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A High Schooler's Guide to the 2016 Presidential Election

posted Sep 26, 2016, 5:16 PM by Christopher Miller   [ updated Sep 26, 2016, 5:53 PM ]

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A High Schooler's Guide to the 2016 Presidential Election 

Written by Henry Smith 



Getting Started:


        As long as you haven't been living in your basement for the past six months, you’ve almost certainly heard something about the 2016 presidential election- whether a catchy phrase, such as “Hillary for prison” or “dump Trump,” used by enthusiastic supporters or a libelous news article. Regardless of this he-said-she-said slander, don’t you think it would be best to determine what candidate’s views best align with yours, rather than choosing a candidate based on the media’s rating-hungry coverage? Even if you don’t know about the issues or quite frankly, are indifferent about the election, it’s imperative to stay up to date- whether you realize it or not, you’ll be living under the decisions and actions of the next elected president for four years! Saying this, before reading the following guide, I highly encourage you to read up on the American issues that mean the most to you- whether abortion, climate change, or gay marriage- specifically from an unbiased source (seriously, do it). If you’ve done your research or already know the issues facing Americans in the voting booth, congratulations, you’re on your way to becoming a politically-informed citizen! Next comes channeling these personally-important issues into deciding what presidential candidate will best represent these values. Surprisingly, this step can be quite easy, using the nonpartisan website isidewith.com, you can easily find what political party and candidate have values that most parallel your own. Even if you have already thrown your support behind a candidate, this website is an amazing resource in reaffirming or surprisingly disproving your previous conceptions. 


Now What?:

Now this is where most students become stagnant: “I know who I support and why, but I’m not eighteen, what’s the point anyway?” First and foremost, let’s make this clear- this is absolutely not the mentality to have; as mentioned earlier, you will live under the leadership of the candidate elected as president for the next four years, so it’s only logical to have your opinion heard during the election season. Secondly, I’d like to address the point that, contradictory to the common misconception, voting is in fact not the sole way to participate in American democracy.  Although, yes, voting may be the most direct way of making your voice heard, it is certainly not the only way: these efforts can be as involved as phone banking for the candidate you back, or as nonchalant as retweeting a tweet advocating for your favored candidate. Moreover, through small conversations with your friends, parents, or even complete strangers, you can indirectly add to your candidate’s vote count. Additionally, don’t forget about one of your greatest untapped assets: your clothing. Although buying and wearing shirts, pins, and even socks depicting your favored candidate may qualify you as a political nut, it is undeniable that people will see and be influenced by your flashy apparel. Even better, it’s fun to make a game out of it: for every person who you have a considerable political conversation with, who asks about your bold political t-shirt, or who retweets your fiery political tweet, give yourself a point; try to rack up as many points as possible before the election in November. Set goals for yourself as you make your mark on American democracy: ten points, fifty points, five hundred points, even one thousand points?


Ways to Keep Updated:

        *Below are ranked the most valuable resources for keeping up to date on the election cycle:
1. The 2016 Presidential Debates- What better way to keep up with your favorite candidate than watching them vehemently debate his or her opponent on the stage in front of all of America? Of course, these debates do disadvantage third-party candidates, who are discluded because of relatively low national polling records. However, there are many ways to enjoy the debates besides just watching them: live-tweeting and hosting a debate party are also ways to get involved in the debate festivities. “But when are the debates, anyways,” you ask. The first presidential debate will take place on September 26 beginning at 9:00 and the full debate schedule can be found in the link (http://www.debates.org/index.php?page=2016debates).
2. Fivethirtyeight.com- Have you ever heard someone say “Hillary’s leading in the race,” or, “Trump’s rising in the polls?” How do you even know how candidates are doing before election day in November, anyways? You and I may not be able to predict who is ahead at any given time during the presidential race, but statisticians and political analysts can! By visiting the website of the renowned, number-crunching Nate Silver, you can have access to professionally-calculated statistics on how the race is shaping up for each candidate. This includes all the recent polls from a spectrum of different sources, the reliability of these polls, an overview of the national race, a look at the candidates’ standings state-by-state, and numerous other amazing statistics that are sufficient for even the biggest math geek (http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/).
3. Politifact.com- Throughout the election cycle, you probably hear candidates spew out thousands of statistics to enhance their rhetoric. However, not everything is as is seems: candidates strategically morph and rephrase statistics to make them work in their favor. This being said, how does one know the difference between a truthful argument and a blatant lie? PolitiFact, a prestigious nonpartisan website, rates candidates’ key statements according to their truthfulness, keeping records of previous statements and making “truthfulness ratings” based on collected data. So next time you hear a statement from a candidate that seems too good to be true, reference PolitiFact and inform yourself on the legitimacy of the statement (http://www.politifact.com/).
4. Candidates’ Websites- It’s almost certain that any candidate you support in the presidential race has his or her own website. And if you’re wondering why these websites are useful, the answer is that they contain valuable information and updates about your favored candidate. Whether it’s specific political platforms to share with your friends or information about upcoming campaign events, candidates’ campaign websites contain the most reliable information by far (not to mention that they have expansive online shops, allowing  you can buy political mugs, hats, socks, shirts, and even ties). 
5. Twitter Moments- Are you constantly rushing and busy, lacking the time to give yourself an in depth update on the latest election news? If you answered “yes,” then Twitter Moments may be perfect for you. Twitter Moments, a section of Twitter that includes an entire “Election 2016” page, has everything to keep you up to date on the latest political news without requiring you to concentrate on a long, monotonous news article. Furthermore, Twitter Moments incorporates hashtags, emoticons, GIFs, memes, and other pop culture trends to make staying informed about politics as comedic and enjoyable as possible. In addition, if you find a tweet or meme that you really enjoy under Twitter Moments, you can share it with specific friends, like it, or retweet it to relay it to all of your followers. 



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