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The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

Remembering Trump’s Presidency

In an attempt to fight what many are calling ‘collective amnesia,’ I sat down with four Bronx Science seniors to discuss what they remembered about former president Donald Trump.
Pictured+is+Donald+Trump+delivering+a+speech+on+the+final+day+of+the+2016+Republican+National+Convention.+%28Photo+Credit%3A+Ali+Shaker%2FVOA%2C+Public+domain%2C+via+Wikimedia+Commons%29
Pictured is Donald Trump delivering a speech on the final day of the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Photo Credit: Ali Shaker/VOA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Former President Donald Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 and 2020. Since then, he’s been impeached twice, he’s been convicted on 34 counts of falsification of business records in the first degree, he’s facing three more indictments comprising 54 criminal charges, and he’s openly incited a violent insurrection. And somehow, he’s more popular than ever. 

It’s not uncommon for a former president’s approval rating to rise after they leave office, but they aren’t usually on the ticket for the next election. Trump is. Recent polling shows Trump beating Biden in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Michigan – swing states that were essential in Biden’s 2020 victory

I started hearing the term ‘collective amnesia’ in this context a few months ago. Americans haven’t been hit with a Men-In-Black-style Neuralyzer, but rather a numbness making it easy to forget one scandal in the wake of dozens. As Republican researcher Sarah Longwell told The New York Times, “[Voters] know about what they don’t like about Biden, and they have forgotten what they don’t like about Trump.” 

I’m a recently graduated high school senior, and a lot of my peers and friends are turning 18 this year. That means they have the ability, for the first time, to vote in a presidential election this Tuesday, November 5th , 2024– and I had the opportunity to interview a few of them.

This is (obviously) in no way an accurate sample of the youth vote. I attended and graduated from a specialized public high school in New York City, The Bronx High School of Science, and spoke mostly to my classmates and friends. That said, even this relatively self-selecting group demonstrated a few points that I think are worth noting on a larger scale. What follows are highlights from my interview.

NOTE: To make sure I’m not spreading misinformation, I’m attaching a document with small corrections and explanations of events referenced by the people I interviewed HERE. Each time you see an asterisk, there is a corresponding correction on this page.

ACADIA BOST: Everyone, state your name for the record.

SIERRA HANRAHAN ’24: Hi, I’m Sierra, a fun fact about me is…

BOST: No, no, this is a long recording.

*laughter*

ANNA GIULIA POLLI ’24: I’m Anna Giulia.

ALLIYANA CHAN ’24: I’m Allie.

CECELIA CHU ’24: I’m Cece.

BOST: Okay awesome, so first, I was wondering if you could tell me the most memorable things about the Trump presidency?

CHAN: I genuinely don’t remember a lot of it, which is, I suppose, the point of this. I remember him getting elected and then… I don’t know, I feel like we never heard about actual solid policies because the [stuff] he was saying was just so much crazier than what he was doing. 

HANRAHAN: I think the day that he got elected was the most memorable days of his presidency –  that’s not true, actually, ‘cuz he kept doing crazy [things] – but that was definitely a horrifying experience. I was in elementary school and we had an assignment that night to color in the states as the polls came in, so I had to just watch in horror as Trump won the election. 

POLLI: Bro, that’s like a psychological horror story.

HANRAHAN: Well, at the time nobody thought it was going to win.

CHAN: I really didn’t.

HANRAHAN: And I was living in LA at the time, and I remember going to school the next day with everyone in my class freaking out, crying, convinced they were going to get deported. Later on in the school year, a few girls’ families actually did get deported. 

CHU: I agree, the most memorable day was, maybe not the day he got elected but the inauguration. I was in fifth grade, and I also kind of remember everyone freaking out. For me, it was especially weird because Obama had been president for my whole life, so I just didn’t know what was going to happen.

POLLI: Yeah, I remember more of the things he would say than the actual things he did as a politician. I remember when he told people to drink bleach* to protect themselves from COVID, and when there was a shooting in, I want to say Charlottesville? And he said that there were “very good people on both sides.”*

POLLI: I feel like at that point he hadn’t really said anything crazy in his presidency yet.

HANRAHAN: Well – 

POLLI: Or, he had, but, the way I remember it, that was sort of a turning point for a lot of people, it was the first thing everyone could read as just insane. 

HANRAHAN: Around that time I think he called the proud boys “fine young men,”* as well, which wasn’t super surprising because of his stance on immigration, but still, talking about it, I don’t know the actual policies he put forward. 

CHAN: I mean, I think that we were, like, 10 when all of this was happening. That’s my reasoning for it, just the fact that we were too young to keep up with all of it. But he was president until 2020, and we were in high school then, we were a little bit more coherent. 

CHU: Didn’t he try to overturn Obamacare?* I don’t know if he actually did that, though.

POLLI: I think he restricted it, didn’t he?

CHAN: Was he pushing someone for the Supreme Court, do you remember that?

HANRAHAN: I think he put two people on.

POLLI: Brett Kavanaugh. And the bad woman, Amy – Amy Coney Barrett. The thing with Brett Kavanaugh was that he was accused of sexually assaulted someone,* though. 

HANRAHAN: Yeah, I remember that. 

BOST: Why are you not voting for Trump?

CHU: I don’t know, maybe this is wrong of me, or immature, but I think part of the role of a president is the image you present, maybe because I grew up with Obama as president, and I always felt very safe with him in office, even though I know he wasn’t perfect. But Trump is such a horrible and embarrassing person to have as our president, he’s literally on trial for so many ridiculous things, like what image of our country are we showing to the world?

POLLI: You don’t want that to be how the world sees America.

CHAN: I just think he’s encouraging a very harmful culture that’s been growing since he became president. Obviously it existed before him, but I don’t know, I think he’s really worsening the divide in our country. It’s more of a cultural thing, I can’t speak to specific policies, I think most of us can’t speak to specific policies, but I can speak to that. 

HANRAHAN: My mom used to be an Earth Science teacher, so all of the stuff I remember is EPA related. He passed a bunch of things restricting the Bureau of Land Management,* and he reduced a lot of funding to the EPA,* and loosened restrictions on things like oil drilling.*

HANRAHAN: Like in Alaska, and off the coasts, he did a lot of offshore rigging and made it hard to put new restrictions in place.* Alaska stands out to me because one of the biggest hits Biden took on his environmental policies is what he did with the Willow Project.* And Biden could have done a lot more, should have done a lot more, to stop that from going through, but it wasn’t his bill, he didn’t write it. That bill wouldn’t have gotten to his desk if Trump hadn’t relaxed the restrictions* so much.

HANRAHAN: And this is something I keep up with now, the Biden administration has put more things forward protecting the environment,* and put more funding towards the EPA,* and backed these important bills, but only one of those has been an executive order.* I think it’s telling that Trump had to be like, “No, we wanna make more money through oil,” but he couldn’t get that stuff through without overriding the democratic process.

HANRAHAN: He also did a lot of stuff with food. Like fact check this but doesn’t lunchables own a good amount of food rights for school lunches?

BOST: I have not heard that but I don’t keep up with lunchables news.

POLLI: No they do because I remember when they found lead in lunchables they were like, oh [darn], we’ve been giving this out in schools. 

HANRAHAN: Yeah, he gave a lot of work that should be government regulated to private businesses, which is just so evil. 

POLLI: I mean there’s a lot of things I don’t agree with – we don’t see eye to eye on most things, but the worst is his complete disregard for democracy. I don’t just see him as a threat because I don’t agree with his policies, I see him as a threat because I think he would be able to fundamentally change American democracy. Or end it. 

BOST: What specific things do you feel like you and Trump disagree on?

POLLI: Um, like, immigration, women’s rights, racial equality, like everything. Economic policy.

*laughter*

BOST: How many times has Trump been impeached?

CHU: Twice.

HANRAHAN: Two.

BOST: Okay, what were both of those for?*

POLLI: One of them was for starting the riot.

CHAN: Yeah.

CHU: Yeah, yeah they got him for that.

HANRAHAN: And the other one had to be for the Stormy Daniels thing.

CHAN: Well – no –

POLLI: Wasn’t it – I thought it was about his, didn’t he have, like, papers?

HANRAHAN: Oh yeah he had those –

CHU: It was the phone call, the phone call with the Ukraine president.

HANRAHAN: Is that right? Oh, but he also had all those files in his bathroom, in Mar-a-Lago.

POLLI: That was a different trial, I guess.

CHU: He called the president of Ukraine, I don’t remember who said what, but it was something about funding, like, “If you do this, I’ll give you this money,” or it was something about Biden’s campaign, I think, I don’t remember. 

BOST: This is maybe a bit obscure compared to the other things, but who was John McCain? 

POLLI: He’s the person who ran against Obama, right? In 2008?

HANRAHAN: Is he the guy with the eyepatch? Who served in the military?

BOST: Do you remember anything happening between him and Trump?

POLLI: At one point, I think he didn’t like Trump, but that’s all I remember.

BOST: Was there a government shutdown under Trump?

CHU: Yes.

HANRAHAN: No.

POLLI: Yeah.

HANRAHAN: Oh, there was?

CHU: Yeah, like multiple. Or am I wrong?

HANRAHAN: The government can do that? 

CHAN: I forgot about that. 

CHU: This is fun, it feels like a full class.

HANRAHAN: It does feel like a class, yeah.

*laughter*

BOST: Do you feel like the economy was better under Trump?

HANRAHAN: No.

CHU: No, absolutely not.

CHAN: I mean, we were kids. I’ve seen videos about it now, where people reflect back and say the economy really wasn’t better under Trump.

POLLI: Also, don’t you usually get delayed effects in the economy? So I don’t think I know much about the economic effects that can be attributed to Trump, except maybe that my family had to pay more in taxes. 

HANRAHAN: I saw this graph on instagram that, percentage wise, middle class people pay more in taxes now than the top 1% do, and you can see that shift after Trump’s tax policies. 

BOST: How do you feel about Biden? Are you voting for him?

CHAN: I’m voting for Biden. I do think it’s either him or Trump, and I’m terrified of another Trump presidency. I think Biden’s all right, I think sometimes he’s truly trying his best with the cards he’s been dealt, post Trump and post Pandemic. I definitely think he could be going about things better, but he’s going about things better than Trump, at least. 

POLLI: I think I’ll probably be voting for Biden too, but I’m not happy about it. I’m disappointed that the Democratic party hasn’t been able to come up with a better candidate in four years. I’m registered as a Democrat as well, and hopefully in four years I can vote in the primaries for someone I actually like. But I don’t think there’s a single issue where Trump has better policies than Biden. Even with things I really disagree with Biden on, I think Trump would do worse. 

POLLI: It really, really sucks that the first time we vote will be choosing the lesser of two evils for the third time in a row, or the millionth time in a row. But that’s what we have to do.

HANRAHAN: I’m voting for Biden, I feel like people really forget that the reason Trump was elected eight years ago was that people just didn’t like Hillary and they thought there was no way Trump was going to win, so they just didn’t vote. And they [messed] it up for everyone. I feel meh about Biden, I wish he was a candidate I felt good about, and especially because he’s so old, I wish he had a VP I felt good about, but Trump is just a genuinely horrible person.

BOST: Do you have any Biden policies that you like?

HANRAHAN: Back on my EPA grind, he’s really done a lot for the EPA, like a startling amount especially after Trump. 

POLLI: He has.

HANRAHAN: Obviously we’re not in as good a place as when Trump was elected. The other thing is that I just know more about Biden’s policies, because he talks about his policies openly. Some of the stuff Trump put forward actively stopped constituents from learning more about policies and health practices. The fact that Trump is so loud and annoying and stupid is also just a big distraction from what he’s doing.

POLLI: Something I do like about Biden is I feel like he’s been a politician for so long, but he’s been willing to adapt his views. Like on abortion, at the start of his career I think he was anti- abortion, and now he supports abortion access. I feel like he’s opened his mind and shown that he’s listening to the people, which we’re never going to get from Trump.

BOST: All right, thank you all so so so much. Goodbye!

*****

I’ve seen a lot of nihilism regarding this year’s election, and I want this article to be a sort of dandelion fighting through a crack in the cement. I’m the opposite of hopeless, I’m filled with hope. Collective amnesia relies on us being numb and isolated, and that means we can fight it with conversation. 

I leave you with a challenge: talk about politics more. It doesn’t have to be grueling and it doesn’t have to be a fight, just five minutes talking about the parts of politics you’re interested in with some friends or family members. Jog each other’s memory, or fill in each other’s blind spots, or learn more together. 

We haven’t forgotten. We just need a little help remembering.

I leave you with a challenge: talk about politics more. It doesn’t have to be grueling and it doesn’t have to be a fight, just five minutes talking about the parts of politics you’re interested in with some friends or family members.

About the Contributor
Acadia Bost, Staff Reporter
Acadia Bost is a returning Editor-in-Chief for ‘The Science Survey.’ Placing an emphasis in their writing on the more structural, long term problems New Yorkers experience, they hope to push systemic issues closer to mainstream consciousness. Beyond the socio-political, Acadia is also deeply interested in film and media, and plans to continue writing about movies and music from a queer perspective. As an Editor-in-Chief, they perform in-depth edits of their peers' articles, often working with them over the course of the year to encourage the development of their individual voice as a writer. Outside of school, Acadia spends most of their time walking around the city with their close friends, watching films and reading. They plan to study journalism and social work in college, and eventually plan to live in the city working as a reporter and editor.