LAYOUT ASSISTANT COMPARES PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES’ LIVES BEFORE THEY RAN FOR PRESIDENT

By Sarah Nicell || Layout Assistant

For many this election season, choosing a candidate has been a struggle beyond compare. Deciding between two rich white men with problematic histories seems like a dreadful task, and admittedly, voting for a person that you are not passionate about can seem like a waste of time.

However, casting your vote on or before November 3rd is critical to the state of our democracy, so regardless of your hatred toward voting for either party’s representative, you have an ethical obligation to exercise your Constitutional right. So, to make the choice easier for you, I have compiled comparisons between President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden’s lives. Rather than describing the typical racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and transphobic remarks often made by modern politicians (such as the President himself), I have discussed some factors that should, despite the lack of conversation surrounding them, be considered.

Let’s begin from the earliest parts of their lives, which seems unimaginable due in part to their age. Younger people fail to connect with Trump or Biden because of the generational gap. However, in an effort to differentiate between candidates without delving into politics, it is essential to return to their roots.

As a child, Trump was enrolled in a private school in Queens, New York. He was the fourth born out of a family of five children. 

As a public school kid from a lower-middle-class household, I have never understood the private education life. To be raised in circumstances where there is never a struggle, where you have to shop on the clearance rack, where money, not insulin, flows like water (as Trump commented to uplift the diabetic population in his debate performance; as a Type One diabetic myself, I was less than amused) and luxury cars fill the garage rather than cheap scooters, is to have a fortune that almost all Americans will never get to see. Being born into wealth is something that fails to satisfy the rags to riches story that the United States salivates for, and yet, Trump supporters persistently pursue. 

According to an article in Vanity Fair entitled, “How Donald Trump’s Mother Did—and Didn’t—Shape His Life”, Trump’s mother, Mary, noted, “Well, he was a good boy… Always very aggressive. Always.” This antagonistic fervor, though already apparent in the body of a child, could not be fully actualized until Donald possessed the means to corrupt. 

In fact, President Trump’s father called him “a pretty rough fellow when he was small,” so much so that he was enrolled in the New York Military Academy when he was 13. This training, though, rather than preparing him for the draft for the Vietnam War did not encourage him to fight. According to the Miller Center Website, Trump dodged the draft with four college and one medical deferment, leading to a relatively high number in the “draft lottery.” 

This avoidance of pain—jumping over the bad stuff to indulge in the fruits of wealth—is all Trump will ever know, proven by his impeachment, his constant accusations of corruption, and his complete disregard for political correctness. Without a worry in the world, the President chooses himself over humanity, his well-being over that of the nation, and his wealth over the law. 

In terms of family life, Trump has married three times: first to Ivana Zelnicek, second to Marla Maples, and finally to Melania Knauss. This list fails to encapsulate the struggles of any of the three marriages, though, including Trump’s affair with Stormy Daniels in 2006, which unsurprisingly did little to diminish Donald’s unwavering devotion from his admirers. Regardless, one can assume that a person who has divorced twice is likely at fault for the failed connection, and it is important to consider the likely similarities between Trump’s vulgarity as a husband (one who has racked up a disgusting amount of sexual assault accusations) and his language as Commander-in-Chief.

From these three marriages, Trump has had five children: Barron Trump (with Melania), Tiffany Trump (with Marla), and Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Trump Jr. (with Ivana). One may wonder what type of father a notorious figure such as Donald Trump could possibly be, and to that I am unsure. However, I must note that the successes of his kin, regardless of how great, must always be related to their father’s reputation, likely a troubling experience for all. A small answer to the question of Trump as a father can be answered by turning to a Vanity Fair article describing how at twelve years old, Donald Trump Jr. was heard to say of his father, “How can you say you love us? You don’t love us! You don’t even love yourself. You just love your money.” 

Trump knows no loss but wealth, and this is one of many reasons that he will forever be untouchable to the average citizen. We all know how to struggle, and Biden feels that hurt with us.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, unlike Trump, had humble beginnings, growing up with three siblings and his car salesman father. His family of six moved to Delaware when Biden was 10 years old, and as the eldest child, he attended Catholic elementary school and Archmere Academy for high school. According to History.com, academically, Joe often struggled, in part due to his battle with a stutter, but he found himself right at home in athletics and was regarded as a talented football player. Biden’s experience with a learning disability makes him far more vulnerable and relatable to the American people.

In 1973, Joe Biden was sworn in as the fifth-youngest senator in American history. Devastatingly, before he was officially inducted, a tractor-trailer collided with the family’s station wagon, killing Biden’s wife, Neilia Hunter Biden, and his only 13-month-old daughter. His two sons were also injured in the accident. After that tragedy, Biden commuted to D.C. for work rather than moving to the city, which allowed him to simultaneously work as a single father. In 1977, he remarried to Jill Jacobs Biden, his current wife, and they had another daughter, Ashley Biden. 

Tragedy struck for the Biden family a second time when Biden’s son, Beau Biden, a veteran, politician, and lawyer, died of brain cancer in 2015. He was only 46 years old. 

There is no doubt in my mind that these experiences left Joe Biden changed, a new man left in a new career, struck by the realities and pains of living. To love is to lose, time and time again, but persist anyway, and Biden knows this fact better than anyone in politics.

Education is a topic that both candidates constantly use as bullets in their fight against each other, but the point of their claims rarely form actual arguments. 

According to an article on Forbes’ website, Michael Cohen, a former attorney for the president, claimed that Donald Trump had him mail letters to his “high schools, colleges, and the College Board” in an attempt to intimidate them into concealing Trump’s grades and academic scores. The letters threatened “legal action and jail time” if they failed to comply with President Trump’s wishes. Here, we see the fragile ego and intimidation tactics that only a tyrannical ruler who fears for his reputation would utilize, threatening academic institutions and the literal administrators of the SAT with the harshest of consequences if they refused to conceal Trump’s failures. There is a word for powerful men who fear looking weak: cowardice.

Despite Trump’s constant criticism of Obama’s academic record, their college experiences, though he would never admit it, were quite similar. For instance, both men began their education at prestigious colleges before transferring to Ivy League institutions after their first two years of education. However, only Obama went on to receive a postgraduate degree.

Trump, like the former president, failed to be awarded honors by his select institutions. Because at his alma mater, Wharton, honors are solely based upon GPA, the President must have received a GPA of less than 3.4 to not receive them. This fact discredits, to some extent, Trump’s constant boasting of his intellect, holding himself in a much higher regard than his academic record likely tells. 

Although Trump questions former President Obama’s acceptance to Columbia and Harvard, Donald Trump is widely speculated to have received a great deal of help with his admissions process due to his famous family (Forbes.com). There is a certain pride a person feels having worked for something all by themself, but it is difficult to imagine that Trump has ever felt such a feeling. Having had his admission handed to him, Trump is incapable of relating to the average scholar.

Because acceptance rates fluctuate over time, it is important to note that the acceptance rate when Trump was admitted was far higher than what it is now (7.4%). In 1980, the acceptance rate was “slightly greater than 40 percent,” and Trump was admitted over a decade earlier in 1966 as a transfer student. His odds of acceptance were undoubtedly high. His admission then, even without the help of his family, seems far less impressive and does little to convince me of his prime intellect or charm.

James Nolan, an admissions officer who interviewed Trump, noted, “It was not very difficult… I certainly was not struck by any sense that I’m sitting before a genius. Certainly not a super genius’’ (BusinessInsider.com).

Donald Trump, we learn here, despite constantly touting his academic prowess, is quite average. Upon speaking to him, even in an interview setting, an admissions officer found nothing particularly brilliant about him. Why, as a country, have we decided that his intelligence is enough to dictate how the United States is run?

Despite Biden’s past struggles with keeping his grades up, he persisted, first attending the University of Delaware before attending Syracuse University’s College of Law. Despite his stutter and his learning problems, he found himself pursuing higher academia and a law degree.

After receiving support and associating himself with Delaware State University, Biden received a great deal of backlash, as it was thought he’d claimed to have attended said institution. However, according to the website Diverse Education, DSU defended Biden by announcing that they had supported his Senate bid in 1972 on the university’s campus; this association was what Biden was referring to, rather than having a degree from the university.

In 1965, Biden graduated from the University of Delaware. He double-majored in history and political science and later attended Syracuse University’s College of Law, where according to the Syracuse Alumni Association, Biden openly admitted that he “did not graduate in the top half of his class.”

The former Vice President owns his skills and his faults, acknowledges his mistakes, and earnestly represents the American people. Joe Biden did not need to claim to be the top of his class, as Trump once did, to be heard. Perfection is not everything, for it is almost always a facade: something that President Trump could stand to learn.

While the 2020 candidates may seem similar at first glance as two wealthy white, straight, senior men, their lives before their candidacy prove they are different. It is clear that Joe Biden is the superior candidate. This is not a partisan choice, for if a Democrat shared the same level of vulgarity and corruption that President Trump has possessed throughout his life, I would certainly vote against my party’s nominee. Based on relatability to the American people rather than isolation, on acknowledging the importance of family rather than tarnishing it, on apologizing for past errors rather than dismissing them, Biden is a far better candidate.

So, if you have not yet voted or if you are uncertain of your positionality, I implore you to consider the research I have conducted and to do some of your own. As a woman, as a lesbian, as a sister, a daughter, a student, a friend, and a human being, I cannot, in good conscience, vote for someone who has failed me on so many fronts.

On November 3rd, as a firm agnostic, I pray for Joe Biden’s victory.

First Year Sarah Nicell is a Layout Assistant. Her email is snicell@fandm.edu.

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