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A High-Schooler's Guide to the 2024 Presidential Election

By: Dante De Jong

Exactly a year from next month, millions of voters across the country will be heading to the polls for the 2024 presidential election. Election season begins far before fall 2024, however. In fact, it’s already underway! Candidates have announced their election bids and are already hot on the campaign trail in many states, debating with each other before the upcoming primaries.

This article’s purpose is to provide a non-partisan, informative, and accessible guide for what you need to know about the election, its candidates, and how you can get involved. Read further for helpful resources and information!

Why does it matter?

Straight off the bat, let’s cover why this election is important. Why should we care? It may seem distant to us here in Belmont, but the presidential election has far-reaching consequences nationwide. We, the people, elect officials to run our country for us, and those whom we choose to represent us make decisions that affect our daily lives. Federal programs for student debt relief may help many of us with college tuition in the coming years; Congress-approved regulations on gun ownership could keep our school community safe; and, to throw out an unrealistic but hopeful example, perhaps the Class of 2024 may succeed in electing a president who mandates a national three-day weekend. Such is the power of democracy.

While many of us under eighteen can’t yet vote, there are many other ways in which we can help elect candidates who support our values. As more people from our generation rise to voting age and engage with our government, the more our voices will be represented. Gen Z is a political force to be reckoned with; according to studies, we tend to be the most politically active generation! Now, more than ever, is the time to get involved.

Overview of the election process

So, how do our presidential elections work, exactly? There’s a lot that goes into the process leading up to Election Day, which is always the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

It begins with candidates announcing their campaigns far in advance, often the year before the election. They attend debates with other candidates to make their views known and pour money into advertising, all to get their names out there and court potential voters. It’s important for them to stay competitive in the crowded field: a whopping eleven candidates are running as Republicans this year, and three as Democrats! However, only two candidates will face off for the final election in November.

This brings us to the primary elections. Both parties have to choose which candidate they want to nominate and send off to the general election. So, during the primaries, which will kick off in January 2024, voters in each state choose their favorite candidate from their own party, one they think has a chance at winning against the other party’s candidate in the general election. Primaries last several months, until every state has held them. Iowa goes first this year on January 15.

After that, the two final candidates will campaign and eventually face off in the general election on November 5th to see which one wins the popular vote nationwide. Suspenseful, isn’t it?

Key issues that this upcoming election will focus on include abortion rights, Social Security and Medicare (and how much the government should spend on them), education, foreign policy (especially regarding the war between Russia and Ukraine), immigration, and crime. Read about each candidate’s stance on these issues under the “2024 Candidates” section. Also, check out this resource for more information about how the Electoral College works, with our system of indirect democracy.

Notable upcoming dates

January 15th, 2024: First Democratic and Republican caucuses of the election season, in Iowa.

March 5 (“Super Tuesday”): Over twenty states hold their primaries on this day, including Massachusetts.

July 15–18: The Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.

August 19–22: The Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Tuesday, November 5: Election Day!

2024 Candidates

One thing we, as high-schoolers, can do to get involved in the election is to research the candidates and educate ourselves on their policies. Below is a brief biography of each of the candidates in both parties. There is plenty more research you can do, however, to familiarize yourself with the people who one day soon may lead our country! Many newspapers have more extensive information on each candidate and the upcoming election. (See The New York Times' candidate profiles, or Politico's.)

Democratic Candidates:

Joseph R. Biden: Joe Biden is the current president of the United States (elected in 2020) and has emphasized his bipartisan accomplishments and democratic values as opposed to the turbulent administration of his predecessor. His main priorities include the economy, healthcare, and climate protection, as well as racial equity and immigration. He is expected to win the Democratic nomination despite concerns over his age (he would be 82 years old when inaugurated, the oldest president in United States history.)

Marianne Williamson: Williamson is a self-help author and former spiritual adviser. This is her second time running after an unsuccessful 2020 campaign. She has promoted questionable medical theories and calls for a federal Department of Peace.

Cenk Uygur: A progressive talk show host, Uygur has done little to distance himself from Biden policy-wise, but argues that the incumbent president can’t win in a general election. He prioritizes raising the federal minimum wage, as well as ensuring paid family leave and public health insurance.

Republican Candidates:

Donald J. Trump: President from 2016 to 2020, Donald Trump is the favored candidate for the 2024 Republican nomination. Famous for his inflammatory comments and for attempting to overturn the 2020 election results by inciting a mob of rioters to attack the U.S. Capitol, the former president faces 91 criminal charges, including attempting to subvert democracy, falsifying business documents, rape charges, and risking national security secrets. Despite his four indictments, however, Trump remains a favorite among Republican voters and ranks first in the polls, though his influence within the Republican party is somewhat diminished. Many are concerned over the ethics of Trump’s candidacy given his track record and the various criminal investigations being conducted on him.

Ron DeSantis: DeSantis is the current governor of Florida and ranks second in the polls. Known for limiting the teaching of racial history in Florida schools and heavily restricting the rights of LGBTQ+ youth, DeSantis fashions himself as a less controversial version of Donald Trump, yet is still overshadowed by him in the polls.

Nikki Haley: Former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley brings solid foreign policy experience and potential for base support among Republican voters to the 2024 election. However, she faces a crowded field of candidates in which she, and many others, are overshadowed by Donald Trump and his controversy. Many worry about her fluctuating and ambiguous stance on the former president.

Vivek Ramaswamy: An author, investor, and entrepreneur, Ramaswamy styles himself as a younger alternative to candidates such as Donald Trump, embracing opposition to environmental and social causes and labeling himself as “anti-woke.”

Mike Pence: Pence served as vice president during the Trump administration from 2016 to 2020. Towards the end of Trump’s presidency, he came under fire from Trump supporters for refusing to aid the overturning of election results. His religion as an evangelical Christian drives much of his policy and he vocally supports a federal ban on abortion.

Asa Hutchinson: A former governor of Arkansas and rare critic of Donald Trump among the Republican candidates, Hutchinson takes a more moderate stance on many policy issues but lacks substantial support in the polls.

Larry Elder: The conservative talk radio host and lesser-known candidate Larry Elder supports many far-right policies such as eliminating minimum wage and opposing pandemic measures.

Tim Scott: Senator from South Carolina and one of the Republican Party’s most vocal advocates on issues of race, Scott is considered a long-shot candidate.

Chris Christie: The former governor of New Jersey, Christie is running again after a failed campaign in 2016. He has made a name for himself as a vocal critic of former president Trump.

Ryan Binkley: A pastor and businessman from Texas, Binkley’s campaign focuses on immigration reforms and federal budget cuts.

Doug Burgum: North Dakota governor Doug Burgum values highly restrictive measures on abortion and is one of the wealthiest candidates in the 2024 presidential race. He is expected to use these funds for his campaign due to lack of popular support.

Independent Candidates:

Robert F. Kennedy Jr: Though he initially ran as a Democratic candidate, Robert F. Kennedy decided to run an independent campaign in October. He has promoted dubious claims about the safety of vaccines and vehemently opposes pandemic mitigation measures.

Cornel West: A professor of philosophy and progressive activist, West initially ran under the People’s Party but then switched to the Green Party and thereafter ran as an independent.

Ways to get involved for those under 18

Just because you can’t vote, doesn’t mean you can’t help out in this election. Think about it: yours would be just one vote, but you can influence other people’s votes and turn out many more! Our generation is the most politically involved, according to numerous studies. You can join the wave of young activists in the following ways:

  1. Volunteer work: Many candidates’ campaigns and non-profit advocacy organizations from both parties need volunteers to help turn out voters for elections! The kind of work you can do includes canvassing (going door to door reminding people about the election), phone-banking (calling voters from your state), or text-banking (the same thing but via text), as well as writing post-cards or organizing rallies, and more!. You can look up volunteer opportunities near you and find an organization to volunteer for. For example, if you were interested in reproductive freedom and abortion rights, you could check out Planned Parenthood’s National Volunteer Program, or that of Reproductive Freedom For All, especially closer to the election. If you want to work on a wider variety of issues, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a great organization. Do some research on where you can get involved to fight for the values you believe in!

  2. Have conversations with people in your community. Talking about the election is a great way to learn from other people’s perspectives and to share yours, as well as raising awareness for your friends, family, and neighbors. Make sure to stay respectful and open-minded with these discussions.

  3. Social media. Social media platforms are a great tool to get the word out about elections and to share your perspective to a wider audience, especially from a younger demographic. Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok: these are tools that anyone can use to help get out the vote.

  4. Swag and signs. Show your support for a candidate by wearing a shirt or putting up a yard sign. People will recognize it and perhaps it will encourage them to go out and vote for that candidate later.

  5. Fundraising. Campaigns need money! You can organize fundraisers in your community or donate your own money to a candidate’s campaign.

  6. Educate yourself on the election and its candidates. It might even be considered a civic duty to do your research on how our government works and who’s running it. After all, we’ll all be of voting age someday soon, and learning is the first step to actively engaging with our democracy. It doesn’t work without us, the people!

Thank you for reading this article— by doing so, you’ve already done one of the six things listed above! For more information on the 2024 election, be sure to do some research on the candidates and their policies, and have conversations with people in your community. Remember that, in these politically polarizing times, it’s important to keep an open mind and to inform ourselves as best we can without bias or hatred. Stay respectful to anyone no matter what party they belong to or policies they support, while also fighting for the values you believe in. Let’s get ready to get out the vote!


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