With less than three months left before Election Day, residents across the Rio Grande Valley find themselves in one of the most unusual presidential races in recent memory.
“It’s the most unusual election in modern U.S. history in so many different ways,” said Jerry Polinard, a UTRGV political science professor. “For so many of our, particularly, our first- and second-year students, it’s going to be their first presidential election and if they get involved, it’ll be one they always remember.”
Fellow political science Professor Mark Kaswan said that after following politics for the last 40 years, he has never seen an election in which both candidates are disliked.
“[Hillary Clinton] is strongly disliked and [Donald] Trump is even more strongly disliked, so that’s to some extent to Clinton’s advantage, that she is disliked less than Trump is disliked,” Kaswan said. “So, that makes it kind of an interesting election because the two primary candidates, the two main nominees are disliked by a majority of the public.”
Kaswan said most of the dislike coming for Clinton has to do with the idea that she lies. However, when Politifact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning website, fact checked both nominees, Clinton turned out to say the truth nearly six times more than Trump.
“It’s one of those things that people say, ‘You’re lying, you’re lying, you’re lying.’ If that’s repeated often enough, you can say, ‘No, I’m telling the truth.’ But, it’s hard to make that case,” Kaswan said. “So, this idea that she lies consistently is actually an ideological point. It’s because people don’t like her ideology and are trying to undermine her.”
He said most of the support Trump has comes from people who oppose Clinton. However, there is a part of the American electorate that “likes him very much.”
“We can apply what political theorists call an intersectional analysis in thinking about this group of low income, white men, who, historically in the United States … their whiteness and their maleness had been the basis of their power. … What they’ve seen over the past eight years: First, you had a black president that challenged the racial basis of their power, and, now, a female who’s challenging the gender basis of their power. And, so, these guys feel like they’re under attack,” Kaswan said. “So, that’s, I think, a lot of the very incendiary rhetoric that Trump uses, that plays very well to that group, is actually coming from their feeling.”
Polinard said the candidates are lucky to be facing each other.
“In one sense they are fortunate that they are running against each other—they are the only ones that the other one can beat,” he said. “If the Republicans had nominated anybody but Trump, the Republican nominee would almost certainly be 20 points ahead of Clinton. If the Democrats had nominated anybody other than Clinton, the Democratic nominee would be almost 20 points ahead of Trump, so it’s just a very unusual election.”
Besides the candidates being disliked, Polinard said, social media and a 24-hour news cycle being used as weapons are what make this election an interesting one.
“Let the games begin,” Polinard said.
Graphic design freshman Ruby Gamez said although she agrees with some of Trump’s political views, she thinks his methods are a “too extreme.”
“There’s some things that he says that are crazy and are probably for entertainment, but they are not OK to say,” Gamez said. “With Hillary, she’s OK. I really don’t have anything against her. Some of her political views—not that I’m against them—but she seems kind of shady. So, yeah I think I’d vote for Hillary.”
Psychology sophomore Barbara Gonzalez said she doesn’t support Trump because she feels that he would affect her education because she is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) student.
“[As] a DACA student, well you have a work permit and you have a permission to be in the U.S. and you have to renew every two years and, obviously, Trump doesn’t like us,” Gonzalez said. “So, I’m just here to study, obviously. I want to get my degree before anything.”
However, there are students such as international business freshman Abdiel Hernandez and studio art sophomore Jocelyn Torres who feel as if there isn’t much of a choice.
“Yeah, I’m just avoiding it,” Hernandez said about the presidential election. “It’s like picking the lesser of two evils.”
Torres, on the other hand, is looking at other options.
“I’m probably going to vote—if I decide to vote—for the Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein,” she said. “I just don’t really have faith in the candidates the, you know, the main running candidates. I think they’ve been getting a lot of airtime on the media. I don’t know, I just don’t really believe them. … Things are being withheld from the general public and it’s either this candidate or this candidate and it’s … they don’t want us to know that we have other options.”
Asked if Stein or Gary Johnson of the Independent Party have a chance of winning the election, Polinard replied: “Their chances of winning are nonexistent. It’s rare for third-party candidates to even get Electoral College votes. They’d have to win the most votes in a given state. … The impact they will have is who are they going to draw votes away from?”
He said a third-party candidate is more likely to win a swing state.
“It won’t make any difference in Texas; Texas is going to be a solid red state,” Polinard said.
However, Kaswan said that if voter turnout were to increase in the Valley, the Democrats might win Texas.
“People in the RGV have one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the state, one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country,” he said. “If the RGV turned out, it’s almost certain Clinton would have very strong support in the Valley. If voters in the RGV turned out at substantially higher levels, if they voted at the same rate as people in Sugar Land and suburbs outside of Dallas and places like that, Clinton could win Texas, which would be a political earthquake in Texas.”
He also said that if people in the Valley were to “wake up and start voting” they would have a major impact in politics in Texas.
Oct. 11 is the last day to register to vote for the Nov. 8 election. Early voting begins Oct. 24 and ends Nov. 4.