Back in 2016, like many others on Bowdoin’s campus, I voted for Hillary Clinton. I still remember standing there in the middle of Smith Union back in 2016 with a mass of others, anxiously awaiting the results of the election. I still remember the shock and despair on people’s faces when it was announced that Donald Trump had done the unthinkable. Surrounded by confused cries and rampant tears—as sensitive as I am—I had to get out of that atmosphere. I walked back to my dorm that night, disappointed in the country and disappointed in myself for casting my vote for someone I didn’t even like. Moreover, my greatest takeaway was that my vote did not actually matter as it did not affect the outcome of the election.
Near the end of my junior year of high school, I developed a talent for public speaking, a talent previously unknown to me. After molding my craft in my AP English Language and Composition class, I decided to run for National Honor Society president, solely to give my resume a boost in the leadership department. Only one other person ran against me and I decided to prepare a speech for election day. While my opponent merely listed off his accomplishments and extracurriculars, I attempted to show the other students my “morals,” speaking about how I wanted to take the NHS to greater heights and help combat more global issues like the war in Darfur, Sudan. I won by a landslide. Yet, due to overwhelming academics and newfound depression from sleep deprivation, I ultimately did nothing about the conflict in Darfur, which continues to rage on to this day. I was disappointed in myself back then and still am now. Though I had good intentions, I intentionally appealed to people’s emotions to win their votes. The manipulation would not end there.
At the end of my junior year, I was selected by my teacher to attend Massachusetts Boys State, a government-run program in nearly all 50 states for juniors interested in politics. In order to add another leadership experience to my resume, my father encouraged me to run for one of the top positions. I listened and decided to run for Attorney General. In the process, I honed my public speaking skills even more, finishing with the most votes in my party during the pre-primary and primary elections. However, while I will not knock my own abilities as a speaker, one of the reasons I was so popular was purely because of my name. At the end of each speech, I told my constituents to “Vote J. Cole for your Attorney General.” I knew well that a majority of the audience was familiar with the famous lyricist, and I used it to my advantage. By the time I got to the final state-wide elections, I had practically half the party chanting the name “J. Cole.” In the end, however, it was not enough.
One of the qualities I loved about being at Boys State was that there was hardly a competitive atmosphere. Everyone wished each other the best, and no one tried to bring each other down, in or outside of elections. Everyone, except my opponent during the state-wide elections. One of the ways I had inadvertently shot myself in the foot was that I had not taken the mock bar exam, simply because you did not have to—I was actually unaware of when it was even scheduled. Yet, apparently my opponent did, and he had used the fact that his opponent did not against him during the primary elections. I was unaware of this, and when we first met each other during the candidates dinner before the state-wide election, we had not said a word to each other. After a few minutes of silence, he asked me if I had taken the exam, to which I simply replied “no.” Of course, during his speech, he pointed this out in front of everyone at Boys State in an attempt to show the people he was more qualified, as well as to rattle me before my speech. Ultimately, I decided not to stoop to his level, and I went along with the speech I planned. I ended up losing by five votes.
Most people do not like politicians because they are some of the best liars in the world, which could not be more true. The biggest reason why I had stepped off the politician’s path after Boys State was because the experience, along with my NHS election, had thoroughly exposed the negative aspects of myself. I can be a very manipulative person if I want to be, and to be a politician, that’s a requirement. The job also involves putting other people down in order to elevate yourself, which is something I find very immoral from personal experience. I did not like the idea of who I would become if I pursued politics any further, so I decided to step away. Even someone like Barack Obama, who was a massive influence on me as a speaker, is someone who “played the game” in order to win the job.
The only candidate I would possibly vote for is Bernie Sanders due to his honesty and willingness to be himself, whether you like him or not. I’m also simply not a fan of the two-party system and how it has divided the nation. I don’t understand the purpose of even having other political parties that have no chance of ever affecting change. It also leaves people like myself who are politically closer to the center than the left with no place to go. Choosing not to vote is my way of showing that I do not stand for the current system of politics. I understand that this is an unpopular opinion, which is exactly why I am writing this. Personally, I don’t understand the purpose of writing in favor of views that are already widely accepted on Bowdoin’s campus.