Students discuss qualities they look for in presidential candidates


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Photo by LUCY NICHOLSON |

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton looks on during the first official Democratic candidates debate of the 2016 presidential campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada October 13, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson


With elections pulling close, the Rutgers University Democrats said they are scoping for a presidential candidate who will continue to support and value equality, diversity and inclusion.

The club, which is also the largest political organization at Rutgers, said they will be supporting any Democratic candidate.

“We will not be formally endorsing any candidate, but that said, we have many members of our organization that are highly supportive of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders,” said Mike Denis, the interim co-president of the Rutgers University Democrats, in an email.

Many potential voters prefer Sanders (I-Vt.) to Clinton because he has taken “progressive action” in regard to having a strong opposition to excessive wealth in politics, protecting the environment, expanding care for United States veterans and having consistent support for reducing income inequality and opposition to war.

Sanders is the longest-serving independent in Congress and is not beholden to large special interests, a value that many members of Rutgers University Democrats hold, Denis said.

On the other hand, Clinton represents a more moderate approach.

“Clinton has spent her whole life working to make the U.S. stronger, defined by peace and prosperity, and working together to solve our issues,” he said.

Members who support Clinton at Rutgers University Democrats prefer her experience in government, pragmatic approach toward major issues, long record of supporting families, firm defense on women's health, strong stance on guns and her accomplishments in advancing human rights as Secretary of State, Denis said.

“I'd support Bernie Sanders. He's an exciting candidate for American liberals who feel that the entire political spectrum has drifted towards the right in the past few decades,” said Adam Panish, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.

It is important for students to participate in the political process and to vote, said Elizabeth Matto, an assistant research professor and director at Youth Political Participation Program in the Eagleton Institute of Politics.

“There are close to 55 million eligible young adults in the voting population. To sit out of the election gives that choice to someone else. It gives another age group the opportunity to make that choice for you,” she said.

Matto also mentioned the importance familiarizing with the candidates before the time comes to vote.

“This is an opportunity for all voters, especially young adults, to get to know these candidates and get a better sense of their views and values,” she said. “The debates are good opportunities to get to know candidates you may have never heard of.”

The first democratic debate happened on Oct. 13. The Rutgers University Democrats were extremely impressed with the quality of the debate.

The Democratic Party debate was a healthy discussion of policy issues the nation faces. In comparison to the Republican Party debates, it was more substantive and more informative, Matto said.

“The Democrats showed they can govern like grown ups and not resort to the petty shouting matches of candidates like Donald Trump,” she said.

The club believes most Americans support the values defined by the Democratic Party and believe that as long as Americans understand the choices offered by Republicans and democrats, they will understand that democrats provide a more suitable path for the U.S. to take.

The audiences for both the Republican and democratic debates were encouraging, Matto said.

“What I’ve been so encouraged by both the Republican and democratic debates, is that there were full houses for both of them," she said. "The response, the interest and the level of engagement has been palpable. The real difference between the two was that there were a smaller number of candidates so you got to hear more from the democratic candidates."

The Rutgers University Democrats said several democratic candidates have plans to help college students.

“Both Sanders and Clinton have interesting plans for helping students," Denis said. "We think that Sanders’ plan is ambitious and would really transform the ability for all students to afford to go to college regardless of their economic background, but Clinton's plan is very practical in establishing a path to further reducing college costs."

Both Matto and the Rutgers University Democrats said they think it is important that students go out and participate in the political process.

There are important issues like college affordability, climate change, immigration reform, reducing economic inequality and money in politics that current college students should concern themselves with, Matto said.

“All of these issues are going to impact how today's students live their lives years down the road,” she said. “It's important the students vote for a Congress that wants to work with the President, so the partisanship and brinkmanship that pervades Washington doesn't paralyze the nation into crisis after crisis.”


Sanjana Chandrasekharan

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