By Megan Rule | Contributor
This year’s midterms are highly contested, drawing crowds in for early voting the size of those that come out during presidential election years. States that have historically been staunch Republican or Democrat now have races that could swing the other way. The push to vote is stronger than ever, with a lot at stake including the House and Senate majority and a chance to control the nation’s capital for the next two years.
Many factors come into play, including hot topics such as healthcare, immigration, the recent nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the Trump administration. For those stuck on whether to vote or which candidate to vote for, Baylor students broke down why they ultimately decided to vote red or blue keeping these factors in mind.
The talk of building the wall and foreign affairs highlight the news almost every day. Another strong source of debate for this year’s midterm election is the foreign policies in place, including immigration, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and trade.
Plano senior Wafa Demashkiah argued that DACA should be kept, saying that the way the presidential administration is going about all of foreign policy is very wrong.
“I interned this semester at an immigration firm, and Trump is making everything very wishy-washy,” Demashkiah said. “Nobody really knows what to do, even with people who have DACA currently. They don’t know if they should renew it or take a different path.
From the camps to the rhetoric, she believes things can be handled better, which is where O’Rourke comes in. Coming from El Paso, he’s seen first-hand what the U.S.-Mexico border is actually like, according to Demashkiah.
“There are bad people everywhere, no matter how many immigrants you let in. There’s going to be bad, and there’s going to be good,” Demashkiah said.
Ames, La., senior Austin Allaire said he believes it is unreasonable and impossible to deport the illegal immigrants currently in the country, as Cruz has verbally expressed wanting to do so. Allaire believes America should provide a pathway to full citizenship to get undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.
“In the United States, we have millions of undocumented immigrants that are living among us and living in our communities and contributing to our societies, adding diversity that makes us stronger, I believe,” Allaire said.
Allaire agreed with Demashkiah’s point, that as O’Rourke comes from the border town of El Paso, he has acknowledged that being on the border makes the El Paso community stronger. Allaire said this gives him a more optimistic view than candidates on the right that haven’t experienced the border first-hand — it is not a place of fear; it is a strong, connected community with citizens crossing the border every day to go to work.
“El Paso and Ciudad Juarez is one of the largest economies in the Americas when you combine those two economies, and they’re stronger together,” Allaire said. “I think that ultimately Beto’s experience as a candidate representing El Paso adds a lot of value and adds a lot of credibility in terms of addressing that issue.”
Tori Rhodes, a 5Q Baylor Law student from Austin, who voted for a Republican ticket, said she admittedly is not as well-versed on the immigration issues as some other issues, but looking at what both parties endorse, she doesn’t agree with what Democrats believe. She does not believe in open borders at the north or the south, and looking at DACA, doesn’t like the idea of someone being able to “skip the line,” but also doesn’t like the idea of deporting someone who is just as American as others here.
“I don’t believe the Republican party is saying no one can come in ever, I think they’re saying we need to do it in a safe way,” Rhodes said. “I don’t think it needs to be as divisive as it is.”
Rhodes said she’d love to see people stay here but believes in the Republican narrative — that if anyone wants citizenship status they need to go through the same process everyone else, legally, has to go through.
Portland, Ore., junior Eric Soo voted straight Republican Party for the first time ever and brought up the economic arguments that Republicans have against immigration. Soo argued that he sees the issue in economic and social terms, not in racial terms, and ultimately came to the conclusion that illegal immigration is bad for the working class American.
“When you have illegal immigrants, it drives down the wages so low,” Soo said. “People can’t compete; they can’t pay for their families.”
Soo backed this point up by talking about what happened when a large amount of Chinese immigrated to California in the 1800s. Wages went down, and no one wanted to take “low-end jobs” because the pay just wasn’t enough. By putting the working-class American first, Soo said a distinction has to be made between legal and illegal immigrants for everything to work well.
“I agree that immigration is good. I am the son of immigrants just like most Americans are,” Soo said. “But the thing is, the media fails to make a distinction between legal and illegal immigrants.”
Many people are considering candidates based on how they think they will operate in D.C., and how they will contribute to, or balance out, the president’s administration.
Demashkiah said she believes O’Rourke will definitely be a strong voice in the Senate, speaking out against President Trump and policies he doesn’t agree with. She believes he is a strong voice that can help put a stop to the way the Trump administration is going about politics.
“I think he’s going to be really strong. If he gets elected it’s going to be so good because it’s going to be a voice for our generation,” Demashkiah said. “I think the reason why he got so popular so fast is because no candidate has ever resonated with millennial liberals and Democrats so much.”
Allaire said he doesn’t think Cruz is any better at working with the president than O’Rourke. He pointed out that in the House, O’Rourke has had a track record of working across the aisle and has a number of pieces of legislation working with both sides. He believes O’Rourke will be able to work with the president in the Senate as well as he has been able to in the House.
“Ultimately we do need voices in the Senate that are strong, independent voices that are willing to speak out against the current administration when it airs,” Allaire said. “But also are willing to come together and work on the hard issues facing our country.”
Soo believes Republicans and supporters of President Trump feel isolated, and at this point in the presidency, just want to be engaged. He implied this is why the recent President Trump rally in Houston drew about 100,000 people. There’s a movement and a sense of community, Soo said. Republicans are an ideological minority, and maintaining majority in Congress will be important, according to Soo.
“It’s easy, it’s trendy, its encouraged to be part of one party,” Soo said. “But if you’re part of the other party, you hate the poor even if you don’t want taxes raised on your father because he’s struggling to run a small business.”
Soo also talked about Will Hurd, a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives representing the 23rd district of Texas, saying that as a Republican he still stands up to President Trump when he doesn’t agree with something. As a candidate, Hurd encourages smaller government and supports small business and strong borders, aiming to keep America a great nation.
Rhodes is spending the semester working with Texas District 21 Congressional Republican candidate Chip Roy. Rhodes is not only working on his campaign, but also supporting him for the election. She said she believes it’s important to have a congressman who will work with the president to bring ideas to the table and push for states to be able to make decisions on a more localized level as well.
“With Chip Roy he’s a strong conservative voice, and I think he’s going to represent his district and district values very well,” Rhodes said. “He’s going to work together with President Trump.”
A few weeks ago, Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on an alleged sexual assault made by Justice Kavanaugh toward Ford. The hearings and proceeding FBI investigation garnered national attention, and national waves of controversial support for both testimonies, sparking another discussion to affect midterms.
“I understand the Kavanaugh nomination is a polarizing topic, and in my view this time lapse does not make a woman coming forward believable,” Rhodes said. “There were things I didn’t like from both sides. I was disappointed in Kavanaugh’s emotion and Ford’s lack of memory.”
Rhodes said that by taking the emotion out of both sides, however, she is not convinced he did this. By looking at the information provided, she said Ford did not make a good enough case to Rhodes and Justice Kavanaugh did. Soo agrees, saying there is too little information given in this situation and Justice Kavanaugh displayed genuine emotion.
“There are many moderate Republicans like me that feel so demonized that we embrace Trump,” Soo said. “And the Kavanaugh hearings only energized that.”
Soo said the media made the issue out to be women versus men; with Republican women being accused of betraying their gender if they said they believed Justice Kavanaugh. He says horrible things were said, only adding to the protests being made against President Trump and the Republican Party. But with the timing of everything and the details that came out, along with the media pressure, we quickly saw the political outcome.
“We saw what would happen if there were a Democrat majority in the Senate or a Democrat majority in the House, and how this could be applied to other things,” Soo said. “Even liberal polls show that Kavanaugh increased Republican enthusiasm in the midterms.”
Other students disagree, and think Ford’s story was and should have been enough to prevent Justice Kavanaugh from receiving his nomination. Demashkiah said although both sides were really compelling and no one will ever know what really happened, for someone to just be accused should be enough to stand in the way.
“I don’t think he should have been appointed to the Supreme Court,” Demashkiah said. “He’s now one of the most important people in the U.S. government, so I don’t think he should have even been appointed. I think his nomination should have been taken down even with this coming out, if he did do it or didn’t do it.”
Demashkiah then pointed out that O’Rourke’s strong support for women who have been victims of sexual assault is an attractive part of his campaign. She emphasized his push for women being a positive.
Allaire believes that O’Rourke and the Democratic Party are far more positive toward the #MeToo movement and women in general, as he is a candidate that supported women’s rights before the nomination of Justice Kavanaugh and the Senate hearings. Allaire believes the tone on the Democratic side of the aisle is much more welcoming than that on the Republican side.
“I think that the Kavanaugh nomination is reflective of broader cultural issues of how do we actually listen to our neighbors and our fellow Americans, especially in times of great crisis and as they’re sharing their truth and their story,” Allaire said. “I think ultimately Texas deserves to have a senator who believes victims and believes women.”
Healthcare is a common topic that divides Democrats and Republicans. On a national scale, bills such as bill H.R.676, the universal Medicare for all, cause controversy. A majority of the Democratic caucus were cosponsors of H.R.676.
“The Democratic party and the Republican party have very different ideas on how to fix our healthcare issue,” Rhodes said. “The healthcare issue is massive and a one size fits all solution doesn’t work in my view.”
Demashkiah said healthcare is the main reason she is voting for Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke. She said pre-existing conditions is a cause for concern since Texas Republican Senate candidate Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign ran on repealing all of Obamacare. Although both House and Senate bills kept these protections, its still a concern for some, such as Demashkiah.
“I have a heart condition and I’ve had heart surgeries and my heart condition is pre-existing, I was born with it,” Demashkiah said. “Ted wants to take out pre-existing conditions from healthcare and Beto is totally against that, so that’s why I’m going for Beto, because he actually cares about pre-existing conditions and being covered, and I would like to be covered.”
According to a 2017 CNN article, Republicans believe “the legislation places too many burdens on businesses and hinders job creation.” They believed legally requiring Americans to pay for a service they may not want was a gross infringement on individual liberties. The U.S. healthcare system is the most expensive in the world, supporting the Republican argument that the current Obamacare plan is too costly and needs to be cut down.
Allaire voted for a majority of democratic candidates with a few libertarians in the Texas midterm ballot. He said he was specifically excited to vote for O’Rourke for many reasons. In regards to healthcare, Allaire said he supports O’Rourke’s position of supporting access to healthcare — both regular everyday care and mental healthcare. Allaire pointed out that the number one provider of mental healthcare in the state of Texas is the county jail and he believes we need to do better, as does O’Rourke.
“I think one thing that was really discouraging over the past two years was watching Republicans in the House and the Senate attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” Allaire said. “In my opinion, inapt policies would make it more difficult for Americans to receive access to quality healthcare. I think that healthcare is absolutely an important issue facing our country right now and I think we need to continue big steps beyond the Affordable Care Act, which is a good start but has not solved all of the problems that exist within the healthcare industry.”
All students agreed that at this point, every vote counts, no matter which party or candidate someone decides to vote for. With groundbreaking turnout for early voting, voices are being heard loud and clear.
“We’re having, in every district, record high voter turnout,” Rhodes said. “I feel like both sides are very energized. It’s hard to get a read on what’s going to happen, so I’m excited for election night.”
Demashkiah said students should definitely take the time to educate themselves and find which issues are extremely important to them. She said everyone could find a personal connection to the political state of the country in order to vote passionately.
“With the current political state, everyone is wanting a change,” Demashkiah said. “Even Republicans, I know a couple of them who don’t support what Trump is doing. There have been, since President Trump was elected, so many negative things that I think not only millennials are looking for a chance to change and a chance to do better.”
Allaire said across the board, he feels the Democratic Party is offering a more hopeful outlook to the future. He believes voting for Democratic candidates will help provide a check on the chaos happening in the nation’s capital at the moment.
“Ultimately for me this election came down to tone,” Allaire said. “I grew up in a conservative household and actually campaigned in 2016 for conservative candidates, and I have been so disappointed in the tone of our politics and the real way in which things have digressed in the past two years.”
Soo said although he may not agree with everything in the political scope of the country right now, at least he feels represented. Soo also said the mainstream media is creating narratives that are destroying our country. Soo said the world is so big that we have to help our own communities first by voting.
“I think there’s a lot of passion right now, but the question is: do you want people using their passion within a system and a country that they encourage, where we see American flags and U.S.A. chants, or do we want people using their passion to destroy a system that we love, to deny the experiences of millions of other Americans or use their passion to hold signs and scream and chant that our president is the worst president ever?” Soo asked.