President Donald Trump and Former Vice President Joe Biden are engaged in one of the most contentious and heated election battles in our nation’s history. The two are in the home stretch for election day on Nov. 3 when the American public will make their decision. The future consequences of this election have prompted many young people to become involved in politics like never before.
This election cycle has faced the outbreak of a global pandemic and the rise in racial tensions across the nation. This has led to more individuals taking a stand for the issues that they are most passionate about. Social media has become full of posts supporting political causes that students and youth find important to them. Even those who will not be able to cast a vote in this election, have found themselves involved in the process. This involvement has led to politicians addressing younger voices, and taking on the issues that young people find important.
Many of West Henderson High School’s own have made their voices heard through activism on social media, volunteering for political campaigns or attending in-person protests that have taken place in the community.
West Henderson senior Raine Wong Chong has made her voice heard about the current political debate over the past couple of months. Wong Chong has attended many of the local protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Wong Chong will be of voting age this election cycle and feels that it is very important to make her voice heard in the form of a vote.
“I feel as though this election will be one of the most important ones we’ve had in a very long time. This will be a turning point in history. If you don’t take advantage of your ability to vote in this election you need to open your eyes to everything that is happening in the world right now.”
Wong Chong went on to say that her experience with protesting has left a lasting impact on her, and was a positive experience.
“When we got there people were gathered in front of Vance Monument, not everyone had a sign, but everyone had a voice that they all wanted to share in the same way. Though the circumstances weren’t great just seeing so many people out there craving change was definitely a life changing experience. Everyone was gathered there for a good bit of time saying chants, singing, holding up their signs, and helping those around them as much as needed.”
The political races across Western North Carolina and Henderson county have a special connection to young voters and their values. The race to represent District 11, which includes Henderson county and most of Western North Carolina, in the United States House of Representatives is being fought between retired Colonel and lawyer Moe Davis, and 25-year-old real estate investor Madison Cawthorn. Cawthorn, if elected, would be the youngest congressman in history, and would be a voice for a younger generation of leaders.
When asked how he would use his unique perspective as a young person in congress, Cawthorn said that he would be a fresh voice for an unequally represented group.
“The House of Representatives is supposed to represent all Americans, to be an accurate cross-section of America, however, young Americans like myself have little representation in D.C. I understand the needs and desires of young Americans, I understand just how fed up we are with the establishment on both sides. The fact is everyone in government is to blame, not just one party or another. It’s time for a new brand of representative who puts people over party.”
Cawthorn went on to say that he would be a voice against those who have been in power for far too long.
“I am sick and tired of establishment politicians, many of which have been in power since before I was born. It’s time to pass term limits and get self-serving career politicians out of Congress. We can protest, but that can’t guarantee change. What will guarantee change is electing our generation to represent us.”
His opponent for the United States House of Representatives, Moe Davis, has a unique perspective as well. Davis served in the United States Air Force and rose to the rank of Colonel. He went on to serve as the Chief Prosecutor of the Guantanamo Military commissions, taught as an associate professor at Howard University School of Law and most recently served as an Administrative Law Judge for the Department of Labor.
When asked about the future job market in Western North Carolina, Davis said that he would like to see more investment in the future of our students and to modernize the more rural counties.
“We are locally behind in broadband coverage here in Western North Carolina. 92% of Americans have access to broadband, and we have counties out here that are less than 50%. And that’s an issue that has impacts across the spectrum. For education, when COVID-19 hit, and a lot of schools sent students home with laptops, if you’re in one of those counties where less than half the people have access to broadband, that laptop is a paperweight.”
Davis added that the expansion of broadband would have wide-reaching implications for the economy in Western North Carolina.
“ We can’t recruit good-paying jobs without broadband. In today’s economy, broadband is like water and electricity, it’s an essential utility, and those good-paying jobs aren’t coming if we don’t have broadband.”
When asked about the current social activism that has taken place across the district, Davis said that he personally attended a couple of the local events in support of Black Lives Matter as well as events supporting the police.
“I attended a number of the Black Lives Matter marches, including over in Hendersonville. So I had folks on the right ask, ‘Why would you go and march with those people?’ I also participated in Back the Blue events, and I had people on the left say, ‘Why would you go and march with those people?’ The answer is, if you represent the district, you represent the entire district, not just the people that like you and vote for you, but everybody. I wish that the label had been reimagining law enforcement, rather than defunding the police, because I think there are some roles and missions that we have given to law enforcement, like dealing with mental health crisis, dealing with alcoholism and dealing with drug addiction that ought to be treated as health care issues and not criminal justice issues.”
Similarly, Davis’s opponent, Madison Cawthorn, advocates for more common-sense reforms to criminal justice in the United States.
“I truly believe that black lives matter, however, I do not support the BLM organization. I believe that the answer to fixing racial tensions does not lie in calls to defund our law enforcement. Rather, I believe that common-sense policies that promote community involvement, body camera usage, and threat resolution training will help resolve policing issues. My fiancé is biracial, and I am committed to crafting a world in which my children will be able to live without fear.”
West Henderson High School has a special connection with this election cycle. Mills River Town Councilman, Brian Caskey, is the father to senior Allison Caskey and is running against incumbent Chuck Edwards for North Carolina State Senate in District 48. Caskey looks to use his experience in local politics as a way to affect change at the state level.
“My experience on the Mills River Town Council allows me to bring a bipartisan approach to the State Senate,” Caskey said. “I know how to work with Republicans and Democrats in order to get things done. I get phone calls all the time from council members in other cities asking how we do it. ‘How did you get those solar panels approved? How did you get people to agree with your greenway plans?’ The answer is simple — we drop our party affiliation when we walk into the Council chambers and we work for what’s best for our town.”
Brian Caskey hopes that young voters will understand the influence that their vote can have over the results of an election.
“ I’d love for young people to know that there are politicians out there that really care what they think. Voting is a superpower. By using it, young people literally could throw out every single incumbent politician and put people into office that care about saving the environment and care about equity and equality. Revolutions in this country start at the ballot box, and that’s what young people hopefully will realize this year. Go vote. It only takes a few minutes, and you’ll feel good for doing it.”
His opponent, incumbent Sen. Chuck Edwards, is running to extend his tenure in the state legislature, and plans to use his experience as a way to win over voters.
“My most proud achievement is the reputation I have earned in Raleigh and by my constituents as being a workhorse, not a show horse. A reputation of a willingness to tackle tough issues, and to challenge the status quo even when it costs me political capital. A reputation that insists on governmental accountability to the people, and a respect for their hard earned money that we collect. I’m proud that my talent and work ethic have earned me positions on 18 committees, Chairmanship of five of those, plus two state commissions. These influential positions will allow me to even better serve the people of District 48.”
Edwards also urges young voters to become involved and dig deeper into the candidates for public office.
“I urge all young people to become fully engaged in what’s taking place in politics on the local, state, and federal level. Study us. Ask us questions. Work to understand what makes us tick, and why we support the actions we take. Young people have more at stake than any of the rest of us. Young people will bear the consequences or enjoy the rewards of the decisions we are making today.”
Additionally, Western North Carolina, and Henderson county in specific, have caught the eye of presidential candidates, and their vice presidential running mates. On Aug. 24, President Donald Trump visited the Flavor First Growers and Packers facility in Mills River. The trip was to thank Flavor First for their contributions to the Farmers to Families food box program. Trump addressed a crowd of employees and owners at the event, and thanked them for their hard work since the beginning of the pandemic.
Senior Sawyer Hall was one of the many individuals who lined the roads to wait for the president’s arrival.
“Politics aside, it was very cool to have the President of the United States that close to me,” Hall said. “[It was] a once in a lifetime opportunity. I don’t know the next time that I’m going to see the President of the United States, and for him to come through Mills River kind of puts our little town on the map.”
On Wednesday October 21st, Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris visited an early vote launch in Asheville. To an audience of 25 people, Harris discussed the importance of voting in this election, the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court of the United States and women’s reproductive rights, which she believes are in jeopardy in this election cycle.
This election will be one for the history books, and no matter the outcome, young voters can firmly say that they made their voice heard, made the decision to vote or forged their path for the future of this country.
By: Johnathan Austin, News Editor