Policy Over Personality

Image by Abby Lass

By Alec Liberman

Opinions Contributor

During past elections, many of us just watched from the couch as our parents talked and debated about issues and candidates. Many of us simply asked teachers about what each candidate thinks, and received either a biased or unbiased answer in return. We just watched the whole election unfold from the sidelines, where we knew that our voices didn’t matter, and we were just curious as to who would win.

But for the vast majority of us, 2016 is very, very different.

Many of you reading this are in high school. You and I have developed a sense of opinion over the last four or eight years. No longer does the phrase “Election 2016” mean nothing.

This year, we are more passionate and expressive of our views, simply because we understand the topics more. Our knowledge has increased, and thus, so have our opinions on major issues. We have begun to understand the effects of certain policy choices over others.

To put it bluntly, now more than ever, our opinion on policy matters. So why are we so hung up on what the candidates do and say instead of what they stand for?

Of course, one can say that the candidates are the ones who inspire the next generation and that they represent the country. However, there’s one very important aspect that people fail to realize: comparatively, candidate policy choices affect United States citizens a whole lot more than their personalities.

Take Donald Trump’s sex scandals and the Hillary Clinton FBI/e-mail fiasco, as two examples. How much of that will affect us over the next four (or, as I shudder at the thought of, eight) years? Probably not very much. However, how much will their views on issues such as illegal immigration and the economy affect us? A whole lot more, that’s for sure.

In reality, Trump’s and Clinton’s personalities have not changed over the course of the election, and chances are they won’t. So, dear reader, here’s why, when you get out there and vote tomorrow or talk to people who will, base your vote on which candidate’s policy you prefer, and not which candidate you dislike less.

A recent Washington Post article supports this, as it explores how voters have become less and less worried about how candidates conduct themselves and more about what the candidates plan to do while in office. I’m not going to spell out the numbers– if you’re curious, they’re mentioned in the article multiple times. However, I am going to do the following.

The article surrounds the central point that “presidential elections are rarely won or lost these days on the basis of candidate personality.” In the tensest and most crucial moment of the popularity contest that is the Election 2016, I ask of you the same: vote based on the candidate whose policy choices you agree with, not the candidate who you think has a more favorable personality.

It is the candidate’s opinions that will end up choosing the next Supreme Court judge(s); it is the candidate’s policy choices that will influence Congress; it is the candidate’s train of thought that will change the country; not how the candidate talks, or how the candidate conducts him or herself.

But, in either case, do yourself and your country a favor: get out and vote tomorrow. Spend an hour not at the office or at school but at the polling station. Decide what policies you want your country to adopt, and how you want the country to change.

After all, one hour of your life tomorrow can change the next four years for 319 million people.