Shippensburg University Student Government students spoke about the upcoming general elections during a meeting on campus, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. Logan Wein and Frederick Horn are pictured. (Photo: Markell DeLoatch/Chambersburg Public Opinion)
Politics have gotten bitter.
That’s how former Chambersburg mayor Pete Lagiovane described the current political landscape. He said when he first ran for mayor back in 2008, things were different. He and his opponent respected each other.
However, everything changed with his re-election campaign six years later. Lagiovane talked about how he was attacked on social networks and other media outlets for “not being Chambersburg-enough,” even though he had lived in the area for decades and was heavily involved on the community.
“It seemed to be par for the course more and more,” he continued.
The bitterness has only continued – this time on a national level.
The United States has seen more of a political divide over the past few years, especially ahead of this year’s mid-term elections. Within the past month, demonstrators for and against the confirmation of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconduct, gathered around the country to make their opinions heard.
New candidates – like Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke – have also come into the spotlight with their campaigns to challenge the status quo. O’Rourke is running against Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to this position in 30 years, USA Today reported.
Lagiovane isn’t the only one who’s noticed the divisiveness. Shippensburg University student Lucas Everidge said he is frustrated with the inefficiency of the government due to the polarization.
“They can’t get anything done, because they’re so stuck – like ‘oh you’re a Democrat. I’m not listening to you. Oh you’re a Republican? Sorry. Not going to listen to you,'” he continued. “So, it kind of motivates me to at least put my vote in, and try to make as much of a difference as I can.”
Just a few weeks away from Pennsylvania’s mid-term, Public Opinion spoke to several students and senior residents about what issues they are concerned about and why this think it’s important to head to the polls on Nov. 6.
Pat Furry talks on Wednesday, October 10, 2018 about the upcoming general elections. (Photo: Markell DeLoatch/Chambersburg Public Opinion)
Watching the issues
Immigration and health care may be at the top of the list of hot topics right now, but many younger and older voters were more interested in other problems affecting the country.
Issues regarding students were big topics brought up by both groups.
Jenna Wise, another SU student, mentioned the multiple school shootings as reasons why she thinks there needs to be more conversations and a bipartisan agreement regarding gun laws.
Incidents like this have impacted several American high schools over the past year, including one in Parkland, Fla. which killed 17 people and another in Santa Fe, Texaswhich killed 10 people, USA Today reported.
Both Evan Redding, who attends SU, and Pat Furry, a resident at the Chambersburg senior living community The Village at Luther Ridge, were concerned about the future of education. Redding said because he is getting a higher-education degree, he has been watching funding for this with a close eye.
Other students were focused on problems affecting the nation.
Redding’s classmate, Frederick Horn, has been following the tariffs President Donald Trump has put in place on different countries. He said removing old tariffs and imposing new ones is harder on the U.S. in the long run, because it means it has to find a way to get consumers popular products for relatively the same price.
Science’s impact on policies is another area that interested Nora Ormsbee. She advocated for using data to influence these decisions.
“It would lower the amount of debate and disagreement, because there would be facts and evidence behind it, as well as moving the scientific programs toward a bigger and broader future,” the student added.
On the state level, another Luther Ridge resident, Jim Byrnes, has been watching the state’s response to gerrymandering, which occurs when voting maps are manipulated to help keep certain politicians and their parties in power.
Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court redrew the state’s congressional district lines earlier this year before the mid-terms. Franklin County is part of the 13th Congressional District, which includes Adams, Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon and Somerset counties and parts of Cumberland and Westmoreland counties. The majority of the district was part of the old 9th District.
“I’ve got five grandsons, and I wonder what kind of world they’re going to enter,” Byrnes said.
Even though Lagiovane was at the forefront of this effort as as a volunteer with the nonpartisan organization, Fair Districts PA, he said for him it’s less about the issues and more about the break-up of the system.
In short, he doesn’t think our democracy works anymore.
He discussed how its outdated, noting that today’s government has 18 senators representing half of the population in nine states compared to 82 senators for the other half. Lagiovane later added the U.S. has a wonderful Constitution, but asked if it can handle today’s problems that have yet to be addressed, such as climate change, immigration, infrastructure and universal health care.
“It’s just outlandish that this country, the richest, the greatest country in the world, is just spinning its wheels getting nowhere,” he said.
Shirley Baker, who lives at the Quarters at Shook, has been voting every year since she registered. (Photo: Markell DeLoatch/Chambersburg Public Opinion)
Waiting for Election Day
Several students said they have spent more time concentrating on races around the country as opposed to the races in Pennsylvania that they can vote in.
Aven Bittinger said he has been following the Senate races in Florida, North Dakota, and Texas, because these are the places that could swing toward either candidate. As a New Yorker, Horn has been monitoring the governor’s race back home. He mentioned how he thought the Republican candidate would “make a strong push” in a traditionally blue state against the current governor, Andrew Cuomo.
Young and old voters have been waiting to see what happens in Pennsylvania, as well.
Wise said she has been watching a few races in her hometown in Lebanon County, and Lagiovane said he has been doing the same for the state’s governor and Senate races.
Isaac Dietrich, another student at the university, has also been interested in the Senate races, specifically, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta’s campaign to unseat Sen. Bob Casey Jr.
“I think that Pennsylvania has always been a pretty elderly-friendly state, and I don’t think that Lou Barletta’s policies show that or agree with that,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a good thing for (the area).”
Issues concerning the elderly is one reason why Shirley Baker is closely monitoring the governor’s race in which Republican candidate Sen. Scott Wagner is running against Gov. Tom Wolf, who has held the position for the past three years. The Chambersburg retiree discussed how the upcoming election is important, because it affects older residents and those on Social Security
Although they’re scattered across the board when it comes to the races, a majority of voters are all hoping for a similar outcome: change in the government.
With the Democrats and Republicans continuing to battle for the House, some students and older residents are eagerly waiting to see if a “blue wave” will indeed happen.
If it does, Bittinger said he is anxious to see how the president will react to a divided Congress and who he blames for it. His classmate, Belmin Kalkan, mentioned how he wants to see what the new government will do for its people.
“Diversity is a big thing that we are still struggling with in this country, and it’s something that we really shouldn’t be,” he continued. “We’re such a big melting pot or salad bowl as much as before, but here we are today facing the same issues we faced 60 years ago.”
This move would also mean there would be a branch of government with different views from the other two, according to Furry. She said the country needs to have opposing opinions and productive discussions.
“I just wish ‘compromise’ was not a dirty word,” she added.
One Chamberburg man said he’s not sweating the upcoming election. Instead, he believes what is meant to be, will be.
“It’ll get resolved one way or the other, right? In other words, someone is going to win and someone is not going to win,” said Don Parrish, who lives at the Chambersburg senior living community, Menno Haven.
Jim Byrnes of Chambersburg and Lucas Everidge, a Shippensburg University student. Both recently talked to Public Opinion about their political views and the importance of voting. (Photo: Markell DeLoatch/Chambersburg Public Opinion)
Making a difference with the ballot
Regardless of their stances and political opinions, all voters agreed it’s important to get out there and vote this November.
The political divide is a motivating factor for some to cast their ballots.
“I vote to protect what I want to see in the country, but also to hopefully bring in people who are more willing to work together,” Wise said.
This divisiveness is the reason Ormsbee said she focuses more on candidates’ policies and what they claim they will do.
“It’s really upon the voters to look into what they’re trying to do, rather than what party they stand for,” the student said. “That’s the only way we’re going to get a change in the national government or statewide government.”
One side is also appealing to people’s worst instincts, according to Lagiovane, which is why he plans to vote. He said if the people with the better instincts don’t, it just encourages the other side.
“It’s constant fear instead of hope, instead of looking forward to ‘hey, we could be doing these wonderful things. We could be addressing climate change, we could provide universal health care like every other developed western society does.’ We immediately draw lines, and we don’t really even think about it,” he continued.
Today’s political landscape may be hostile, but it’s driving the younger generation to take a stand and vote.
Parrish said this is good, and younger voters should get more involved.
“You know why? Because they’re always dealing with the future. (They) are voting for things that are to yet happen,” he continued.
However, this push is frustrating for Lagiovane. He said this group is culturally more liberal than others, but they don’t examine the issues and are uninformed.
Furry disagreed, saying she is proud of this generation for speaking up, and feels they are making an effort to learn more about America’s problems. She added she believes they are going to save the nation.
“The young people are our future leaders,” she said. “People need to be listening to them and giving them their due, and not thinking they don’t know anything because they haven’t lived yet,” she said. “They live in a life that we can’t imagine they’re living, because we were so fortunate growing up when we did that we did not have all of the horrible things they have to put up with.”
This respect goes both ways, too.
Bittinger discussed how many older residents usually make voting a priority. Everidge also said they may not vote for policies he supports, but “at the end of the day, that’s the way our country is. That’s how our democracy runs. So, I think it’s important to get everyone’s vote, even if it’s not the vote that I am going to vote.”
Although, this isn’t necessarily a positive in Horn’s eyes. He talked about how the “AARP vote” has controlled national elections for the past few decades, supporting candidates who back more traditional policies that prevent the country from moving forward. He cited younger candidates, like O’Rourke in Texas, who are changing the face of politics.
“With the younger generation comes a new wave of thinking about politicians,” he added. “We don’t need the old people. We have young people with great ideas, as well.”
And this “new wave of thinking” will create a lasting impact on generations to come.
Redding noted how the nation is seeing a change in voting patterns, with older voters phasing out and younger ones finding and implementing their voices into their voting.
“It kind of sets a tone for generations to come,” Kalkan added.
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This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The Chambersburg Public Opinion.