News, Politics

Countdown To The US Election: What You Need To Know

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COLUMN
This is a column, not a news story. A “column” is more biased (slanted to one side or another) than a news article. News articles are supposed to give “just the facts,” but columns can include the reporter’s opinion as well. In this case, it’s important to know before you read this column that the author, Joyce Grant, is biased against Donald Trump–in other words, doesn’t like many things he says and believes in. When you read any article–column or not–you should always keep in the mind the reporter’s bias. That way, when you read it, you can ask yourself, “What is the other side of the story? What are the missing facts?” Most reporters do not come out and say what their bias is–they expect people to just know what their bias is, based on what they have written before or what their news organization has published.

Trump & Clinton. Image: Gage Skidmore
Trump & Clinton. Image: Gage Skidmore

Americans go to the polls on November 8.

Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will (unless something very unlikely happens) become President of the United States. That is, arguably, the most powerful job in the world.

Clinton and Trump each represent their “political party.” A “political party” (in the US, the two main parties are the Democrats and the Republicans) is a group of people who share similar beliefs and values–ways of looking at the world and responding to it. For instance, one political party may believe in taxing wealthy people more than poor people; another political party may believe that one of the most important things for the country is national safety and may spend more money on their military. (Those are very simplified examples. No political party is more “right or wrong” than another–they are simply groups of people who hold specific beliefs and even then, not everyone who belongs to that party will agree with everything their party supports.)

For young people who haven’t lived through many elections, it’s important to know that this US election is unlike any other in history. That is because Donald Trump is unlike many other presidential candidates. He is a businessman, not a life-long politician, and he is extremely outspoken. In this case, it means that he makes many statements (which may or may not be true) that we have not heard from any presidential candidate before. For instance, his personal feelings about minorities and certain women, and the media.

Why Should Non-Americans Care?
If you don’t live in the United States, why do you care who is elected as their president? The United States is a “superpower.” Because it has so many people and is so wealthy relative to most countries, it has a lot of power in the world–more than most countries. So the leader of that country is a very powerful person who can make decisions that will affect many people.

This doesn’t mean, however, that the president can do whatever they want. There are many things a president can try to do, or want to do, but which may be voted down. It’s important to remember that there are “checks and balances” in a democratic system such as the U.S.’s.

Why Is Everyone Talking About Hillary’s Emails?
There has been a lot of discussion about emails that Hillary Clinton sent and received when she was Secretary of State in the U.S. It can be difficult to understand, but here’s a simplified explanation. When you have a job, you should use your office’s “email server” (the computer that sends and stores the emails). That helps to ensure that the emails you send relating to your job are able to be looked at and reviewed by all the people in your office. But when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, she used a personal email server. The worry is that some of the emails she sent may have contained information that is secret and no one would have known. It’s important to note that no one has said she sent any incorrect or bad emails–but just that she should have used an email server from the White House instead of from her home. Since her home server wasn’t as well-secured as one that would be in the White House, there is a concern that emails containing important information about the U.S. may not have been as secure as they should have been. This week, the FBI (a type of national US police) said they found some more emails she sent from her home server. Hillary said she wants the FBI to share all of the emails with the public so they can see that they didn’t contain anything inappropriate. Donald Trump said he is worried that when she held such a powerful position in the American government, Clinton used poor judgment in using a personal server.

It is very difficult for people to know what is true and what is untrue. That’s because during an election campaign, politicians often say things that may or may not be true. “Political promises” often need to be taken with a grain of salt–in other words, an understanding that the politician may just be promising something they know they can’t offer, in order to entice people to vote for them.

One reporter, Daniel Dale, who works for The Toronto Star news organization, has been “fact-checking” Clinton’s and Trump’s statements. Every day, he lists each things the candidates (mostly Donald Trump) say that is untrue and says what the actual facts are. That has been helpful for people who want to know the truth, but even that cannot give voters the confidence that they know everything they need to know in order to make a sound decision about who to vote for.

Voters will have to decide between Clinton and Trump on November 8.

That’s when we’ll find out whether the U.S. has a President Clinton or a President Trump.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Jonathan Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
One of the most unique parts of this election is that many Americans don’t particularly like either presidential candidate. One survey announced that 57% of voters dislike both candidates. What do you do when you have to pick between two things you don’t like? How do you make difficult decisions?

Reading Prompt: Responding to and Evaluating Texts
The author openly discussed her bias in favour of Clinton and her dislike of Trump. Did her arguments persuade you to agree with her? Why or why not?

Junior
Make judgements and draw conclusions about the ideas and information in texts and cite stated or implied evidence from the text to support their views (OME, Reading: 1.8).

Intermediate
Evaluate the effectiveness of both simple and complex texts based on evidence from the texts (OME, Reading: 1.8).

Language Feature: Sentence Starters
How a sentence starts can create interest and establish the style of writing. Today’s article has several interesting sentence starters. For example, some sentences begin with the words that are challenging to start with: “Because,” “Either,” and “But.”

Try to write three of your own sentences about today’s article that begin with these three words.

When you’ve written your sentences, discuss how using these words at the beginning of your sentences was different and the type of challenge it presented you.