When I was in elementary school, our teachers ran a fake presidential election. It must have been 1996, because I was nearing the end of my illustrious career as an elementary student and I distinctly remember Bob Dole being on the ballot. We only voted for president, but we didn’t get any particular information about the candidates or their platforms. At least, I don’t remember learning anything. I did go to public school after all. We were lucky they even told us there was a presidential election happening.
There was so much buzz that afternoon. It was mostly about doing literally anything but practicing cursive or completing division tables, but we were also excited about participating. We all got tiny pieces of paper and dropped them into these little cardboard boxes. Most of us knew we were supposed to vote for Bill Clinton, and most of us did. He seemed cool, we’d heard our parents would be voting for him, and he played the saxophone. A bunch of kids voted for Ross Perot, because they knew it was the alternative choice and that holds a lot of appeal for a ten year old. I’m sure a few voted for Bob Dole, but he mostly seemed old and boring. I think Clinton won our class election, just as he won the actual race. We were all very pleased. Our accuracy made us a sort of groundhog, I think. I should find the group, poll them all today, and see if we’re a good measure of results for this upcoming election. We were uninformed but also a strangely close representation of reality.
For this election, I recommend getting a little more knowledgable than my friends and I were in 1996. Factcheck.org is a good spot to start. It’s dedicated to sorting out the nonsense from the truth, regardless of party or affiliation. It’s run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and is staffed mostly by journalists. Once we’re all educated, then we can go about the giddy business of choosing the next leader of the free world. Maybe we’ll even get extra time at recess for doing our civic duty.