernie Sanders in the primary), why she thought this election specifically stands out from any other. Is it that we will be able to vote for the first time or is there actually something pivotal happening that we haven’t seen before?
“First of all, we have the first female candidate, and we also have the first elected party candidate who has zero political experience,” she said.
I agree that this election is monumental for both candidates, the two being complete antitheses of the other: on one side, a female, former secretary of state and on the other a male, former reality TV star, billionaire. But, I think the root difference in this election comes from something deeper.
Jake Reiser, the communications director for BU College Republicans group on campus is voting for Trump, though he acknowledges Trump is a misogynist, among other things. When I asked Reiser why he thought the election was so unfounded, he said the hype results from irresponsible overexposure of the campaign trail by the media. If the election is Christmas, then journalists are children trying to catch Santa coming down the chimney. This is the first major election where people have been actively writing on blogs and Facebook threads about their own political beliefs. The share button has become less about looking at cats playing with piglets and more about guerrilla journalism.
Though the candidates themselves, and the media covering them, do play a factor into the hype of the election, when I spoke to Pat Obrochta, a junior voting for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, he tapped into the essence of the vibe of this election. When asked what he would be doing on election night, Obrochta said he would probably “be watching the election and hiding under a rock.”
What struck me about his answer was that it captured the same feelings Fourt and Reiser felt. The election is an exciting thing, not for the candidates, not even for their politics, but for the tap-out-and-say-uncle mentality of the debates and the election itself. “There is so much tension in these debates,” Fourt said. “It’s a flat forum for the candidates to insult each other.” Reiser called the race for the presidency “the ugliest battle we’ve seen in a long time.”
This election is significant for too many reasons to count: scandals, the rise of social media journalism, the first time many of us at BU actually get to vote and many more. But what strikes me as most important is the end of polite politics. In this election, politicians aren’t censoring themselves to their opponent or acting cordially for the cameras. And this authenticity, both good and bad, makes one hell of a fight, one I’m excited to place my bets on.