Expect the unexpected in the 2024 election

Posted: May 22, 2024

With two very elderly candidates, one candidate facing criminal trials & AI deepfakes undermining truth, this election will be unique. Will peace follow the outcome?

As the 2024 election approaches, many concerns are being raised. It has been described by many to be unlike any election before. The outcome will not only shape politics, but will affect every single U.S citizen and the future of the country.

For most if not all of the students attending the Minnehaha Upper School, this will be the first election students can actively participate in considering the majority would have been in grades 5-7 during the last election. Whether it be through voting, volunteering, or even studying what is truly going on in the world of politics, each and every student can have an impact.

While considering these factors, a key concept to point out is that this election is extremely different from the rest. With Donald Trump facing four separate criminal indictments, the new addition of AI deepfakes, the age of both major candidates, and the turbulent transfer of power following the 2020 election, Americans have the right to be more than concerned.

“This election is going to be extremely different from the rest,” first-year James Elving predicted.

Trump campaigns while facing four criminal indictments

Let’s take a closer look at these factors. One if not the most unprecedented events is the possible re-election of Donald Trump. In the past, the thought of a previous president/current candidate being involved in masses of legal chaos was unimaginable. The 2024 election makes these seemingly far-off thoughts a reality with Donald Trump re-running for office.

“Trump has a lot of allegations,” Nathan Johnson, social studies teacher, said. “There are dozens of criminal charges that have been made against him and various federal and state courts.”

As of May 2024, Trump was faced with 91 felony charges while involved in four criminal cases.

In the New York state court, Trump is accused of falsifying business records and possibly violating election campaign funding regulations in an attempt to pay “hush money” to an actress after an alleged extramarital affair.

The trial has begun. In Georgia state court, Trump is charged with conspiracy in an effort to overturn election results in a state he lost in 2020.In federal court, Trump was charged with conspiracy and obstruction in connection with the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the Capitol when lawmakers were attempting to certify Biden’s election victory.

In federal court, Trump is charged with illegally possessing classified documents at his Florida home and obstructing officials’ attempts to collect them.

Despite all of this, Trump remains the leading Republican candidate in the election, which raises the question of what has changed in American society to give him possession of such a large fan base.

“It’s a unique constitutional issue that has not really been addressed before. There has been a dramatic change in the last 50 years in terms of whether Americans trust systems and authority,” Johnson said. “The internet and social media have also fragmented the information that we get. There are just fewer authorities that everybody listens to and everybody trusts”.

Many of Trump’s supporters are in doubt of the current political state and are seeking a change. Some may like his ideas, morals, or even the discrimination that he fights for. Nonetheless, a majority rallied for him because he was different from any candidate before.

“I think for many people his appeal is based on the fact that he defies conventions or the way that things are normally done,” Johnson said. “For some people that fact that he would have an against the system type of personality, style, and criminal conviction attached to his name kind of adds to the aura that he is a little bit of a rebel.”

In regard to individual beliefs, it is likely that Americans have already made up their minds one way or another about Donald Trump, good or bad.

“Even if he is convicted people will still think that there was something rigged and some sort of conspiracy,” Johnson said. “My biggest concern is that the cohesion of the country or the unity of the country would be fragmented even more. I think that’s a likely possibility which is not good down the road.”

The rise of AI will spread misinformation

Artificial intelligence is something that students are hearing about on a daily basis. As AI continues to advance at a fast pace, not only does it impact our small Minnehaha community, but additionally it is possible to have large effects on politics. With over 2 billion voters anticipating elections this year in democracies around the world, many are questioning whether AI will have an impact on the outcomes.

“I think that AI could have an impact on the 2024 election,” said Kyle Crowell, M.A. tech support specialist. “There’s a lot of discussion based around deep fakes, voice emulation, and things like that. It’s definitely an interesting subject.”

Over the past few months, the new deep fake feature has left many internet users in shock. An AI deep fake is a video, image or sound recording that has been altered to fake personalities, create voice audios, and cause the overall spread of misinformation. It is now possible to type any message and make it appear that Donald Trump or Joe Biden actually said it. Not only does AI promote false statements, it also undermines the “proof” of what someone actually said – now someone can claim it was only a deep fake.

”Deep fakes are kind of like a simulation on a digital simulacrum or somebody,” Crowell said. ”It is a spooky thing to be able to see what appears to be a famous person, whether it’s a politician or even just a celebrity, seeing them like a parrot or puppet.”

This “spooky” idea became a reality for many earlier this year leaving the voters of New Hampshire in awe. Steve Kramer, a political consultant, allegedly created a deep fake in which President Biden seemed to discourage participation in the New Hampshire presidential primary through a voice message that spread false information. Biden never did it; instead, a recording was created using AI tools, and the damage that was done is irreplaceable. This is only a single example of AI affecting the world of politics, but it is a large concern regarding the election and is something that everyone must watch out for.

“AI is an interesting thing right now,” Crowell said. “It’s kind of at this early stage where people are still trying to really understand it. I think it’s less of something that we will ultimately say pain and more of something that we understand how to live with.”

Voters express concern over candidates’ ages

On election day – Nov. 5, 2024 – Trump will be 78, and Biden will be nearly 82. They are already two of the three oldest presidents in history (Ronald Reagan was almost 78 at the end of his presidency). According to an ABC News/Ipsos poll, 59% of Americans believe that both Biden and Trump are too old to serve another time; 27% think that Biden is too old to serve another term but Trump should still be eligible; only 11% of Americans say that neither is too old to serve again.

Fears of political violence

Another thing that Americans have had to live with is the not-so-peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 election. There are many concerns about how Trump and his supporters would respond if he loses again in 2024. Would he again claim that the result was due to fraud? Would there be more violence? These factors all tie back into ideas relating to the transfer of power.

“One really important sign of a smooth operating democracy is the peaceful transfer of power,” said Reid Westrem, who teaches ancient history, which includes lessons on the birth of democracy. “This is something that many have concerns about in regard to this year’s election.”

The transfer of power is meant to be a peaceful transition after the election. Politicians are expected to hand over their leadership role to the newly elected president without conflict. Unfortunately, this smooth transition that a majority would hope to see does not always happen.

In the months leading up to the 2020 election, Trump claimed that it was not possible for him to lose unless his opponent cheated. When he did lose, his supporters rallied together to show their disbelief at the outcome. On January 6, 2021, when the results were officially certified, there was an insurrection at the Capitol. Things became violent, as some rioters chanted, “Hang Mike Pence” (Trump’s vice president, who presided over the certification) while others were vandalizing property.

“This is not an example of a peaceful transfer of power,” said Westrem. “Now that the same two candidates are running again, many people are worried that the same thing is going to happen.”

This is a true concern in 2024 that has not been a part of American elections for a long time. It is hard to predict whether emotions will escalate or whether voters will believe the results.

“People have stopped searching for objective truth and are more comfortable hearing what they want to hear,” said Westrem, who also teaches journalism. “Some only look for information from the sources that will tell them what they want to hear.”

The spread of misinformation is a large reason that transfer of power can be complicated. In addition to this, emotions tend to get the best of people.

“In this election, I think that the emotions will get in the way of transferring power,” Westrem said. “It has always been true that people hope their candidate wins. What’s different now is that there’s so much more anger and threats of violence.”

In March 2024, Trump said in a campaign speech: “If I don’t get elected, it’s going to be a blood bath for the country.”

All some can wish for is peace and sanity after the outcomes that are soon to be America’s reality.

“I am most concerned that the rightfully elected candidate actually gets to serve as president,” Johnson said, “that people will accept and trust the fellow Americans who are registered and counting the votes and actually have the courage to accept the result.”

As the electron gets closer each and every day it is important for voters to stay informed about concerns and make educated decisions when voting.

“Pay attention, know what’s happening, and how everything affects you,” said government teacher Kayleen Berg.

You may also like…

PWHL Minnesota season in review

From underdogs to champions, PWHL Minnesota had a whirlwind of a season As the last buzzer sounded, Minnesota’s gloves and helmets went flying. Only this time, it was for real.  Game four of the PWHL finals went into two overtime periods before Minnesota's Sophie...

Churches Pushing Assimilation

In 1493, following Columbus’ arrival in the New World, the Doctrine of Discovery changed the scope of European involvement in the Americas for centuries. Signed by Pope Alexander VI, this Doctrine permitted Europeans, the Portuguese and Spanish in particular, to claim...

Track and field record-breakers

Click the photo below to view a galleryAthletes smash school records! (This story has been updated to include end-of-season records.) It’s been yet another record-breaking season for the Minnehaha track and...

Are high-school grades accurate?

How grade inflation is affecting the current generation of students In the education system, grades are everything to a student… or are they? They often are used to help others rank your work ethic and mentality. However, these numbers are starting to steer far off...

The ins and outs of sports medicine

MA's athletic trainer and strength & conditioning coach support students Minnehaha is home to many exceptional sports teams and hundreds of student-athletes.  Behind those teams and athletes are many amazing coaches who know how to bring out the best in each...