RHETORIC & PROPAGANDA: Students study, hold election
Published 1:05 am Thursday, October 27, 2016
AHS students hold mock election
Andalusia High School students got some hands-on experience recently while studying rhetoric and propaganda.
“You can’t ask for better examples than this election,” Cavelle Jones said. “That’s where it started.”
But as an SGA sponsor, she also felt a responsibility to make students more aware of government issues.
The result was a mock election, complete with campaigning, actual ballots, and voting.
“This is just an obvious way to do that– to have the real experience,” she said.
Through the cooperation of Probate Judge Stacy Brooks and the county’s director of maintenance, Kevin Kennedy, voting machines were set up at the school, and the student body was invited to vote.
But before that happened, students chose to be Democrat or Republican, and were required to campaign with signs, Twitter accounts, and be creating video commercials.
AHS junior Grace Wilcox co-chaired the Democratic party in her class.
“Mrs. Jones asked each party to nominate someone,” she said. “I along with Callen Woodard thought that we would run it really well together.”
Wilcox and Woodard divided their party members into teams to work on the minimum requirements for the project.
For their commercial, they had women quote Republican nominee Donald Trump’s words about women.
“We took his mean quotes about women, and we had girls read them,” she said. “We couldn’t find a Hispanic student, but we have a teacher from Venezuela, and we had her read what he’s said about immigrants.”
Steadman Glenn co-chaired the Republicans for his class, who also used immigration as an issue.
“We came up with ideas about posters and we campaigned in the hallway,” Glenn said. “We told people about Donald Trump, and gave them reasons to vote for him.”
Among the posters used, he said, was one about Clinton’s support of abortion.
“We talked mostly about abortion, and building the wall, of course,” he said.
Glenn constructed a Trump/Pence board in ag class and carried it as a campaign sign.
Even though the exercise was designed to be academic, Wilcox said many students took campaigning and support seriously.
“I’ve lost some friends over this,” Wilcox said. “Some people take it so seriously.”
Wilcox said she was struck by the fact that the signs used by those supporting the GOP were all anti-Clinton.
“There was not one positive Trump poster,” she said.
Wilcox said she learned from the experience that some people won’t change their minds, but others will listen if the message is crafted correctly.
“Some people are gonna think the way they’re gonna think, and there’s not anything you can do about that,” she said. “Sometimes if you campaign right, and get the right message out, you can change some peoples’ minds.”
One of the posters she created said, “The leader of the KKK endorsed Trump. Are you voting for him, too?”
Above that, was another, stating that Hillary Clinton supports equality for all, just like Martin Luther King dreamed.
She was told that at least a few people changed their votes because of the signs.
“That made me feel really proud of myself,” she said.
When the votes were counted, Trump led by 87 votes, 241 to 154. On a percentage basis, he gained 61 percent while Clinton earned 39 percent of the votes.
Neither was surprised by the outcome.
“I knew we were gonna lose just because of where we are,” Wilcox said. “But I thought I would be really alone in this when Mrs. Jones said, ‘Pick our own party.’ Most of the people in my friend group are die-hard Republicans. I thought I would be fighting the good fight alone. Instead, we had a pretty big standing. I was surprised by the people who wanted to relay same message I was.”
Glenn said, “I knew Trump was gonna win, just because we’re in the South and all. It didn’t surprise me that he won by 87.”
Wilcox said she is part of a group chat that is all Democrats.
“We definitely got our message out,” she said. “We adopted Michelle Obama’s ‘When they go low, we go high.’ I think Hillary Clinton would be proud of us, looking at the demographics.”
Glenn said he learned a lot about politics in the process, and thinks politics might have a role in his future.
“I learned some new things I didn’t know before,” he said. “It was a good experience.”