2016 been quite the political roller coaster. We’ve seen an election unlike any other. Our nation is more divided than ever, as supporters of each candidate grow hatred and disdain for the other. On Friday, President Obama was speaking at a rally for Hillary Clinton when the audience interrupted him to heckle a Trump supporter. The president then had to remind them of the protestor’s right to free speech. Unfortunately, on both sides, this election has been overrun with abrasive, hateful rhetoric towards political opponents. Through all of this, we’ve completely overlooked serious, pressing issues at play in this election as we are too busy with our petty attacks of the other side.
In July of 2016, America reached a significant historical milestone. For the first time in U.S. history, a major political party nominated a woman as its presidential candidate. But this monumental milestone took the backseat to much more negative spins on both major party nominees this year. Both the media and voters on both sides have chosen to shed more light on the negative sides of the candidates than on the positive. Even when this great milestone in gender equality was mentioned in the press, one newspaper put the nominee's HUSBAND’s picture on the front page. This further highlights the important steps we still need to take to ensure equality for women, an issue that has unfortunately missed out on press coverage that is instead consumed by candidate drama.
One story that keeps resurfacing in the news is the Hillary Clinton email scandal, which she has publicly apologized for. It’s the go-to for anyone looking to criticize her, and although it was a serious mistake on her part, there is a much more important aspect of the story that we often overlook. Much more concerning than the fact that Hillary used a private email server is the fact that Russian hackers were responsible for the theft and subsequent leak of these emails. Evidence suggests that Vladimir Putin, who has invaded other countries, is now releasing dirt on Hillary in an attempt to influence this election. We should be deeply troubled that a foreign leader has interfered with our democratic process for what appears to be a personal gain, yet this is overlooked as we turn our attention to shaming Hillary Clinton.
Recent American history has shown great progress in equal rights for all races, genders, and gender identities. We still have a lot of work to do, but we’ve come a long way. However, this election features a candidate whose appeal comes largely out of hatred for and discrimination against those whose rights we’ve fought so hard for. He’s called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers. He’s proposed to ban an entire religion from entering the United States. He’s made body-shaming, sexist remarks about women. A president with this attitude could set American progress back more than 50 years, yet a significant number of Americans would vote for him simply because he speaks his mind, while the other candidate is “less trustworthy.” We have to put this in perspective. Is it really worth electing a bigot who could reverse so much progress just to have a president who speaks his mind?
Throughout this election, we’ve seen insults hurled in place of debates on policy. A presidential election should be a disagreement on ideals, not a series of personal attacks. In a presidential debate, the candidates even refused to shake hands, yet another measure of the true depth of the disrespect in this election. I hope that this year is an anomaly, and that once it is over at least some of the hatred will subside. I hope that Americans place the issues that are truly important to our nation’s safety and prosperity ahead of any hatred they may feel. As this hate-fueled election comes to a close, my final thought, and prayer, is this. I pray that when we as a country head to the polls on Tuesday, we vote not with our hate, but with our hopes for a brighter future in mind.