Primary politics has always been a blood sport. In the past, candidates’ verbal barbs would draw the figurative blood, but this election cycle with the anger generated by the Trump campaign, the blood has been all too real — and that has high school students who will be voting for the first time, wondering, “What’s going on.”
A number of senior students from Anthony Trecillo’s AP Government class at Saugerties High School agreed to sit down recently to discuss the primary, the candidates and the issues they’d like the candidates to talk about.
There were five students — three boys and two girls — they all intend to vote in the primary. Four are Democrats, and one Republican.
The four registered Democrats said they intend to vote for Bernie Sanders in the April 19 primary, while the lone Republican said he supported Rand Paul but will vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“The primary has been very messy, and all the angry comments are really unprofessional,” said Alison Byrne, one of the Democrats. “All these ridiculous comments, the candidates have really brought the level of the primary down.”
“The candidates calling each other names is not very professional,” added fellow Democrat Kaitlyn Dombrowski.
“When they do this, the candidates lose credibility,” said Winston Gedicks, the lone Republican. “And it’s good to see the other candidates calling Trump out on his comments. The other candidates tried to have a good debate, but (Marco) Rubio fell into the name-calling with Trump.”
“One of the things that I found disturbing was Trump asking his followers to pledge allegiance to him, like Hitler did,” Dombrowski said.
The possibility of a brokered convention as the only way to keep Trump from getting his party’s nomination has been discussed in Trecillo’s class and Democrat Daniel Caffrey believes it might be the way to go. However, Trump has a lot of support and delegates and that might be enough to get him the nomination.
“I don’t like the way the super delegates work,” Dombrowski said. As a Sanders supporter she doesn’t believe Hillary Clinton should get the nomination if all that separates her and Sanders are the super delegates she already has. And if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination, Dombrowski said she’d be hard pressed to support Clinton. “She doesn’t necessarily represent women.”
Dombrowski said she’s talked to a number of other students who will be voting in the coming primary, and many of them feel the same way she does.
“Many of us are feeling the Bern,” Byrne said quoting one of Sanders’ campaign slogans.
Nicholas Perpetua, one of the Democrats said while he’s supporting Sanders as well, if he doesn’t get the nomination he’s leaning to voting for Kasich if he makes it into the November presidential race.
“I really think Sanders has something to say,” Dombrowski said. “He wants to help the lower class. He seems the best candidate for the job.”
“Sanders just seems more in line with our age group is looking for,” Perpetua added.
But, despite the anger candidates and some of their supporters have shown during the campaign, the Saugerties’ students still feel positive about the way the election system works. “People are getting involved in the process, and getting educated about the candidates,” Caffrey said.
“But we are frustrated with the process to a certain extent,” Dombrowski said.
And what issues concern these five high school seniors the most? “Affordable college, and the national debt.”
Dombrowski said she’d like to attend Long Island University and has wanted to do so for most of her high school career, but “it’s going to be difficult to afford. I have one scholarship to help but it won’t be enough.”
“My relatives seem to have been paying down their debt to go to college for a long time and I don’t want to do it,” Perpetua added.
All five said they may end up having to go to Ulster County Community College for their first two years of college because it’s affordable, and then transferring to a four-year school for their degrees.
Caffrey said the amount of the national debt is very concerning. “Who ever gets elected must make paying it down one of their top issues.”
And do they sit around the evening dinner table and talk politics with their parents and siblings? They all said yes.
Gedicks said that while he may argue with his dad over the issues, he finds the give and take a good way to help him solidify how he feels about the candidates.
Dombrowski also has “enthusiastic” discussions with her dad, but also finds them helpful.
Perpetua said he talks to his father and his brother and uses them as a sounding board and finds them “both insightful.”
Caffrey talks mostly to his mom, “she offers a lot of good ideas.”
Byrne also said she likes the give and take with her family when talking about politics and the issues.
And while the students are all looking forward to the election, they are not all that sure anything will change no matter whom gets elected, unless Congress begins to work together.