American Voter: Maria Koegl

Al Jazeera’s American Voter series asks the same questions to voters across the US.

Maria Koegl, American Voter [Courtesy of Maria Koegl]
Maria Koegl, American Voter [Courtesy of Maria Koegl]

US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.

Trump has been focusing on “law and order”, Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement, and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.

As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.

Maria Koegl

Maria Koegl [Courtesy of Maria Koegl]
Age: 30

Occupation: Operations manager, non-profit

Residence: Tarrant County, Texas

Voted in 2016: Hillary Clinton

Will vote in 2020: Joe Biden

Top election issue: Reproductive Rights

Will you vote? Why or why not?

“One hundred percent, I try to vote in every election down to the municipal level.

“In college, I learned about [suffragist] Alice Paul. And so I’ve always been very adamant about the fact that people fought for our right to vote. So, I think everyone should.”

What is your number one issue?

“My number one issue is reproductive healthcare, specifically abortion rights, but I’d like to back up and clarify, because I don’t think you can really have a conversation about abortion without having a conversation about everything that precedes it, which is: proper sexual education and access to preventative contraceptives. People that truly want to decrease the amount of abortions have to make sure we’re educating people and getting them the contraceptive that they need.

“Last year, when I was five months pregnant, we were at our 20-week anatomy scan and found out that our son had anencephaly. We wanted that pregnancy and loved our son. But with this medical diagnosis, with the discussion between our doctor and each other, we decided to terminate that pregnancy because we loved our son.”

“I tell that story because people kind of step lightly around using the word abortion in that kind of situation because they think well, that’s not what abortion is, but frequently that is what abortion is. And it’s important that we understand that abortion needs to be available and accessible for many, many reasons.

“Personally I don’t care what your reason is, because nobody comes to that decision lightly. I just want to fight the misconception that women are getting abortions because it’s convenient or it’s a means of birth control … The decision needs to be left to the individual and their doctor and we need to stay out of it and make sure that they have the right to have that discussion and safely access whatever medical procedure they see fit for their situation.”

Who will you vote for?

“Joe Biden.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?

“I’m a Democratic precinct chair. So, we kind of agree to support the Democratic Party. However, I know there’s some conflict around his nomination.

“I think it’s important that we step back and understand that when we vote for somebody, we aren’t in a dictatorship. So, we need to look at what the administration is going to look like that they bring in with them.

“So you know, federal judges that are getting appointed, and specifically Supreme Court justices. Those are far longer than four-year terms, right. So, we need to make sure that when we cast a vote, we’re looking at the long term ramifications … So, I am looking at the big picture of administration versus just a singular person.”

Are you happy with the state of the country?

“So that question made me go, ‘hmmm’.

“I’m generally a happy person … But we have to be honest in that happy really equates to being content, and who is really content with where we are currently, right?

“The way that marginalised communities are treated, the divisiveness and the polarisation of our society. How can you be content with the way people are being treated?”

“I’m happy that there’s people who are fighting for the progression that we need, and I’m happy to be an ally and try to help in any way I can, and join that fight but we just have so far to go for true equality that I don’t think anybody should be content with where we are.”

Do you think the election will change anything?

“Yes. I think every election changes things.

“I don’t care if it’s the school board, your city council – It’s either taking a step in the direction that you think the country should go or maybe we’re taking two steps back. But every single election, every appointment changes something every time.”

What is your biggest concern for the US?

“I really feel like one of our biggest problems is we carry so much baggage. We label people, label ourselves and label others. It just becomes ‘us and them’.

“We don’t talk to each other to listen, we talk to each other, waiting for our turn to say what we think is fact. We just talk at people basically. We’re not really having conversations.”

“It’s like the second I hear you’re Republican or the second I hear you’re a Democrat. Well, that’s it. I’ve already made my decision. It doesn’t matter what story you’re going to tell me of how you arrive there. And until we can have respectful real conversations with each other and see each other as you know, a human and an equal. Nobody’s gonna win, we’re never gonna find happiness.

“On that note, maybe we need to get a third party. We need to understand that political parties aren’t static and they can change. Things change, things evolve, people evolve. And if we can’t understand that this is an ever-changing evolution, then how do you think we’re going to move forward?”

Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you want to share?

“I think we just need to everyone needs to, you know, take a beat, step back, look at each other as humans … We need to sit down and have real conversations and I know it’s cliche, but like, reach across the aisle because if we don’t have compromise and we can’t have discussions – Nobody’s right all the time.

“So, we need to be able to have done difficult conversations with each other, normalise doing a self-evaluation and deciding maybe I’m not right. Maybe somebody gave me some new facts, and I need to evaluate that. But we’re so defensive and want to shout what we think is true. But is it? we don’t know yet. Right?

“I was completely different in my political stance growing up. And then I learned some new information in college, met some new people, you know, I’m obviously I’m a white woman, I met minorities, people in marginalised communities, and it really opened my eyes to my advantages, my inherent advantages as a white woman.

“Don’t sit yourself in an echo chamber. Meet some people that will challenge your perceptions and your opinions, and just do the work. And then I think we’ll be in a better place together and choose leaders who will really help our country move forward for everybody.”

Source : Al Jazeera

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