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During election season, we love to talk about democracy. Between walking around Dartmouth’s campus and scrolling through Instagram, I have seen countless phrases such as “Make your voice heard” and “One person, one vote.” But how much impact do ordinary American citizens actually have on policy after we exercise that right to vote? Apparently, not much.
This year’s presidential election was fraught with fear — fear that partisan hostilities would collapse into full-on riots and violence, fear that President Donald Trump’s attempts to undermine American democracy and values would succeed, and most of all, fear that we would be stuck with another four years of Trump’s immorality, incompetence and idiocy. As a result, media coverage leading up to the election and throughout the ballot counting was largely cynical.
I woke up to a frost this morning and a few inches of snow coating the trees outside my window. As the Upper Valley gets colder, I’m beginning to think about the impending winter and its social implications. COVID-19 is primarily spread indoors — but the outdoors aren’t always an easy place to be during the Hanover winter. With temperatures dropping, feelings of isolation will become even more prevalent if Dartmouth doesn't offer some warm way for students to gather together.
It’s not over yet — but the results to date indicate that former Vice President Joe Biden has a clear path to being elected the next president of the United States. The election so far has not seen the overwhelming repudiation Democrats had hoped for. And for many, the continued widespread support for President Donald Trump — even after four years of hate-filled governance — is a slap in the face. But now is not the time to lament the unexpected or curse those who voted for a second term of Trump. Instead, it is up to us — as part of a driven, young generation newly instilled with a drive to make change — to carry forward the momentum behind the 2020 election in pursuit of meaningful progress in America.
I am 19 years old — born the year of 9/11, and the year that U.S. troops first touched down in Afghanistan. I have never known an America that wasn’t at war, or an America before mass shootings. I grew up without financial security because this country decided that the cost of my father’s cancer treatment was my family’s peace of mind. I grew up watching Hurricane Michael, a hurricane of unprecedented strength obliterate my aunt’s town and home due to our country’s decision to prioritize corporate interests over its citizens. I grew up rehearsing what to do if someone decided to make my school into a murder scene amid our nation’s inability to enact common sense gun control while children continue to be gunned down in their classrooms.
The end is here. Over 93 million people have already voted, with tens of millions more still to vote tomorrow. And then comes the count. Due to the high proportion of mail-in votes, election-night calls of certain key states, such as Pennsylvania, are highly unlikely. I for one, will likely stay up watching results anyway, while others will make the wise decision to go to bed and check in the morning. But whether you're glued to CNN or waking up to a phone alert the morning after, there’s something likely to be missing from your radar — the results of local elections.
Updated Oct. 30, 2020 at 1 p.m.
The 2020 election is the first time I am eligible to vote in a federal election, and as such, it also marks the first time I have religiously followed politics. I was very eager to cast my vote, but after opening up my mail-in ballot, something struck me: There were 28 names on the ballot for Hanover. Of those, 11 were women. The other 17 were men — a 40-60 split. And these numbers are actually on the high end for women — a Pew Research Center study shows that women make up merely a quarter of those who state that they have campaigned for election.
When Indiana’s Democratic senator Birch Bayh launched his campaign to reform the American presidential election system in 1966, he aspired to dismantle the Electoral College by constitutional amendment. Recently, Bayh’s efforts have been reincarnated by Democrats whose presidential candidates have lost the presidency despite winning the popular vote. Instead of abolishing the Electoral College, though, both Bayh and the Democratic Party should take up a much easier, safer project that would achieve the same goal: abolishing the winner-take-all electoral system.
My history of political engagement — or lack thereof — is embarrassing. I don’t do my research on the candidates running for Senate or House in my home state of Maryland, I don’t read my local newspaper and at best, I’ll drop in to events on campus to see a presidential candidate talking to Dartmouth students. Even though American politics matters for me as a U.S. citizen, I often get lost in the ordinary demands of the day-to-day, and political engagement just ends up taking a backseat.
After a summer of historic racial reckoning, institutions across the United States have reflected on the roles they play in perpetuating racism in this country. Colleges and universities have tried to be especially vigilant in these reckonings. Princeton University has been one of the most visible institutions addressing its past: It recently removed former President Woodrow Wilson’s name from its School of Public and International Affairs and one of its residential colleges. A new residential college built in its place will be the first at Princeton to be named after a Black alumna. While the actions of Princeton and other universities undertaking similar efforts do not erase these schools’ pasts, they do represent important first steps in addressing years of racism within their walls.
On Sept. 27, the Caucasus erupted into violence as the Azerbaijani Armed Forces launched a brutal offensive on the Nagorno-Karabakh region — known as Artsakh to the Armenians — a de facto independent state inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians but recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan. Since 1994, this inevitable conflict had been held off by a delicate ceasefire organized by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe — co-chaired by Russia, the United States and France. Today, however, even this basic ceasefire seems untenable due to the rise of a new obstacle to peace: Turkey. While Turkish involvement elicits painful memories of the 1915 Armenian genocide for many Armenians, many non-Armenians seem to be unaware or, worse, generally apathetic towards it. The Dartmouth community must do its part in raising awareness of these events, since the world’s collective silence may lead to another Armenian genocide.
If you’ve followed the news on campus this term, you’ll know that the Dartmouth administration has enacted a strict set of COVID-19 policies, violations of which have led to the College removing an unknown number of undergraduate students from campus this fall. The administration has justified its approach on public health grounds. It appears, however, that the College has been rolling out policies amid a growing and glaring double standard: COVID-19 regulations for graduate students are dramatically less restrictive than those for undergraduates.
With winter term course selection coming up soon, it’s time for Dartmouth to rethink its decision to continue holding the majority of classes over Zoom. Currently, there are only 23 fully in-person classes offered. While there are only a limited number of classrooms able to hold socially distanced classes, there are 36 spaces on campus that can hold more than 13 socially distanced students at any given time. Dartmouth should fully utilize these spaces to provide students with a break from the strain of Zoom classes. The way forward is clear: Dartmouth should hold as many in-person classes as possible next term.
Although the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic back in March, Congress has yet to implement a widespread testing program — even after an outbreak of COVID-19 in the White House in early October left three Republican senators (and the president) infected with the virus. As of now, tests are only offered to those who have symptoms or who believe they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. Not only does Congress' failure to implement regular, widespread testing put the lives of congresspeople and thousands more at risk, but it sets a dangerously negligent example for the rest of the nation.
Amid the general turmoil of the first presidential debate, it was easy to miss that Donald Trump made a truly extraordinary statement for a Republican president — when asked if human pollution contributes to climate change, he said “I think a lot of things do, but I think to an extent, yes.” Eight days later, Vice President Mike Pence said that the Trump administration will “always follow the science” on climate change.
As part of Dartmouth’s reopening plan, the College made clear that it would have little tolerance for violations of its COVID-19 “Community Expectations.” Dean of the College Kathryn Lively warned in August that students who engaged in behavior that violated the agreement would immediately “lose the privilege of campus enrollment” for the rest of the year.