With the election less than a year away, classrooms all around Gannon University’s campus are buzzing about the 2016 presidential candidates.
Most opinions shared by students and faculty address the Republican front-runner Donald Trump and Democratic front-runners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Despite Republican Sen. Ted Cruz being in second place for the nomination according to recent national polls, none of the faculty or students interviewed for this article mentioned his name.
When Kaitlyn Roose, a senior psychology major, initially heard about Trump running for president, she said she was expecting him to provide a business-esque and professional attitude and methodology.
“I am completely shocked by how unprofessional and socially idiotic he is acting,” she said.
Roose admits that she has not researched Trump’s political beliefs or policies, but she said that no longer matters to her.
“Those things are being completely overshadowed by how he treats and reacts to others,” she said.
Trump denies mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who is disabled, at a rally on Nov. 24. Roose has an autistic brother and said we live in a world where mentally ill or disabled people are a group of constantly oppressed people and for Trump to not be respectful of that is offensive.
Roose said that if Trump were to call the reporter out on his poor interviewing skills or a misquotation then she would have been unaffected.
“Making fun of that reporter on the basis of his disability is ridiculous,” she said. “Trump has lost my respect and forever will because the damage he has done is too much.”
During Trump’s, non-scripted, presidential announcement speech on June 16, he made comments that greatly offended the country’s Latino community.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best,” Trump said.
“They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards, and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”
Roose said she wonders if when Trump has to interact with people of different races, languages and cultures than him, is he going to be an uncultured and disrespectful human being?
“Probably, if he can’t control himself and his inner biases,” she said. “I think he lacks social intelligence and emotional intelligence, and he doesn’t play well with others.”
Roose said she’s not one to generalize, but she cannot understand why people follow him. “Maybe these people value policy and ignore personality,” she said. “It seems really shallow to me.”
Before heading back to class, Roose mentioned Democratic candidates Clinton and Sanders. Clinton has been in the public eye for quite a long time. As secretary of state, Clinton was faced with a scandal surrounding her involvement in the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic embassy in Benghazi. More recently, it was discovered that she has been using a private server for her emails.
Roose said that she has limited knowledge about Clinton, but “the fact that her trustworthiness is being questioned is troublesome,” she said. “If her knowledge or experience were being questioned that would be less concerning.”
Roose said she has recognized Sanders as a favorite among college students and that he is looking to utilize our generation to make the U.S. a better country.
“I think he has promise,” she said, “but doesn’t have a well-rounded enough support base in terms of generation.”
She said she does not feel that she’s done enough research on the candidates and their policies to make a definitive decision yet.
“Bernie has policies that would most benefit those in my generation, so if I had to vote right now, I would pick him,” she said.
The disabled and the Latino community are not the only groups that Trump has offended. On Dec. 7, Trump demanded a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Leen Heider Qatuni, a semester exchange student from the American University of Madaba, said when her roommate informed her about what Trump said, she called her mother, who warned her to be careful while traveling. Her parents also told her that they were counting down the days until she could leave the U.S. and return to Jordan.
“He’s pretty much evil,” said Qatuni, who wears a hijab and identifies herself as a Muslim. Her classmates and at least one professor have told her that Trump does not represent the majority of the population here.
Michael Lawrence, a junior biology major from Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, said that although he will not be able to vote in the upcoming election, he has strong opinions about Trump.
“I think he’s a moron,” he said. “I also think the only reason why he has support is because he is controversial.”
Lawrence said Trump supporters are not bad people but that they are ignorant. “They just don’t know how the world works nowadays,” he said. “People need to immigrate to find jobs and support their families.”
Another junior biology major, Eve Andresky, said that she was initially happy when Trump announced his campaign.
“Oh wow, it’s kind of nice that a non-politician is running,” she said. However, once he began making offensive comments, she turned away from him and his ideas. While she now dislikes Trump, she is a greater critic of Clinton.
“First off, I don’t like the way she went about handling herself during the Benghazi and email scandals,” she said. “I think if she was an intelligent woman, she would drop out the race and try again in a couple years if that’s what she really wants to do.”
Andresky said she is not fond of Clinton’s gun control agenda.
“I don’t like that she basically attacks anyone who thinks the Second Amendment should no longer be a thing,” she said. “She wants total gun control.”
Much of Andresky’s criticisms target Clinton’s personality. “I don’t think she knows what she is talking about half the time,” she said. “I think she just says whatever her political advisers say and does not entirely know what it means.”
If Andresky had to vote this week, she would cast her vote for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “Unlike Clinton, I think he is genuinely a people person — not to just get votes,” she said. “I agree with a lot of his ideas, and I think he aims to do a lot for students.”
Kelly Grant, an assistant professor in Gannon’s biology department, said Trump is an entertainer and not a serious politician. “I think he is a buffoon,” she said. “I think he knows very little about policy and the Constitution.”
Grant cannot deny that Trump is good at rallying up people and also tapping into anger. She said she believes he is ultimately running this campaign to garner attention and to promote his own agenda.
Grant said Trump supporters who embrace the temporary ban on Muslims coming into the U.S. and who stood by him after his offensive comments are scary. But, she ultimately thinks Trump is scarier than his supporters because he has the ability to mobilize many people.
While Grant said Clinton is a far better candidate than Trump, she still considers Clinton a “slippery” politician.
“In D.C. there is this saying that making policy is a lot like sausage making,” she said. “You really don’t want to see what is going on in the process.”
Grant said it takes a lot of money to run for office. “Do I think she is any different from other politicians?” she asked. “Probably not.”
Grant said she likes Sanders’ policies and consistency throughout his career, but she ultimately does not think he is electable. “He makes a good point about how wealth is concentrated in the hands of two or three people, and that’s not good for democracies,” she said. “I also love the idea of free college education.”
Currently, her vote is a toss-up between Clinton and Sanders. “I like Sanders more as a person,” she said. “He is someone that I can relate to, but I’m not sure that makes him an effective politician that would work across party lines.”
Berwyn Moore, a professor in Gannon’s English department, also is in strong opposition to Trump.
“I think he is a bigot and a bully and his ideas are very scary,” she said. “It baffles me and terrifies me that so many people are in support of this man.”
Moore’s remarks came after discovering a poll that said Trump had 35 percent of the Republicans’ support. According a CNN/ORC national poll that came out Tuesday morning, Trump has risen to 41 percent which is 22 points ahead of his closest competitor, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
She said she is upset with the GOP and plans to vote Democrat. “I don’t think they have come out against Trump adequately,” she said. Moore said she likes both Clinton and Sanders, but she hasn’t decided between the two yet.
Moore said Clinton’s Benghazi scandal and the email issue were highly politicized. “They were also so talked about and made to look like tactics used by the Republican Party against her,” she said.
She said she admits to having some reservations about Clinton, but her performance during the last Democratic debate really turned her around.
“I was so impressed with her,” she said. “She really spoke with great knowledge, confidence and poise, and she had a sense of humor.”
Moore said in the past Clinton had this little bit of snarkiness, and she did not see that at the debate. “They are all politicians so we have to be wary,” she said. “I can’t say that I am 100 percent confident in any of the candidates.”
She said that is especially true for the GOP because she hears more talking points than she does substance. She also said they’re all desperate to find a way to bad mouth each other.
Moore does, however, also have an interest in Sanders. “I like his approach to the economy and his perspective of taking care of people like the poor, disabled and veterans,” she said. “I think that is very important.”
Republican candidate Ben Carson also caught Moore’s attention. He remained second in the polls for a while, but he has fallen to fourth place with only 6 percent of the support.
“I liked his ideas at first,” she said, “but the more he talked, the more he didn’t sound like he had good, plausible ideas.”
David Kozak, Ph. D., currently a distinguished professor of public policy and director of Leadership Erie at Gannon, said Trump’s candidacy is astonishing because it shows how we’ve merged the world of celebrity and the world of politics.
“He is a celebrity politician who has never held an elected office before,” he said, “and he is doing well.”
Kozak said he dismissed Trump at the beginning and thought that he would not go anywhere. He’s given many talks about this and has concluded that Trump is doing much better than anyone thought because of three reasons.
“First, he is self-funded,” he said. “He’s got enough money and does not need to raise money. Second, he has name recognition. Everyone knows who he is because of ‘The Apprentice.’ He has been a celebrity on TV for all of these years. And third, the times — people are alienated from the government, and they are upset.”
Kozak recognizes that a few of Trump’s supporters may be intolerant or prejudiced, but data shows that the majority of his supporters are angry, middle-class people.
“I think they are just disappointed people that are hurting,” he said. “They work harder but are starting to see the American dream get beyond their reach. They are looking for something different in politics.”
Personally, Kozak said he thinks Trump is entertaining and a showman first, but “I also think he is reckless in his rhetoric and flamboyant.”
Kozak borrowed a quote from Richard Neustadt’s “Presidential Power” which reads, “The presidency is no place for amateurs.”
“You’ve got to know what you’re doing,” he said. “You have to understand power. Trump has never lived in Washington. He doesn’t know the players. He doesn’t have long-term friendships with Congress.”
Sanders, however, has held public office for 34 years. Kozak said he thinks Sanders is interesting and doing better than he thought he would. “He gets huge crowds and 30-35 percent of support,” he said, “but I don’t think he has much of a chance as the nominee.”
Kozak said Sanders is a very unlikely guy because he’s a socialist. He has done very well connecting with audiences, “but he tends to be more on the left of our politics than what we normally elect in America,” he said.
On Clinton, Kozak said she has had a lot of experience, but she is also very seriously challenged.
“She pushes the envelope — both she and her husband go to edge with ethics, finance and everything,” he said. “Most of the people I know in the business talk about this book that came out that identifies Clinton’s major problems.”
The book Kozak is referring to is called “Clinton Cash” by Peter Schweizer. It details how the Clintons raise tremendous amounts of money, which includes business with foreign governments. “Politics is about raising money,” he said.
“Right now, we are all making evaluations against an absolute standard,” he said. “Will he or she be a good president?”