YAF and YDP weigh in on today’s election and how we should respond to those whose political views differ from our own

November 2, 2020

Amidst an unprecedented election season, one of the Current’s executive editors conducted email interviews with representatives of Potomac’s two leading political clubs to get their perspectives on what’s at stake in this election. Read on to hear about the importance of voting, respecting one another, and advocating for change in an increasingly polarized world. 

The responses below are from the leaders of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF): Will Edens, Charlotte Henry, and Chris Joe, and the leaders of Young Democrats of Potomac (YDP): Axel Gyllenhoff, Natalie Moosher, Caroline Osbourne, Michael Sweeney, and Andrew Ruggeri. They have been slightly edited for clarity and length.

Editor’s note: YAF requested that we preface their responses by stating that “We value everyone and are not a single-minded group but are composed of different people with different views and shared values.”

1. How does it feel to be a member of the Democratic/Republican party at Potomac right now?

YAF: YAF itself is not affiliated with the Republican party, however, we do have some Republican members. I would not consider myself as part of the Republican party but I am a conservative and because Potomac is a predominantly liberal school, it is a challenge expressing opinions without facing severe backlash from the other side. I feel as though many conservatives at our school often mask their true opinions in school debates to make sure that their teachers still like them and so that they are not ridiculed by their peers. Potomac’s political culture is not as diverse as I would want it to be because usually the liberal point of view is considered the correct opinion and there is not much room for dialogue and understanding the other side. 

YDP: At the moment, being a Democrat at Potomac feels at the same time frightening and empowering. With our current Republican-dominated government, we need to amplify our views and really advocate for ourselves and others. That being said, in such a polarizing environment, respect towards others, regardless of their political views, is key. Everybody should partake in political discussions at Potomac, not just to justify their beliefs, but to learn from and listen to others.

2. What do you think is most at stake in this election?

YAF: This election has been one of the most polarizing elections that I have ever witnessed. Honestly, regardless of who wins, I fear that this huge divide between the public will only worsen as people continually refuse to understand each other and become more radical in their opinions.  

YDP: I think that the safety and security of minorities throughout the country is what is most at stake in this election. This is urgent, as marginalized people’s rights should never be in as precarious a state as they are right now. Under the Trump administration the prevalence of hate crimes has drastically increased, whether they be directed at members of the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, or religious minorities. 

3. What are the focal points for voters in your eyes?

YAF: Personally, I think the voters should care about how each candidate aims to solve the many different issues that are currently plaguing society today. These include how they plan to address the coronavirus in both the short term and long term. I also believe they should research the candidate’s stance on issues of concern such as the environment or healthcare and vote for the candidate that aligns most with how they want our society to grow/function.

YDP: The two most important issues for voters this year are the economy and health care. Amidst COVID-19, many Americans are struggling financially and want to see the candidate elected that will put the economy first. Health care is also a focal point of voters as we are facing an unprecedented public health crisis, and, following the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, a case before the Supreme Court now poses a threat to the Affordable Care Act, including its protection for Americans with preexisting conditions. 

4. How have you advocated for your preferred candidate(s)? 

YAF: The leaders of YAF do not endorse a candidate in particular and thus have not advocated for one candidate or the other.

YDP: I personally have taken a more structured approach towards advocating for my preferred candidate by working as an organizing fellow on Democratic campaigns. For this I participated in phone banks, and recruited, trained, and oversaw volunteers throughout Northern Virginia. More informally, I have made a point to engage in political discussions with my peers, which I think is critical in understanding other perspectives and learning how to better articulate your own.

5. What do you think is the best way to get out the vote?

YAF: The best way to get out the vote would be to make the voting process as streamlined as possible and supply resources that would give locations and dates where polls would be open to vote. Every vote really does matter and our democracy will only be strong if every citizen upholds their civic duty to vote.

YDP: I think the best way to get out the vote is to use social media. Since it plays such an important role in our lives, encouragement through social media helps reach many young adults. The Millenial-Gen Z voting block is the largest and will carry a huge impact in this election. Social media will help get these people out to vote and significantly influence the election. 

6. How do you expect to feel on election night?

YAF: On election night, I expect to feel anxious since the result could really go either way. Within my family, there is a wide array of different political stances so I know that stress and tension in my household will be high, which will probably put me on edge as well. In addition, the coronavirus has definitely changed the way that the voting system works, so I am interested to see how the mail-in votes will impact the results of the election. 

YDP: I think we can all agree that this is the most significant election that we high schoolers have lived through. There is so much on the line, and the idea of our country being under this administration for four more years is terrifying. I predict election night will be filled with anxiety for a lot of members of the Potomac community: not only anxiety over the results, but fear of the days to follow the election. Based on the divided state of our country, it is clear that in any outcome  there will be a great amount of anger following the election. It is very important to check in on your friends and family Tuesday night, as it will be an emotional night for many. 

7. How do you think the Potomac community will react to election results?

YAF: One great thing about the Potomac community is that many of the students are very politically aware and care deeply about many issues. However, the deep investment in one candidate or another may create strong reactions to the results of the election. I expect that almost all of the students will feel something from the election results but the intensity of the reactions are definitely on a spectrum– some people will have very strong reactions and some may not react much at all.

YDP: Given that Potomac largely leans left, I think that no matter the result, conservative viewpoints, and conservative students in general may feel more stigmatized. The leaders of YDP are very aware of this possibility, and we will work to create an environment in which all students, no matter their political beliefs, feel like they can express their views.

8. Why is it important that people vote tomorrow if they have not done so already?

YAF: In a Democratic society, voting is a fundamental process that gives the people a say in who will represent them. It’s easy to think that you’re just one person and that your vote doesn’t make much of a difference; however, your vote always matters. In 2016, the margin of victory for Donald Trump in the swing states that he won was less than one percent, proving that individual votes can really make a difference and when more citizens vote, the majority rather than the minority is represented.

YDP: It is incredibly important for people to vote tomorrow not only to exercise their rights but to uphold our democracy and improve the accuracy of the popular vote. I have heard too many individuals say things like, “My state is definitely going blue/red, so there’s no point.” This mentality is destructive to our democracy and defeats the purpose of the popular vote. Every vote DOES count in this race. 

9. How do you think the Potomac community can best come together at such a polarizing time?

YAF: Be open to discussion and most importantly, views outside of your own. It is hard to understand the other side if you do not even bother to listen and immediately reject what someone is saying on the basis of what political party they support. We cannot tear each other down because we have different political opinions. Instead, we should truly listen to each other as if political parties do not exist, because you may learn a lot by understanding a different point of view.

YDP: At the moment, we both live in a polarized world and community. One of our main goals for YDP this year is to decrease the polarization between different political viewpoints at Potomac. One suggestion we have is to have more frequent discussions about politics to really listen to what other people have to say. Also, community members should go to both YDP and YAF to listen to the different views and develop their own opinions.

10. What is the most important thing for students to remember coming into school on Thursday?

YAF: The most important thing for students to remember when they come into school on Thursday is that everyone has a different reaction and feelings about how the election went and the results. Some students who are very active politically may be balancing a lot of emotions while less politically active students may not have much of a reaction. People should not be gloating if their preferred candidate wins and should not criticize the other candidate if their preferred candidate loses because that will only elevate tensions. Instead, we should be receptive to everyone and provide support to classmates if they are feeling upset regardless of where you or they stand politically. 

YDP: No matter the outcome of the election, many students will be disappointed and many will even be fearful. More than ever, it is crucial to check in on one another and support each other, but in order for this to happen we have to first understand each other. I implore every member of the Potomac community to recognize this sensitive and monumental moment, and treat one another with the utmost respect no matter the outcome. 

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