Students could turn the tide with Michigan as a swing state

Friday, July 22, 2016 - 3:43am

During his acceptance of the party nomination at the Republican National Convention Thursday, Donald Trump announced his expectation to bring supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) into his fold, stemming from his claims that he will win the general election through additional support from Democrats and independents.

“I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders. He never had a chance,” Trump said. “But his supporters will join our movement, because we will fix his biggest issue.”

Contrary to this claim, a June NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking poll shows Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton virtually tied in support from independents, with Clinton receiving nearly 90 percent of her party’s support. Additionally, students — some of Sanders greatest supporters — tend to demonstrate strong opposition to Trump.

Among the few protesters in Cleveland, a dislike of Trump was particularly apparent among students. Aniqa Raihan, a George Washington University student protesting the convention with Code Pink, said.

“Trump is just so beyond hateful,” she said. “Yes, I’m young, but I cannot remember another politician this hateful and this influential, and so I think this election is a particular important time to come out.”

Despite this opposition to Trump, the “Never Hillary” movement has picked up among students who had passionately supported Sanders. Raihan said that, though she supports Clinton, many other students she knows plan to vote for third-party candidates like Jill Stein of the Green Party or to abstain from voting.

“I liked Bernie,” she said. “I think we all liked Bernie. I think now we all differ. Some people are voting for Jill Stein instead. I’m voting for Hillary, but I don’t like her very much.”

Clinton has been working to combat this movement, but despite the endorsements from Sanders and President Barack Obama, the “Never Hillary” movement still remains among students.

On campus, College Democrats Chair Collin Kelly, a rising LSA junior, said his organization plans to work with Students for Sanders and Students for Hillary on voter registration drives and local campaigning to elect Democrats across the entire ballot.

Kelly said he does not worry too much about lack of unity within the Democratic Party, as he believes even disgruntled Sanders supporters on campus fear a Trump presidency.

“I know that people aren’t as enthusiastic about Hillary Clinton as there were about Bernie Sanders,” he said. “But even the most skeptical person of what would happen if Trump were elected.”

The state of Michigan, a traditionally Democratic-leaning state in national elections, has come into question as a swing state for this election season. Michigan delegates at the RNC seemed massively confident in Trump’s ability to win the state in the fall, as multiple members of the delegation told the Daily.

Delegate John Haggard said he believes support for Trump will soon spread across the entire state.

“Michigan will be red in the fall,” he said. “Donald Trump is going to turn the state of Michigan red, and it’s going to start from us in the Upper Peninsula all the way down. It’s going to spread like cancer, and we are going to spread it fast.”

Students may have a large impact on this election if they turn out to vote with the same enthusiasm as in the primary; however, if students vote in large numbers for a third party or abstain from voting, they could negatively affect the Democrats’ standing.

Kelly said he was unconcerned about winning the state.

“In nationwide elections we tend to vote democratic,” he said. “I don’t think that is going to change.”

Republicans have not won the state of Michigan in a presidential election since 1988, but Republican leaders have plans to swing the state and are confident in their ability to do so.

U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop (R–Mich.) said the party’s values can appeal to students who are frustrated with the status quo.

“I think if Republicans get their act together and get the message of what the Republican party stands for liberty, personal freedoms, less government, then most younger people will appreciate that,” he said. “You see that now with folks moving away from Bernie Sanders over to Trump. They are sick of business as usual and big government.”

However, such campaigns aimed at students may not go so far given Trump’s current stances on issues critical to students. Compared to Clinton’s New College Compact, Trump has yet to release a detailed stance or plan relating to higher education. Additionally, Trump’s choice for vice president, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, may alienate students due to his highly conservative stances on social issues where students tend to lean far to the left.

Raihan said she understands much of the Republican platform but not their social stances.

“I respect a lot of conservatism,” she said. “I understand ‘I work hard for my money, I want to keep it.’ I respect small government. I respect the hell out of libertarianism. I just don’t agree. It’s social conservatism where I really hit a wall.”

Ronna Ronmey, chair of the Michigan Republican Party, McDaniel said in an interview with the Daily that the party plans to use more fiscal messages to target students.

“We want to start getting out the message to these voters that our party is the party that is going to get them jobs,” she said. “We want more students involved. The great thing about this election cycle is that the candidates. (Students) are paying more attention. They are watching what’s happening, so it’s wonderful. And we certainly want to reach out to them.”

Bishop also mentioned his hope that Trump will provide a more detailed higher education platform in order to attract student voters. Trump mentioned the need for aid in the student debt crisis in his acceptance speech at the RNC but failed to go into any detail on the issue.

Members of academia commented on the role of the student concerning Michigan's political affiliation come time of the general election, but the general consensus was that the result is yet to be seen due to the unpredictable nature of this election cycle.

Josh Pasek, a faculty associate at the University's Center for Political Studies, said he believes the state will be tough for Trump to turn in his favor.

“I think Michigan is an uphill battle for Donald Trump anyway,” he said. “Michigan has clearly leaned Democratic in presidential elections for a while.”

Public Policy Lecturer Rusty Hill, who attended the convention, said students are unlikely to switch to Trump, but their turnout can have a large impact on the outcome of the election.

“I think it’s a stretch to believe that young people who support Bernie Sanders are going to come around and support Donald Trump,” he said. “I also think that obviously the more depressed the youth vote is, the better Trump will do in the state of Michigan.