Jacqueline Groskaufmanis is a sophomore studying English and Government in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her posts appear on alternate Tuesdays this semester. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think the “we all need to talk to people we don’t agree with” conversation has been beaten to death from every angle, but I also think it’s really true, and can be hard to do here at Cornell. I’ve always known that Cornell’s student body and faculty are overwhelmingly liberal, but I only recently took a look at how the composition broke down in numbers. If I’m being honest, I’ve never cared about the political leanings of my professors because I haven’t given it much thought in the first place — most likely because they’ve always been subtle or consistent with my own. If you’ve ever read this column, you know that I’m a pretty liberal person. In my time at Cornell, I’ve found that there’s something comfortable and satisfying about hearing my convictions confirmed in the classroom.
I don’t think I really understood the insidiousness of “fake news” until I read and believed a piece of it myself. Last weekend, I was in Montreal with other Cornell students for a conference when Trump’s executive order on immigration was signed and confusion turned into logistical panic. The people running the conference went from committee to committee and addressed the ban, explained that some people might have difficulty getting back into the United States and offered their support if anyone found themselves stuck at the border. It wasn’t dramatic or political, it was to-the-point. And still, for obvious reasons, people were freaked out.
Whether you’re in favor of or against the message of the Women’s March, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably at least heard of it. On Jan. 21, millions of people across the United States and across the world joined together to make a statement, reaffirming a commitment to equality that should exist regardless of who the president is. The world gave Trump a chance to speak during his inaugural address, and gave the Women’s March a chance to respond the next day. Even if your reaction to the march is negative, the fact that you are responding at all means that the protesters have been heard.
If you’re here for an in-depth thinkpiece on what happened two weeks ago, you’re in the wrong place. I don’t want to give you my hot take on how Hillary missed the rust belt Forgotten Man, or talk about Trump supporters who are boycotting Hamilton and writing “Trump” on their Starbucks cups. By this point we’ve seen all of this time and time and time again on our Facebook newsfeeds. Instead, I’m going to talk about the less sexy side of politics. More specifically, the side that requires people like you and me to step off our Cornell campus and out from behind the comfort of a column, and into the world that we think and learn and write about everyday here.
I have a lot of questions at the end of this election cycle. Why did immigration become such an intense focal point this year? Why doesn’t Hillary bring up the progress of the current economy more? Who decided that Trump’s son should have any kind of presence on Twitter? At times, I’ve questioned why Hillary wanted to run again at all.
The 24-hour news cycle during an election is its own type of arms race: media outlets all want the story, they want the story first and they need to match the information of their competitors in order to win over an evolving readership. Journalism has always been motivated by this kind of competition. However, now that the news isn’t always punctuated by a print cycle, and is made boundless by the Internet, the pace has been accelerated and certain considerations are becoming sloppy. Now add the fact that new documents, WikiLeaks, have been added into the category of “what news competitors have in their arsenal” and the information arms race is brought to a level that is not only competitive, but potentially unethical. The media matters a lot in any election.
Tonight’s presidential debate is estimated to have 100 million viewers — a size comparable to that of the Super Bowl, and a testament to the way that debates have become something of a spectator sport. While the televised debate seems like a staple of the American election process, the tradition is relatively new, and has changed the way that voters view and evaluate their candidates. The first televised presidential debate took place in 1960, with a match-off between incumbent vice president Richard Nixon and lesser known senator John F. Kennedy. Because there was no precedent regarding how important body language and optics would be to the viewers, Nixon’s appearance was unpolished, and his lead eroded as he was outshone by the personable JFK. Nixon looked sweaty and “unpresidential” next to a handsome, composed Kennedy, and voters integrated those visual cues into their evaluations of both candidates.
If you asked me what I thought I was going to do at my summer job, typing up pro-Trump op-eds for homeless people would not have made my list of expectations. And yet, there I was, mid July, doing exactly that. The nonprofit where I worked is a “street paper” about poverty and homelessness, where a majority of the paper’s content is written by homeless and formerly homeless individuals in Washington, D.C. They write, we help them publish their work and they sell the final product. Each story caught me in one way or another, but it was the conservative outliers in the opinion section that gave me a window into what it looks like when unlikely voters lean Republican. When I asked one person about why he supported Trump, he said that it was less about Trump, and more about the Democratic Party, which he once belonged to, but had since made him feel disenfranchised.
At times, it feels like we as people are the product of hundreds of intersecting opinions, and that these are the building blocks that construct our character, or, at the very least, our political identities. I have plenty of opinions — probably too many. Right now, off the top of my head, I can think of about six different things that I find to be kind of prickly, that I want to talk about, write about or start conversations about. Like the fact that, on my first day of work this summer, on the same Metro line I took into D.C. every day, a woman was raped at 10 a.m. in broad daylight, and the media gave it less attention than the construction work being done on that transit system. Or the fact that Merrick Garland still hasn’t gotten a confirmation hearing.