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Presidential elections raise mixed opinions

Students, staff comment on presidential candidates, possible issues with Biden’s age, Trump’s behaviors
Art by River Wu

The 2024 presidential election is rapidly approaching. With incumbent Joe Biden leading Democratic primaries and Donald Trump leading Republican primaries, a Biden-Trump rematch is potentially on the horizon this fall. History teacher John Bungarden said he finds the results of recent polls for former president Donald Trump and President Joe Biden disturbing.

“Polls say right now it’s a close race,” Bungarden said. “That’s disconcerting given the number of things Trump has said.”

Sophomore Ryan Leung, who identifies as moderately conservative, said he agrees with some of Trump’s ideas, but not necessarily his values. 

“I believe we should secure our border and we should be hard on China,” Leung said. “But I’m not a big fan of what (Trump) says. He said he would have a stronger Black base because of his convictions (and it’s)pretty crazy he said that.”

Senior Jonathan Liu, who describes himself as a neoconservative — a person who supports intervening in world events and a free market — said Trump’s policies will eventually hurt America.

“(Trump) promises extremely high tariffs and he promises essentially removal from Ukraine and even Israel,” Liu said. “Ultimately, it’s not going to help us in the long run, and it’s only going to make America seem weaker.”

Bungarden said Nikki Haley, the former United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, is becoming a more prominent figure in the Republican party. Although Haley won the Vermont primary on Tuesday, she decided to drop out of the Republican primaries the next day. 

Bungarden also said Haley might be working herself into a better position for the 2028 elections.

“If Trump does what he’s done in the previous three election cycles and very much trash Republican possibilities, maybe (Haley’s) positioned to be the person to pick up the pieces (in 2028),” Bungarden said.

According to a New York Times/Siena poll last month, over 70% of voters in battleground states –– swing states where turnouts are unpredictable –– said Biden is too old to serve another term. But Liu said despite Biden’s age, he is a stronger candidate than Trump for the presidency, as there is already a lot on the line for democracy.

“I know there are a lot of concerns about Biden being too old, but when it becomes an existential threat to our democracy and essentially our nation, it becomes a matter of national necessity to vote for Biden,” Liu said. “Because if we don’t, we’re all screwed.”

Junior Max Beach said he’s also more worried about presidential candidates’ competency than their age.

“I’m not necessarily in favor of an age limit for presidency, but more so a competency test to be able to prove that you’re actually able to be competent in office and actually have some knowledge about what you’re saying and doing,” Beach said. “I think Biden is more of a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party. He’s not his own person.”

But Bungarden said Biden has done well in his four years of the presidency.

“All private accounts say that (Biden is) doing really good,” Bungarden said. “Surely he’s done well, it’s been an excellent four years in terms of things he has accomplished given the dysfunction of Congress.”

Bungarden also said Biden needs to publicize his wellbeing more in campaigning.

“On the other hand, if (Biden) really is as sharp as he is being described in private meetings, then the folks around him need to put that on display,” Bungarden said.

Biden and Trump are closer in age than many think — Trump is 77 while Biden is 81. Nevertheless, according to a New York Times/Siena poll last month, voters are much more concerned about Biden’s age. 

Beach said Trump sometimes seems like he doesn’t age due to his unfaltering energy.

“Trump, while he is old, is still very competent,” Beach said. “He’s always talking. He has a very strong, passionate personality and, if anything, people have said he doesn’t really age.”

Liu said he supports Biden’s foreign policy agenda regarding the recent wars in both Israel and Ukraine.

“(Biden’s) work in Ukraine is incredibly impressive and professional and although there’s a lot of debate over Israel, I think Biden is taking the best stance possible with the hand he’s given,” Liu said. “He’s done a good job responding quickly.”

But Bungarden said the Republican party hasn’t attacked Biden’s stance on the U.S.-Mexico border as much as they should, and that makes them seem unserious about the issue.

“The border is supposed to be the big vulnerability for Biden,” Bungarden said. “And yet the Republicans have, as an electoral calculation, refused to address it. They’re not really serious about the problem.”

Leung said it is an issue that Biden hasn’t competed in any presidential debates.

“He hasn’t even had any debates yet,” Leung said. “He’s with the other Democratic candidates. If you’re so locked in, you should (debate).”

With increasing public scrutiny through the media, Bungarden said Trump’s legal troubles would have disqualified him from becoming president in the past.

“A lot of things (Trump) said would have formally disqualified guys for the Oval Office,” Bungarden said. “(They) aren’t anymore.”

Beach said Trump’s actions are more important than his words, especially because he is more of a face than a politician. 

“He’s not a politician. He’s a businessman and a media personality, ” Beach said. “Put that aside and look at what he’s actually done. Once you make a rational decision based on the policies alone, what he’s done is very good for this country.”

Bungarden said he thinks Republicans this election aren’t actually interested in government.

“The Republicans do not show interest in governing,” Bungarden said. “They have an interest in performative behavior  –– their most prominent voices are performers, more than they are politicians.”

Due to this new performative nature of many politicians, Bungarden said many politicians are less formal and serious than they used to be.

“What I grew up with… in terms of politics was serious people trying to do serious things,” Bungarden said. “At the moment you have a sense of, these are deeply unserious people trying to get a sound bite onto Fox.”

In the end, Leung said other people might be better candidates for the presidency.

“Nikki Haley would be a pretty good Republican candidate,” Leung said. “Or Dean Phillips on the Democratic side or somebody else, because none of the Democrats are stepping up.”

Beyond the different values of all the candidates, Beach said this election will have wide implications all throughout America.

“This is a very important election for modern American history,” Beach said. “It’s going to have a rippling impact on future politics and the scope of the country, regarding foreign and domestic spheres, the economy, and basically just any facet of the American government.”

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Gavin Lin
Gavin Lin, Assistant Managing Editor
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