Votes are In: Friends Students on the 2020 Election

In April 2020, I wrote an article about the race between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to become the Democratic presidential nominee in a state of naivete about the coming months, believing the COVID-19 pandemic would be a memory come November.

Now, the American people have selected Biden, who went head to head with incumbent Donald Trump on an election day fraught with COVID-related complications.

As the day drew near, more than 100 million Americans voted early. With the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the growing number of COVID cases, and racial unrest, the political landscape is ever changing.

Even though most Friends students are not old enough to vote, they have robust opinions about the state of our country, mail-in voting, and why knowledge of current events is crucial.

“Knowing what’s going on with your own country is so important. Even if you can’t vote, you still have the right to assemble,” says junior Sam Handwerk, who says she does her political research through watching the debates and, like many young people today, through social media. “It’s important to hold your government accountable and have conversations with people who can vote.”

The news this past month has been dominated by debate about whether the results of this election, particularly involving mail-in voting, can be trustworthy.

“The USPS isn’t something you can necessarily trust, it’s hard for me to believe they’ll be able to handle millions of ballots being sent in,” says senior Dan Musachio, who heads the school’s Conservative Voices Club. He says he wonders whether mail-in voting will affect the validity of the election outcome, a concern many Americans share.

Senior Julia Barry disagrees.

“Mail-in voting is a symptom of voter suppression,” Julia says, citing many polling center closures, and the lack of assurance of safety in a polling center for someone who is immunocompromised.

When asked about which candidate they support, Friends students tend to have differing, but generally well-researched, opinions.

“I would settle for Joe Biden if I could vote,” says Julia. “I could vote for a third-party candidate even though that would virtually throw away my vote because I have the safety and security of knowing that [the election of Donald Trump] wouldn’t affect me.”

Switching support from Bernie Sanders to Joe Biden was “pretty rough,” says Julia. “America needed Bernie but wasn’t ready for Bernie. America rejected the one candidate offering universal healthcare in the middle of a pandemic.”

Sam says for her, the choice was clear.

“I definitely support Biden. I think Trump leads with hatred and is selfish with what he thinks is good for the country,” she says, noting that he regularly chooses the economy over the health of the planet when speaking about climate change. “I don’t know much about Biden, but I know so much about the bad things Trump has done that I am so opposed to him, and Biden is the only candidate with a chance to beat him, so I put my support there.”

Dan expresses a general dislike for “the culture the left has created,” and notes that it’s one that you feel embarrassed… for supporting Trump.”

The candidate a person supports “shouldn’t necessarily be a defining characteristic of yourself,” Dan argues.

“Biden doesn’t have policy points of his own and caters to the radical left,” he continues. “I don’t think radical things like abolishing the filibuster, packing the courts, defunding the police, dismantling the nuclear family,… I don’t think that’s what our country needs right now.”

Quill polling has showed that the Friends student body overwhelmingly supports liberal candidates.

“Even though I consider myself somewhat extreme left, I don’t feel judged at Friends because most of the school swings that way too,” says Julia.

From the other end of the political spectrum, Dan says: “The country’s biggest institutions… are all pushing the same narrative, and anything that might diverge from that narrative,… the reaction would not be good.” But he adds: “This is not a problem unique to Friends.”

In advance of this election, many students reported feeling anxious about the results.

“I remember in 2016 there was a New York Times article that said Hillary had more than a 90% chance of winning, and everyone was shocked when Trump won. I’m worried something similar might happen again, I’m really hoping that with everything that’s been going on recently, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement and how Trump has been so opposed to that” says Sam “I hope people will realize that with him as president not much good will happen for the country.”

Dan seemed much more relaxed about the possible outcomes.

“It’s just politics. It’s just an election. It’s been happening since 1788,” he said. “I can see that some people work themselves up into a frenzy each election year.”

His main concern, Dan said, is that a Biden win could mean Kamala Harris is the favorite to win the next election.

Each student offered a different perspective, and it’s clear that Friends students are eager to learn and develop more informed political opinions, regardless of age.