By Quentin Choy
April 18, 2021
I was reading a piece in The Philadelphia Inquirer which “reports a 37% increase in political science majors since 2019.” Being a political science major myself, I thought it would be good for me to talk about how I became interested in the field. I first became interested in politics in 2015, during my sophomore year in high school. Now, toward the end of my junior year in college, I’ll look back at the journey which led me to where I am.
Like many politically-active people my age, our political awareness was created in the political climate of the 2016 Presidential election and the primary elections leading up to it, with the eventual election of Donald Trump.
During this time, I knew who Donald Trump was and that he was a wealthy man with a lot of hotels, steaks, and a game show. I also knew several things about then-President Obama. I knew that he was president, that Joe Biden was the Vice President and that Paul Ryan was the Speaker of the House. Whatever that meant.
I was also aware that a presidential election was coming in 2016 and that Obama’s second term was finishing, leaving an opening for both parties to send challengers. Biden didn’t run that year, and Hillary Clinton was the party’s nominee, with a pretty inconsequential Democratic primary, aside from an ascendant Bernie Sanders who went from an obscure Senator to the favorite of leftists and youth across the country. While I was not supportive of all his ideas, I admired his political courage and his anti-establishment leanings.
I remember watching the Republican Primaries as a teenager, seeing the field crowded with so many competitors, vying to be the post-Obama leader of the GOP. I remember Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Jeb Bush. Ted Cruz was uninteresting to me, and I remember Carly Fiorina since she was the only female running in the primary. At the time, I watched a lot of Saturday Night Live, which I was starting to understand more and more of as I learned more about the nation’s contemporary politics.
As the Republicans fell one by one, it was coming down to Donald Trump and the few left to oppose him. The forgettable John Kasich fell at his feet. The uncharismatic Ted Cruz prostrated before him. The opposition was gone, and the path was cleared for GOP-nominee Trump.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton was doing her best to avoid being defeated by Sanders. For many in the Democratic Party establishment, it was Hillary’s turn. I don’t remember the day I first heard about Bernie Sanders, but after watching videos about him on YouTube, he seemed unlike a politician. He was old, loud, and had messy hair. Later on, I realized that this was part of his appeal in that he was unlike other politicians.
I was in California flying back to Hawaii when I got the notification saying that Clinton had officially become the party’s nominee. Clinton versus Trump. “This flight is going to feel so much longer,” I thought to myself.
I watched several Youtube channels that discussed politics, and at the time, my favorite was a channel called “Secular Talk” hosted by Kyle Kulinski. I am not a secularist, but a devoted Christian. However, aside from his rejection of religion, much of what Kyle had to say about politics made a lot of sense to me.
In the summer, as the election got closer, things heated up between the campaigns. Clinton called some conservatives a “basket of deplorables.” Trump proposed we “take out their families,” referring to the families of terrorists in the Middle East. Clinton spoke down to young people, urging them to “Poke-mon Go to the polls.” Audio emerged of Trump saying to “Grab ’em by the pussy. I don’t even wait.”
Both sides seemed pretty unappealing to me, and it turned out that Clinton and Trump were the two most unpopular presidential nominees in modern history. This was the first time I became of third-parties and the phrase voting for the “lesser of two evils.” Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party were on my radar, and I looked more into these candidates and their respective parties.
In the week leading up to the election, I saw lots of articles and graphs suggesting an easy Clinton victory. While I was unexcited about Clinton who I viewed as corrupt along with her policies (voting for the Iraq War) and for her overall unlikable personality. Donald Trump was not getting my support either. This support was all theoretical anyways since I was unable to vote.
Many in my family were excited about Trump, and I think I may be one of the most liberal in my family overall. The pastor at my church and many at the church were and still are staunch supporters of Trump. At the time, liking Trump seemed to be the cool thing, and many people tried to sympathize with some parts of Trump’s campaign and the “bad-boy image” it gave off.
I remember watching the election that night and seeing that it wasn’t a Clinton wipeout at all. Trump had support in key areas, and his victory was absolutely a real possibility. I began preparing myself for a potential Trump presidency, and that self-preparation was no waste of time. Late at night, I watched crying Clintonites crying as she was not to be president. Tom Perez came out and told people to go home. Clinton called Trump to congratulate him on his victory. The Democrats had lost.
The Donald came out with his family and with Mike Pence, as they addressed the nation, victorious.
Seeing the polarization and events that led to the election of Donald Trump fascinated me. How could his victory not have been seen by political commentators and by the pundits? What happened where a man who never held political office could successfully win a presidential election? What greater sentiments existed throughout the country where a sizable portion elected this man who said terrible things, and why are these sentiments around to begin with?
A series of questions came to me following that election.
In 2017, I took an Honors U.S. History class and an Introduction to Political Science class which interested me a lot. In class, we watched Trump’s inauguration live, and the Women’s March was something I had become aware of.
In my English class, we analyzed Trump’s inauguration speech and the language, rhetoric, and tone he used. We also had discussions over political issues, and we worked out our arguments and why we hold the beliefs we do.
Combined with an interest in history, I knew that my interest in politics was something I wanted to do more with.
On a field trip to the Hawai’i State Capitol, I was allowed to sit in to the opening session of the Hawai’i State Senate on the Senate floor. That year, Hawaii had zero out of 25 Senators who were Republican. I thought to myself about how it happened that a Republican President won at the exact same time that a state eliminated Republicans from its Senate on the same ballot. I began understanding how political events shape and mold each other and how new events are consequences of previous political events.
It was my senior year in high school, and picking colleges was coming up. I knew I wanted to study Political Science, since I eventually wanted to work in government. At the time, I thought I wanted to be a U.S. Senator for Hawai’i.
I decided to attend school in Colorado, because I love that kind of environment and climate, and I wanted to get out in the mountains. At the time, Colorado was a swing state, and in swing states, voters are more politically active as their votes hold more weight than in safe states. I wanted to study politics in a more politically active place than Democratic-dominated Hawai’i.
Politically, this tour of the Front Range takes you from some of the most Republican and Libertarian to some of the most Democratic and Green political districts in the United States. Religiously, this tour takes you from Colorado Springs, home to conservative evangelical churches, through vast suburbs of spiritual-but-not-religious housing developments, to heavily urban Democratic sectors of Denver, and into Boulder, the spiritual converse of Colorado Springs.From Paul Harvey’s “Colorado: A Scholar Drives Through a Swing State”
During June 2018, following my graduation from high school, Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez won her primary against Joe Crowley in New York. While I am not as fond of AOC as I was then, I still view her victory as instrumental in forming my interest in politics as a passion.
If this waitress from New York who is so young and has no experience in political office won a seat to Congress, what is stopping me? The same thought process, although to a lesser extent came to mind with Trump, a politically inexperienced game show host winning the presidency.
No matter what you think of Ocasio-Cortez, her victorious, rags to riches stories inspired a generation of people with lofty dreams and ambitions. AOC’s victory opened the political world to me, and it brought that seemingly unachievable dream closer, and nearer to reach.
Going into college, my interest in politics would grow and become more interested in the politics of the world and foreign affairs. This interest is still strong, and I read, watch, and listen to books, movies, and documentaries, taking in as much information as I can. I still enjoy Kyle Kulinski, and have expanded to watching commentary by David Doel, Krystal Ball, and Saager Enjeti as well. This blog is simply an extension of this interest, and I hope that it too can grow with my interest in history and politics and my commitment to lifelong learning.
I hope that this blog can serve as a way for you to become more interested in politics as well.