Mock Debate Encourages Millennial Vote and Political Awareness
This election season, Michelle Abramowitz (‘17) and Jordan Tayeh (‘17) represented the democratic and republican candidate’s policies as part of VOTES, a nationwide mock election for high school students. In the mock election on On Oct. 31, a 83.8% majority of the Upper School elected Hillary Clinton as president. Donald Trump received 10.1% of the votes while Jill Stein and Gary Johnson received only 3 and 12 votes respectively.
On Oct. 28, Jordan and Michelle debated on the chapel stage in front of the Upper school. Tasnia Khan (‘17), Paul McLaren (‘17) and Gabriela Hubner (‘17) fired questions while Graham Moore (‘17) moderated the debate. The panelists asked questions about climate change, supreme court appointments, the Middle East, racial inequality, immigration reform, the millennial vote, economics, political correctness, and healthcare.
For the most part, students in the audience remained quiet, however Michelle received applause when addressing Hillary’s stance on women’s reproductive rights and political correctness, while Jordan received support for mentioning potential reform to Obama Care.
“I thought [the debate] showed the good side of the two candidates,” said Henry Somerby (‘19). “It talked about their actual points whereas in the real debate they are too self immersed to talk about the real issues.”
In an attempt to differ from the real presidential debates, Michelle and Jordan did not act as Hillary and Trump themselves. Instead, they could allude to the personality traits of Hillary and Trump as potential presidents.
“We’re going to try and stay on policy and program,” said George Snook, advisor for the mock election. “However, if I were a Republican, I might challenge Ms. Clinton’s history as Secretary of State, and Michelle could challenge candidate Donald Trump’s lacking qualifications or character traits. We’re trying to keep it respectful.”
Although there was friendly competition, the debate concluded with a handshake and smiles – unlike the current candidates. This debate was supposed to show students how real presidential debates have occurred in the past.
“I want people to realize that debating can be worthwhile. A lot of people have the attitude that it’s not even worth watching the debates anymore,” said Michelle. “I want to change that through this debate and we will be able to show students that you can actually learn a lot of it’s done well”.
An important issue that the panelists wanted to discuss involved political correctness and diversity of opinion. Jordan in particular used the argument of having diverse opinions across the U.S. in his policy proposals. In liberal New York, many often forget that not everyone in the United States shares the same opinions.
“I hope that our students understand that there is a diversity of opinions in our country and that we need to respect and hear all of those,” said Paul. “I think those that care about their future – which is hopefully most students – will take this seriously”.
VOTES, the organization that organizes high school mock elections around the country, was created to involve high school students in politics and specifically presidential elections, something the students involved in the debate feel passionately about.
“I think in this day and age, this election is even more important for the younger population than previous ones, because this is their future. This is something that whether they care now or not, the decision that is made is what they have to deal and work with, so I think it really is important and I do hope that all students take it seriously,” said Tasnia.
Nine students took part in the preparation for the debate, including Michelle and Jordan. On Michelle’s team, Kristin Howell (‘17) and Tray Davis (‘17) were research assistants who helped prep Michelle to speak at the debate.
“Because this election is so weird and bizarre and the parties are so polarizing, it has made people so interested and invested,” said Kristin Howell (’17). “The millennial vote is so important, and I know that I want to be informed. Young people tip [the vote] over and I think it’s important that we understand that we have a lot of power”.
Jordan was supported by Max Kern (‘18) and Cameron Krane (‘18).
“It’s been great having the perspective of a true Trump supporter to prepare me, as well as having Max who knows a lot about Republican politics,” said Jordan. “It’s been a great balance to work with, and they’ve both been incredibly helpful”.
VOTES is a project that was created in 1988 in an attempt to combat low voter turnout. Students at Northfield Mount Hermon High School decided to get students involved in hopes to bring politics into teenagers’ lives at an earlier point. The mock election results have accurately predicted the real election each year, except for the infamous Bush vs. Gore situation in 2000. One private and one public high school in each state participate in the mock election; this year’s public school in New York state is Stuyvesant.