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Students lay out issues the next president should address

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published November 8, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

As the election draws to a close, UNC Asheville students discuss some of their hopes and expectations for the crucial issues they think the next administration needs to focus on.

Improving the health care system overall remains a priority for some.

“My mom is really sick and watching my parents go through trying to pay for everything has been really stressful for them,” said Caroline Boyd, senior psychology student from Charlotte. “Medical care is a big one for me.”

Boyd said she hopes the U.S. will one day enact universal health care, but for the time being the Affordable Care Act should be improved.

“I think the Affordable Care Act has some good things, but I think we should build on what we have and improve the parts that aren’t working,” Boyd said.

Ethan Wright, a senior atmospheric science student from Newton, agrees with Boyd.

“Now that premiums have recently gone up for people I would like to see some of those issues worked on, but not a complete repeal of Obamacare,” Wright said. “The system is broken and I want to see it fixed, but I want to see it better off for low-income and middle-income families.”

Wright said environmental issues such as climate change need to be addressed soon.

“I think Clinton is for a carbon tax, which I would actually agree with. I compare it to taking out your trash,” Wright said. “We have to start from somewhere and it can’t be done if there are no controls over what we put out. I’m very much against taxing people, but I think you have to pick and choose which issues are alright to tax people for.”

According to the platform on her campaign’s website, Hillary Clinton does not seem to be pushing for a carbon tax.  Discussion of a carbon tax was largely avoided by Clinton during the primaries when then-challenger Sen. Bernie Sanders brought up the issue.

Wright, who said he is fiscally conservative and socially liberal, is also concerned about the national debt.

“Neither one of the politicians have pointed too much to our national debt which is nearly $20 trillion,” Wright said. “I would like to see a plan to reduce that debt. Financial security to me is national security.”

Astrid Tarleton, a sophomore chemistry student from Atlanta, said racial issues have become more prominent during this election and she hopes the next president will work toward meaningful solutions.

“There’s this underlying white supremacy that’s been around since our country was founded,” Tarleton said. “We’ve mostly only had white men in office, so no one is really representing the working class or minorities. I think a lot of people are afraid to address that issue.”

Isabella Jackson, a sophomore women, gender and sexuality studies student from Savannah, said racial problems in the U.S. will not be solved without profound changes.

“Prison and police reform needs to be a total, radical change. The whole history of the current system is based on ideas that certain populations are criminal,” Jackson said. “We’ve painted these false narratives of criminality being inherent in certain categories of people and I think we just need to completely get away from that.”

Jackson said people should only be imprisoned for violent crimes and their time in jail should be for rehabilitation.

“Crimes like theft should not result in the caging of people because the majority of things have to do with economic access and opportunity,” Jackson said. “But we definitely have way too many people in prison and way too many police with weapons on the streets. We’re going to have to radically change that if we ever want a real democracy.”

The incarceration rate in the U.S. is higher than any other country. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, there are more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 942 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails and 79 Indian Country jails. There are also people incarcerated in military prisons, immigration detention facilities and prisons in the U.S. territories.

The incarceration rate of the U.S. is 693 people per 100,000. Turkmenistan has the second highest rate of 583 people per 100,000.

Jackson said the focus on police shootings of unarmed black men and women within the past couple of years allowed people to better understand the experience of black Americans.

“Technology and social media is starting to let white people into that reality,” Jackson said. “I grew up as a white child in a family of seven and all of my siblings were black and biracial in south Georgia. I’ve always known police kill people who look like my family so I’ve never trusted the police and I think that’s a very common sentiment in the black community.”

Kailey Schmidt, a sophomore environmental science student from Maine, grew up in a different environment. She said she became more aware due to the increased visibility of the problems.

“Especially for where I’m from, growing up I was taught that racism isn’t really a thing anymore and that it’s of the past,” Schmidt said. “But in the last few years it’s becoming more of a prominent issue. Hopefully we’ll take a step in the right direction.”

Mae Hoffman, a sophomore psychology student, said the drug policy in the U.S. predominantly affects black men and she hopes the policy eases during the next administration.

“Our drug policy is ridiculous, especially with marijuana, since it’s a minor thing and it isn’t really dangerous,” Hoffman said. “And it’s targeted toward the black male community, white males are usually let off for those kind of charges.”

According to an analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union, black people are 3.73 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana despite approximately equal usage rates.

Hoffman contrasted the punishment given to nonviolent drug offenders and convicted rapists.

“Smoking or using marijuana is a minor thing that people do for fun and people are going to jail for it, but rapists and abusers are getting off scot-free.”

Hoffman said access to education and health care needs to be quickly addressed as well. She said people sometimes take extreme measures in order to pay for their education and health care.

“It’s so expensive that young girls are putting their lives at risk by prostituting themselves, doing porn, stripping and things like that,” Hoffman said. “It’s fine if you want to do that, there’s nothing wrong with it, but there are a lot of women who are doing that just so they can pay for it, which is ridiculous.”

Hoffman said she has known people who had to resort to illegal activity in order to receive medical supplies.

“Bernie Sanders has been posting a lot on social media about insulin and the EpiPen and how expensive it is for people to get basic things that they need to survive,” Hoffman said. “I used to date a guy who was diabetic. I remember him not being able to afford his insulin and his mom had to do some illegal things to get money to afford his insulin just so he wouldn’t die.”


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Trump’s final debate performance disturbs students

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published November 1, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

After the final presidential debate, some students expressed concerns about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric regarding women’s rights and the election results.

“One of the things that stood out to me is Trump’s stance on women’s rights, not just abortion but frankly our existence in general,” said junior biology student Shannon Bodeau. “That’s something that has made me feel personally at risk.”

During the debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump about his position on abortion.

“Well, I think it’s terrible,” Trump said. “If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”

Melody Hager, a sophomore psychology student, said Trump uses fear-mongering to mislead his supporters regarding late-term abortions.

“First of all, that’s called a C-section,” Hager said. “And late-term abortions are for families who have chosen names and have cribs. They’re wanted pregnancies. No one spends thousands of dollars to do something like that, so it’s demonizing to women who are getting necessary procedures that are life-saving.”

Bodeau said many politicians are anti-science and they ultimately mislead the public.

“One thing that has frustrated me, not just with Donald Trump, but with a lot of more right-wing candidates and other politicians is the lack of adherence to science,” Bodeau said. “As a biologist, it always rubs me the wrong way to hear people spew nonsense about abortion.”

Abigail Stephens, a junior history student, said she was troubled by Trump’s comment as well.

“I thought that the incorrect and graphic way Trump talked about abortions was extremely inappropriate,” Stephens said. “He used to call himself pro-choice and now calls himself pro-life, and that seems to be an issue where he’s actually changed his views to be more like his base.”

Another moment from the debate receiving a lot of attention was Trump’s suggestion that he may not concede.

After repeatedly telling his supporters at rallies the election is rigged against him, Trump was asked by Chris Wallace if he will accept the result of the election if he loses.

“I will look at it at the time,” Trump said.

The day after the debate at a rally in Ohio, Trump said he will accept the election results — if he wins.

“He’s treating the election like it’s a reality show,” Stephens said. “He thinks he’s going to get better results if he keeps people in suspense.”

Hager said she likens Trump to a child.

“It’s like when you take a toy away from a toddler. He’s a man-child and I think that simply because he has no decorum,” Hager said.

Bodeau said Trump’s recent comments regarding the election process are undemocratic.

“It’s absurd,” Bodeau said. “That’s basically him saying he’s going to refuse to acknowledge something that I think is foundational to how this country works.”

Bodeau said she worries the combination of Trump’s accusations of a rigged election and his potential refusal to concede could lead to violence at the polls.

“I think it creates a dangerous environment,” Bodeau said. “Basing so much of a platform on racism and sexism feels like it has already created a dangerous environment, but then you add on top of that these things he keeps saying. What I’ve been telling people is to vote early because that way there aren’t going to be people at the polls trying to make it harder.”

Hager said she does not think Trump’s rhetoric will result in violence, but it does create tension.

“It’s frustrating to have a presidential candidate saying things like that so much,” Hager said. “I don’t foresee any violence taking place, but if that does happen, it would more than likely be incited by Trump supporters just because of the atmosphere he has created.”

Alex Day, a sophomore environmental studies student, said Trump’s comments contain racist undertones.

“It’s creating a dangerous mindset in his supporters,” Day said. “It could lead to hate toward other people at the polls. The more people agree with him, the more people will think it’s okay to be vocal about those things.”


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Clinton’s presidency will not strengthen the Democratic Party

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published October 25, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

Since securing the presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton has catered to wealthy, high-ranking Republicans unwilling to support Donald Trump. In one of the most polarizing elections in decades, Clinton’s uninspiring progressivism and her reluctance to unite a fractured Democratic Party will only deepen the party’s divide.

More than two dozen officials from George W. Bush’s administration endorse Clinton. A dozen officials from the administrations of George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan are throwing in their support. Her campaign chairman trumpeted the support of 40 more high-profile Republicans within the past month. She has sought the financial support of Mitt Romney’s donors.

This is more than symbolic gesturing. Republicans who are publicly denouncing Trump and supporting Clinton, particularly those who are doing so with their money, expect something in return. Money talks. They expect a seat at the table in Clinton’s administration. In an election where Clinton is struggling to energize the base of the Democratic Party, pandering to prominent Republicans is dangerous and shortsighted.

During the primaries, Clinton pushed an inspiring, hopeful message: single-payer health care will “Never, ever come to pass.” She is one of the most hawkish members of her party and will likely expand our military involvement abroad as commander in chief in the failed War on Terror. This is an effective way to further alienate the Democratic Party’s base and dampen its morale.

Compared to Obama in 2008 and 2012, Clinton is struggling with voters between the ages of 18 and 30. She is doing much better than Trump with that demographic, but the increasing cynicism among young voters is not going to be improved by Clinton’s decision to pander to many of those on the right who have systematically obstructed and halted progress.

In 2014, Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have increased the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. In 2015, Senate Republicans blocked proposals that would have increased it to $12 and would have allowed employees to earn up to seven paid sick days per year. This does not seem like a party interested in the well-being of the public.

A majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents think the minimum wage should be increased and the same is true of paid sick days. A gap exists between public opinion and public policy, between the typical voter and the politician representing that voter.

It would be unreasonable to expect the next president to refuse to work with Congress — work which will likely include legislative concessions simultaneously conciliatory and disappointing to both parties. That is a cornerstone of the political process. Clinton’s Republican endorsers and donors expect her to return the favor which is more worrying than ordinary compromise. If she does not follow through, they will try to ensure she is not reelected in 2020. If she does return the favor, her pragmatism may be viewed as capitulation instead of compromise and the polarization within the Democratic Party will continue.

Over the past couple of months, Clinton attempted to depict Trump as an outsider of the Republican Party, to suggest he is not representative of other Republican politicians. Now dozens of high-profile Republicans are backpedalling their support of Trump. Clinton, at least in part, allowed this to happen without consequence.

The Republicans who initially rejected Trump’s campaign, endorsed him as the nominee and then withdrew their endorsements after the release of a recording of his sexually explicit comments are now able to wash their hands of him, thanks to Clinton.

Imagine if she had spent the last several months tying the GOP to Trump instead of distancing the two. Democrats would have a better chance of winning congressional seats, thereby giving Congress a chance of legislating Clinton’s campaign promises, but that seems less likely now.

To be sure, a Trump presidency would be disastrous. His comprehension of domestic and foreign policy is lacking. He changes his political positions on a whim. His dog-whistle politics provided a lectern at which racists and sexists can amplify their voices. He does not belong in the White House, but he does represent an increasing level of dissatisfaction and frustration existing within the electorate. These feelings will not suddenly vanish if Trump is not elected.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign similarly represented a populist dissatisfaction and frustration on the other end of the political spectrum. The grievances expressed by his supporters are also here to stay.

Clinton’s “Stronger Together” slogan is meaningless. The divide between and within the two major political parties is increasing and if her tepid approach to this election is any indication of what her presidency will be like, we should expect to see a similar, if not more polarized, political climate in 2020.


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Students find the positive and negative in Clinton’s Republican supporters

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published October 25, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

Republican politicians and donors recently began backing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and some students at UNC Asheville are conflicted about the implications.

As the general election draws to a close, some high-profile Republicans, like Sen. Jeff Flake and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, said they oppose Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump because he is too extreme and does not represent Republican principles.

Some Republicans who oppose Trump, like Rep. Richard Hanna and former Sen. Larry Pressler, said they will support Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to keep him out of the White House.

Elli Cole, a sophomore psychology student from Fresno, California, said she is glad the political parties are working together. Cole said she identifies more as a Democrat.

“It’s good to see people coming together and not sticking to those strong political values, moderation can be good,” Cole said. “I’m happy to see that, but the division is definitely growing. The Trump fans are way out on one side and the Hillary fans are way out on the other.”

Jessica Odette, a sophomore atmospheric science student from Waterville, Ohio, said she is happy to see the parties working together, too. Odette said she is a Republican.

“I don’t think people who identify with one political party should vote for their party just because it’s their party,” Odette said. “I think they should vote for who they think is the most qualified to be president and I respect that.”

Odette said the two political parties still have some work to do when it comes to bipartisanship.

“There are certainly some things that both parties need to work at agreeing on,” Odette said. “The Zika virus, for example, I don’t really understand why there would be a divide with that. It’s a terrible disease.”

Cole said she has concerns about the role of money in politics.

“I think it’s awful. I really think big businesses need to get out of politics, their interests are not my interests,” Cole said. “They’re not working-class or middle-class interests. They are filling their pockets and destroying the environment at the same time.”

During the primaries, Clinton’s campaign began reaching out to a divided Republican Party in order to secure support in the form of endorsements and financial contributions. Among those supporters are donors to the Bush family and millionaires who previously fundraised for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential run.

Odette said money in politics is normal.

“Everything revolves around money and now it’s basically whoever has the most money wins,” Odette said. “Between Trump and Clinton, they both have a lot of support and a lot of donors, so I think it’ll be a tight race to the end.”

Cole said she worries Clinton may be influenced by donations.

“I don’t know how she could not be beholden,” Cole said. “If somebody gave me $100,000, it would probably be pretty hard to tell them, ‘Nah, I’m not going to do anything for you.’”

Republican members of Congress and former administrative officials expect Clinton to offer access and influence over her administration in exchange for their support if she is elected.

Former Connecticut Republican Congressman Christopher Shays told Politico, “It wouldn’t just be in token positions. I think her motivation would be this would enable her to be a better president.”

Peyton Walker, a junior music student from Kernersville, said money should not be in politics.

“It’s worrying. I’ve heard and read a lot of different things about Hillary and all of the things that have happened to people who oppose her,” Walker said. “So I definitely don’t support just giving her even more money to continue. That’s all I see right now is corruption and manipulation of the system.”

Dana Schlanger, a senior literature student from Yorktown Heights, New York, said Clinton is taking advantage of the divide within the Republican Party.

“I can understand why she is trying to appeal to the Republican base, because she does understand that there are Republicans who refuse to support Donald Trump, so I’m not surprised she’s pandering,” Schlanger said. “I see it as her being an extremely moderate candidate, she’s not really left-wing, but she is more left-wing than Trump.”


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Students debate the validity of voting for third-party candidates

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published October 25, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

Voting for third-party candidates can send a message to the two major political parties, but that message could have negative consequences.

“I think of ‘protest voting’ or ‘sincere voting’ as voting for the candidate that you think should win the election whether or not they’re a major-party candidate,” said Ashley Moraguez, an assistant professor of political science at UNC Asheville. “If enough people do it, I think it could cause the major parties to adopt new issues or shift their platform. So I think there is an effective argument to be made for protest voting or sincere voting.”

Moraguez said if this choice is carried out in significant numbers, it could result in an undesirable outcome for those voters.

“But you have to recognize that if you do it, because we have such a strong bias toward the two-party system in the United States, that it may be at the cost of you not getting the person that you like the most elected into office,” Moraguez said. “It’s a very personal choice and you have to gauge the risk. A lot of people think one vote doesn’t matter, but if everyone has the same calculus as you, it could matter.”

Moraguez said the U.S. favors a two-party system because of Duverger’s law. The law states when there is an electoral system with single-member districts, where each voting district has one representative and when there is plurality, or majority rules, then the representative with the most votes wins.

“That’s why we don’t have multiple parties in the United States like Europe does, because they have a different electoral system,” Moraguez said. “So for that reason, I tend to think that in the general election, it does make more sense to vote for one of the two major-party candidates. It’s very unlikely a third-party candidate will win because of how our electoral system is set up.”

“That being said, I do think that voting sincerely could send a signal to the parties and isn’t a wasted vote,” Moraguez said. “We still see a lot of Bernie supporters who are saying they may not turn out to vote, which in my opinion is the incorrect way, only because the party will only receive your signal if you vote.”

Caitlin Poteet, a junior accounting student from Candler, agrees with Moraguez.

“I think this notion of a wasted vote is absurd, there is no such thing as a wasted vote and I think they’re ludicrous for not voting,” Poteet said. “If you don’t like Hillary or Trump, by all means vote third-party, but at least vote. Exercise your right.”

Poteet said voters require balanced and diverse information and perspectives in order to make the best decisions.

“I would really encourage people of voting age to vote, but also inform themselves with both left- and right-wing publications so that you’re informed across the board,” Poteet said. “I feel like so many voters are not informed and they just say, ‘Well, my dad is a Democrat and my mom is a Democrat, so I’m a Democrat’ and vice versa.”

“This notion of voting party lines regardless of whether you disagree is not the way to go,” Poteet said. “You need to have some kind of logical reason for voting for someone.”

Gideon Honeycutt, a junior economics student, said he does not intend to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

“If I were forced to choose, I would probably choose Trump, but I would be really pissed off about it,” Honeycutt said. “If I were going to cast a ballot based on my conscience and not violating my conscience, I would probably write in Mitt Romney or John Kasich.”

Honeycutt said he sympathizes with voters choosing one of the two presidential candidates even if they do not fully support the candidate.

“I’m OK with people casting a protest vote. I think you have to do what your conscience tells you to,” Honeycutt said. “I understand why some people would vote for a candidate even if they don’t like them, just to keep the other one out, but my conscience hasn’t led me that way.”

Honeycutt said he would rather have vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence as the presidential nominees.

“I’m more moderate in that I could vote for either of the vice presidential candidates. I like them both quite a bit,” Honeycutt said. “I think they both have the character and integrity that we’re lacking on the top ends of the ticket.”

Fiona Popp, a junior mechatronics and engineering student, said voters can criticize the two major-party presidential candidates, but they need to realize one of the two will be the next president.

“It comes down to choosing who you think would be better,” Popp said. “I think if you don’t vote then you have no right to complain about who ends up being elected. But don’t throw away your vote. Don’t go into the polls and just randomly vote.”

Moraguez said she hopes everyone votes because exercising that right remains paramount.

“My students make fun of me for this, but I’ll just say that I don’t care who people vote for. I think they should just go out and vote,” Moraguez said. “That’s kind of my big spiel until Nov. 8, and I think they’re getting sick of me saying it, but it’s important. Early voting starts on Oct. 20 and you can do it on campus.”


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Students respond to Trump’s graphic comments

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published October 18, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

After the release of sexually explicit comments made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2005, junior sociology student Roan Farb said Trump should be disqualified from the presidential race.

“With the amount of people feeling unsafe after hearing that, I just don’t think it’s at all right that he is still being allowed to run,” Farb said.

On Oct. 7, The Washington Post published a 2005 conversation in which Donald Trump bragged about kissing, groping and attempting to have sex with women.

“I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump said in the recording. “I did try and fuck her. She was married.”

“I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” Trump said. “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

“Grab them by the pussy,” Trump said. “You can do anything.”

Grey LaJoie, a senior creative writing student, said the backlash Trump received seems to suggest he is losing any lead he had against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“But what’s interesting to me about that public response, is that now I know how many people weren’t paying attention to him because that’s just so standard,” LaJoie said. “When I saw that tape, I wasn’t shocked. It was totally what I had come to expect from Trump, so I’m glad that the tape surfaced.”

However, LaJoie said he is shocked this recording is what finally resulted in an overwhelming public outcry.

“He makes crazy statements almost every single day,” LaJoie said. “He says stuff that would force anybody else to resign.”

Since The Washington Post’s publication, multiple reports describing similar incidents have been released. Two women, Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks, told The New York Times they were sexually assaulted by Trump.

Cassandra Searles, who was a contestant in the 2013 Miss USA pageant, said Trump groped her and invited her to his hotel room. Trump owned the Miss USA pageant from 1996 to 2015.

Mindy McGillivray said she was groped by Trump 13 years ago at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Republican politicians have expressed mixed reactions. Around 160 of the 331 Republican governors and members of Congress have condemned his comments, but they still endorse him and more than two dozen have said he should end his presidential bid entirely. Some withdrew their endorsements while others backpedalled their withdrawn endorsements by saying they will support him in order to keep the Republican Party united.

Farb said he does not understand how anyone can continue to endorse Trump.

“I think a lot of people currently in the Republican Party have eyes on them to see whether they’re going to make a move one way or another,” Farb said. “I would definitely abandon ship. Between that recording and so many other things he’s been caught saying recently, it’s just very socially irresponsible.”

LaJoie said some Republican politicians are looking out for themselves at this point.

“Most of those guys are probably trying to save their own tails, but some of them I think do have actual integrity and morals,” LaJoie said. “Especially the guys who have been denouncing him from the beginning, which makes me happy when I can see the humanity in the opposing side. That gives me some hope.”

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, one-in-five Republicans say Trump’s comments about women disqualify him from the presidency.

Farb found the poll result surprising.

“It’s shocking to know that 80 percent of Republicans do not find that as something he should be disqualified for,” Farb said. “If Obama had been caught saying that, he absolutely would not have been able to win the presidency.”

Jordan Bonner, a junior mechatronics student, said Trump’s comments cannot be disqualifying since there is nothing illegal about them.

“Unfortunately, his comments don’t violate any laws, just like what they say about Hillary technically doesn’t violate any laws,” Bonner said. “So there’s no legal action to pursue. I don’t condone his comments, but I don’t think there’s any legal basis there. He’s not painting himself in a good light at all.”

LaJoie said Trump’s presidential run has damaged the reputation of the Republican Party.

“It is sort of shattering this ideal that Republicans hold themselves to of being the moral party or the Christian party,” LaJoie said. “Trump is definitely ruining that for them.”


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Vice presidential nominees fail to impress students

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published October 12, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.

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By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

After the vice presidential debate, Ella White, a senior biology student, said she has doubts about the qualifications of both Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

“I don’t think that either of them are strong enough to handle the top position if it came down to it,” White said. “Neither of them really took a stance on anything. They just sat and defended their primary candidate.”

When asked by the debate moderator about their qualifications to potentially fulfill the role of president, both nominees referenced their experience in government.

Kaine, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, served in multiple public offices since 1994, including mayor, lieutenant governor, governor and senator.

Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee, held positions in public office since 2000 when he was elected as a member of Congress, representing Indiana’s second and sixth congressional districts. He was elected governor of Indiana in 2012.

Throughout the debate, both vice presidential nominees defended their candidate and attacked the other. In his opening remark, Kaine expressed his concern regarding a Trump presidency.

“We have a son deployed overseas in the Marine Corps right now. We trust Hillary Clinton as president and commander-in-chief, but the thought of Donald Trump as commander-in-chief scares us to death,” Kaine said.

White agrees with Kaine’s statement.

“Trump is going to go in there and he’s going to piss people off and he’s going to set up a situation to where they’re reacting from an emotional state instead of a logical one,” White said. “So there’s no room for compromise or respect with him, whereas Hillary can be respectful. She was Secretary of State. She’s got a lot of experience in foreign policy.”

Kaine next asked whether Pence would defend Trump’s 1995 tax returns recently published by the New York Times. The tax returns showed over $900 million in losses that may have allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes for up to 18 years.

“Absolutely I will,” Pence said.

Pence said Trump followed the tax code as it should be used and that he did it brilliantly.

Robert Rynard, a sophomore accounting student from Mooresville, said the defense of Trump’s avoidance to pay federal income tax comes from a place of privilege.

“We actually talked about his tax returns in my class. There was nothing wrong with what he did from a legal standpoint. But from a business standpoint, it’s very poor business,” Rynard said. “He wasn’t doing well one year and then benefitted from that. It’s really something that only privileged people can do. Lower income families don’t have the resources to do that.”

The debate moderator brought up a topic that was touched on in the first presidential debate, police shootings and community relations with the police. Kaine took the question in a new direction by saying background checks could lower overall gun violence in the long run.

“We can support the Second Amendment and do things like background record checks that will make us safer and that will make police safer, too,” Kaine said.

White agrees with Kaine.

“I do not think that our gun policy is reasonable,” White said. “I understand the Second Amendment, but there should be extensive background checks and there should be a limit to the number and type of guns that people are allowed to own.”

Throughout the election, Trump and Pence have complimented the leadership of Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia. Clinton has criticized this support, suggesting Trump’s relationship with Putin is unpatriotic and represents a national threat.

Rynard said the Democratic presidential nominee is stoking the fears of an older generation.

“Bringing that up is a fear tactic because older people are still in that mindset of when the Cold War was happening,” Rynard said. “They think, ‘Russians are bad, Americans are good,’ and I think that’s just a fear tactic.”

Rynard said this election brings out extreme partisanship in people and being more moderate is more conducive to progress.

“Any too far left or too far right is not a good environment for change,” Rynard said. “I think compromise is necessary communication and I think anyone too far either way is too cemented in their ideals to ever really promote change.”

Mary Bolch, a junior creative writing student, said she is not impressed by any of the nominees and that she is ready for the election to be over.

“I wish Bernie Sanders was still a candidate,” Bolch said. “I feel like most of us on this campus are on the same page, which is really nice.”