A Nation Divided: Voters Torn Between Partisanship and Conscience as Election Draws to a Close

By: Catherine Galliford ‘ 18

Political Symbols

Political Symbols

It seems likes ages since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidential election in his campaign headquarters at Trump Tower, Manhattan. In fact, it has been around a year and four months since the now-iconic slogan “Make America Great Again” was revealed as Trump walked out to Neil Young’s famous song “Rockin’ In The Free World.”

Since then, the American political landscape has found itself on a rollercoaster of scandal and controversy. The political turmoil captured the interest of Americans everywhere: the Sept. 26 debate between Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton had the highest ratings of any presidential debate ever with a staggering 84 million viewers tuning in to the most highly anticipated political event of the year.

Trump pulled ahead early during the Republican primary election, surpassing most of his rivals early on and securing the nomination after Senator Ted Cruz (Texas) and Governor John Kasich (Ohio) dropped out shortly before the Republican National Convention this July. Hillary Clinton also received her party’s nomination amid protests from Trump and Sanders supporters alike. Since then, the rivalry between the two candidates turned into a vicious and often deeply personal fight for the presidency.

Both candidacies were formed already surrounded by controversy. Donald Trump had no record of prior public service and received criticism for his comments regarding Mexican immigrants, accusing them of sending over drugs and being “rapists.” Hillary Clinton was deemed untrustworthy by a great deal of the American public, especially conservatives, for her involvement in Benghazi and her use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State.

As the campaigns fought on, both candidates were forced to confront further hurdles. Donald Trump received backlash over his controversial policies, including his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Several thousands of Clinton’s emails were released and she testified for three hours in front of FBI agents before officials decided not to charge her. In spite of this, Clinton and Trump received endorsements from high-ranking party officials.

However, with the election just weeks away, the Trump campaign has found itself at risk of losing key endorsements from Republican officials. On Oct. 7, The Washington Post revealed a 2005 recording of Donald Trump bragging to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush about grabbing women by their genitals. Republicans were quick to condemn Trump’s actions, but not all of them retracted their endorsements. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky) denounced Trump’s words but continues to endorse him. The House Speaker, Paul Ryan, has been unclear in his exact position.

“You all need to do what’s best for you and your district,” said Ryan to Republican officials in the wake of Trump’s comments. The Senator did not officially revoke his endorsement, although he declared that he would no longer defend the actions of Mr. Trump.

It is not the first time Republican leaders have condemned Trump’s words and actions without actually revoking their endorsements: both Ryan and McConnell released statements following Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims, failure to immediately reject David Duke’s endorsement, his attack on the Khan family, and comments on the bias of federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was of Mexican heritage. To conservatives, it is more important to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House and maintain the House and Senate majority.

As Clinton begins to pull ahead in national and statewide polls, the Trump campaign is struggling to close the gap. Trump is polling poorly with minor voters, especially Latinos and African-Americans. As other influential Republicans begin to question whether they will continue to support Donald Trump, the American public must also make a decision. To some, it seems to be an impossible choice between two evils; for others, the moral decision could not be clearer.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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