Settling for Biden… again?

In the last year, Joe Biden’s Democratic rating fell to an all-time low of his presidency. Despite his efforts in trying to keep his initial following strong while garnering new support, his recent policies and actions have caused some people to turn the other way. Some younger voters — and future voters — aren’t thrilled with the idea of four more years.
Settling for Biden... again?
Four more years: With Biden, younger voters have doubts, lack enthusiasm

This in-depth package was curated and edited by Katie Sasamoto-Kurisu.

As the 2024 presidential election approaches, President Joe Biden has a variety of reasons to be optimistic, from the state of the economy to the successes of fellow Democrats in the midterm and special elections. Still, political strategists and national polling suggest that the public has its doubts about the prospect of four more years. 

“Biden is not the ideal or first choice of significant portions of the Democratic Party,” said William Howell, a University of Chicago political science professor. “That’s true of people who are younger, for sure. It’s also true for people who are more progressive.” 

Among the emerging concerns, voters regularly mention one over and over again: age. If elected, both of the leading candidates, President Biden or former President Donald Trump, would be the oldest president in the history of the United States by the end of his term. 

Cathy Cohen, also a University of Chicago political science professor, has conducted research on the topic of young voters — young voters of color, in particular — and their feelings about the political domain. Dr. Cohen said Biden’s age seems to be an issue of significance to young voters especially.

“Different groups of young people are experiencing the political arena very differently,” she explained. “But I think there are a number of issues about whether they will vote and whether they will vote for Biden. One of the issues is his age.”

Another issue that could affect the feelings of voters leading up to November is President Biden’s response to  the Israel-Hamas war. Some critics say President Biden has taken too rigid a stance in support of the Israeli government, and Dr. Cohen said that polling suggests that he might struggle over the issue to maintain some segment of Democratic voters who were supportive in the past.

Yet, Dr. Howell asserts that the topic might not ultimately be a determining factor for Biden’s fate.

“Generally speaking, for most of the American electorate, foreign policy — unless it’s a major, major war — doesn’t usually loom especially large in their imaginations,” Dr. Howell said. “It doesn’t play a kind of real forceful role in shaping how people vote historically.”

One area that seems to be an advantage, Dr. Howell said, is the success of the economy. Among the positive signs are rising wages, a falling rate of inflation and the stock market being at record highs.

“That has historically been the most significant predictor of the electoral fortunes of incumbent presidents,” Dr. Howell said. “The economy is performing exceptionally well. It isn’t felt by everybody, but the fundamentals are in place.” 

Still, Dr. Cohen notes, how the economy is experienced depends on a voter’s circumstances.

“The economy plays differently based on people’s age, how long they’ve been employed and the economic goals that they have for themselves,” she said. “It’s not clear that the economy will be the win for him.”

For President Biden, reminding voters of the economy’s successes may be key, Dr. Howell said.

“I think part of Biden’s job between now and Election Day is to communicate how his investments and his policies have made material improvement,” he said. “That’s gonna be his strongest asset to my mind in making the case for why he ought to stay in office.”

Especially for young voters, Dr. Cohen said, one risk for President Biden may not be an issue of whether or not younger voters will switch to select Mr. Trump. Instead, it is whether they will vote at all.

“I worry,” she said, “that the Democrats are kind of depending on the threat of Trump than excitement around Biden to mobilize young voters to the polls this year.”

U-High students also aren’t too enthusiastic

In an unscientific Midway survey conducted Feb. 1, students were asked to indicate on a scale of 1-4 their enthusiasm for their candidate/party going into the upcoming election. 1 represents low enthusiasm and 4 represents high enthusiasm. There were 85 responses total.

The numbers below are from seniors only, while comments further down represent all grades.

  • 30 answered 1,
    the most common response
  • 25 answered 2
  • 25 answered 3
  • 5 answered 4, the least common response
  • 76 are planning to vote (and 9 are not planning to vote)

Ninth grader Josiah Sklarsky rated a 1

  • “I just feel like it’s a vast, vast majority of the time it’s just old white man versus old white man. And that’s just very clearly not representative of the majority of the American population. This side does this, so I’m going to be contrary just to be contrary.”

Sophomore Catherine Groves rated a 2

  • “The candidate I’m rooting for is Biden. I’d say I’m not super enthusiastic because I think that a lot of people are unhappy with him, and there’s a pretty high chance that he won’t win. I’m not excited about it being a rematch between Trump and Biden.”

Sophomore Kate Ryan rated a 2

  • “I don’t really identify with a party, I’m more independent. So I don’t go Republican or Democrat. I’d say in general, I’m just not really excited overall because from the candidates I see, there’s a certain focus on things that don’t really need to focused on as much.”

Junior Theo Williams rated a 2

  • I feel like I’m more voting against the other person than voting for my person. I think it’s just a product of the political system. I think it would be good to have more parties because then you get a wider variety and you wouldn’t be voting against people as much as you’d be voting for people.”

Senior Cassia Collins rated a 2.5

  • I don’t feel good about it. I’m sad also our two options are just people whose names are already in the hat. Nobody wants to get excited about new people and take a risk, and that everyone has been deadlocked in that for so long.”

Senior Rathin Shah rated a 3

  • “It’s a situation where you have an obvious, not just the lesser of two evils, but you have someone who’s shown to be sympathetic to fascist movements. I’m not voting for candidates, I’m not voting for a party, but I’d be voting for a set of values. I’m voting for policies that I want to see and an avoidance of hateful rhetoric and things like that.”
Vox Pop: What political issue mosts interests you?

Vox Pop: What issue will you be most interested in engaging with leading up to this year’s election? What policies would you like to see the newly elected president adopt?

“I would like the U.S. to stop supporting Israel. I would like it if the U.S. would start transitioning to a less-capitalist society. I would like more efforts to prevent the spread of misinformation particularity toward the election but also regarding things like vaccines.” 

— Elias Lawrence, ninth grader

“I think better education on abortion rights and the LGBTQ+ community because I feel that right now there’s not a lot of it, it’s just something people kind of know of.” 

— Amara Madison, ninth grader

“The president needs to stop sending so much of our money and our budget abroad. It is ridiculous that billions and billions of dollars are going to singular countries. I think that instead those billions of dollars need to be spent on the American public school system and our government.”

Bayaan El-Bawab, sophomore

“I would like to see the migrant crisis being dealt with in a way that provides housing for migrants and decreases homelessness. Though, I think that the infrastructure policies that the Biden Administration has implemented have been beneficial to building American cities.”

Adam Tapper, sophomore

“I feel like the current president Joe Biden has handled the economy very well. I feel that there is a very high employment percentage for people working in the U.S. right now and he is the reason for that.”

Zachary Wong, sophomore

“Something with the migration crisis going on right now such as better housing around the sanctuary cities.”

Chani Patterson, junior

“I would hope the Democratic Party finds a new candidate to run that is not Joe Biden because if they run Joe Biden they are going to lose.”

— Lyra Luu, junior

“I would like to see more work about climate change. I think it might be neglected depending on who is president. Though, I feel that Biden has done well on reaching out to new voters and centralizing demographics, but obviously there is much more work to be done toward this issue.”

Skyla Albert, senior

“Joe Biden has handled the economy very well. He is doing a good job reducing inflation as well as the bills that he has pushed through about the economy have been generally pretty solid.”

— Abe Bueno De Mesquita, senior

“For me I think as a person of color, specifically a Black woman, I think that gun violence in particular needs to be addressed. Particularly in Chicago, I think it’s a really prevalent issue. I think it needs to be a really big emphasis, not only on a city scale but nationally.”

—Ella Cohen-Richie, senior

“I would like to see more funding for high-speed rail and more federal funding for federal funding for transit projects. I know that Biden has passed infrastructure bills, so I would hope the next president continues with that.”

Jack Hurst, senior

Chicago to host Democratic National Convention ahead of election

The Democratic National Convention, the event where the Democratic party officially nominates a candidate for president and vice president, will be held in Chicago this summer. Here are a few things to know:

Basic facts: The convention will be held at the United Center on Chicago’s Near West Side from Aug. 19-22.

Volunteering: Thousands of volunteer opportunities are open for the convention, and those interested in getting involved can fill out an interest form on the Host Committee website, chicago2024.com.

Who will be attending: 50,000 visitors, 20,000 members of the media, 5,000 delegates, alternates and many other guests.

Transportation: The DNC will provide free shuttles to and from downtown hotels and the McCormick Place, which is the official DNC headquarters. The Marriott Marquis Chicago and Hyatt Regency at McCormick Place will be the official hotel headquarters for the convention.

Security: DNC officials are getting ready for the planned protests. They are reportedly working with the Chicago Police Department and Mayor Brandon Johnson’s office to establish an official protest zone.

Economic impact: The DNC is expected to produce a $150 million economic boon for the city from hotels, transportation, restaurants and more.

Union negotiations: The city has reached a “peace agreement” with union leaders throughout the city to ensure they would not organize a strike during the convention.

Protesting: The city must allow a group called Poor People’s Army to protest at the convention, right up to the doors to the United Center. The Philadelphia-based group is allowed to protest from Humboldt Park to the sidewalk in front of the convention site. The group is known to peacefully protest at both Republican and Democratic conventions. In addition to the Poor People’s Army, there are many other groups, including the Coalition to March on DNC, whose protest permit was denied. The group is hoping to march with approximately 1,000 people from groups such as Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, U.S. Palestinian Community Network, International League of People’s Struggles and Black Lives Matter Chicago.

Students can get involved ahead of election

There are many ways to get involved in this year’s election, even if you are not eligible to vote. One is becoming a High School Student Judge of Election. Responsibilities include:

• Setting up voting equipment on Election Day

• Conducting a fair and impartial election in the precinct polling place

• Tabulating vote totals for the precinct after polls close

— Source: Chicago Board of Election Commissioners

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About the Contributors
Clare McRoberts
Clare McRoberts, Features Editor
Clare McRoberts is a member of the Class of 2025 and serves as Features Editor. She began in the 2021-22 school year when she was a ninth grader. Other than writing for the Midway, she enjoys running, cooking, reading and painting. Awards: 2024 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, opinion piece or column: superior 2024 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, special coverage: (with Audrey Park and Sahana Unni) superior 2024 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, broadcast feature: excellent 2024 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Certificate of merit, personal opinion: off-campus issues, “It’s time to end legacy admissions” 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Honorable mention, feature writing
Kabir Joshi
Kabir Joshi, Assistant Editor
Kabir Joshi is a member of the Class of 2026 and is an assistant editor. As a ninth grader, he joined the U-High Midway during the 2022-23 school year. His favorite story that he has written is "Movie differentiates itself from others." Outside of the Midway, he runs cross country and loves spending time with his dog. Awards: 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Excellent, review writing
Katie Sasamoto-Kurisu
Katie Sasamoto-Kurisu, Editor-in-Chief
Katie Sasamoto-Kurisu is a member of the Class of 2024 and serves as an editor-in-chief. She joined the staff as a sophomore in the 2021-22 year. Working on a team, meeting new people while writing stories and learning new skills are her favorite parts of being a journalist. Her favorite piece she has written is “Helping hand: Bronzeville church gives back for Thanksgiving.” In addition to journalism, Katie enjoys competitive swimming, reading and ring-collecting. Awards: 2024 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, community story: superior 2024 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: First place, sports news, “UChicago economics study tests baseball team” 2024 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Certificate of merit, news page design (Page 2) 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Honorable mention, online package 2022 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Briefs writing, first place (with Chloë Alexander, Louis Auxenfans, Joaquin Figueroa, Chloe Ma, Amy Ren), Vol. 98, Issue 8 (March 10, 2022), Page 3
Mia Lipson
Mia Lipson, News Editor
Mia Lipson is a member of the Class of 2025 and serves as news editor. She began journalism in the 2021-22 school year as a ninth grader and previously served as an assistant editor. Her favorite story she has written is a profile on retiring P.E. teacher Terri Greene. Outside of journalism, she enjoys running, writing and reading any history book she can find. Awards: 2024 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, staff editorial: superior 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Superior, editorial writing
Chloe Alexander
Chloe Alexander, Arts Editor
Chloë Alexander is a member of the Class of 2025 and serves as the arts editor. She joined the journalism family in the 2021-22 school year as a ninth grader and previously served as an assistant editor. Chloë enjoys journalism because it allows her to create a space for Lab students to be represented through writing. Her favorite story that she has written is “‘SOS’ showcases a wide range of styles and themes.” Outside of working on the Midway, she is a Maroon Key, plays the piano and enjoys reading. Awards: 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, Boston convention: Honorable mention, feature writing 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Honorable mention, news editing, headline and current events 2023 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, special coverage: (with Clare O’Connor, Amy Ren and William Tan), superior 2022 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Briefs writing, first place (with Louis Auxenfans, Joaquin Figueroa, Chloe Ma, Amy Ren, Katie Sasamoto-Kurisu), Vol. 98, Issue 8 (March 10, 2022), Page 3

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