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Back Talk: What do you think of the 2012 presidential race and what it means for your future?

TribLocal and The Mash, the Chicago Tribune’s weekly newspaper and website serving teenagers in the city and suburbs, recently asked area high school students about the most pressing questions they have for members of their parents’ generation. As part of the regular Back Talk column, we’ll pose these questions to TribLocal’s parent bloggers, who are able to draw on their own experiences raising kids in the suburbs.

Editor’s note: The following letters have been edited for clarity and length.

Matt Suppelsa, junior, Evanston Township High SchoolMatt Suppelsa, junior, Evanston Township High School

Matt Suppelsa, junior, Evanston Township High School

QUESTION: What do you think of the 2012 presidential race and what it means for your future?

I can’t help but hold a very low opinion of American politics considering a near default by the government and false promises from both sides.

On the Republican side, the most pressing issues to way too many voters, in my opinion, are the social issues, such as the vital “pro-life” stance that any Republican hopeful must believe in if they are to even stand a chance for the nomination. Moderate Republicans and “swing-votes” in Congress are a thing of the past.

The problem with such a focus on social issues is that much more pressing issues, such as the economy–which, in the face of a looming European disaster (to which many American banks are scrambling to reduce their exposure), as well as the maze of foreign affairs that our future president must be able to navigate, presents at least one issue most candidates have not proven they are able to handle.

President Obama’s administration has had equal difficulty in getting things done, and when he does, still faces criticism from both sides. He seemingly lacks the political skill to navigate a divided Congress, and has failed in some areas of foreign policy, such as the Arab Spring in Egypt and his lack of a better plan to prevent all-out nuclear war between Israel and Iran.

I believe this election will play a major role in determining foreign opinion of the U.S., as well as whether we will continue our oppressive and imperialistic ways throughout the Middle East.

It will also determine how the next potential financial crisis will be solved. Republicans seem to take no issue with cutting vital programs and education funding without considering implications other than reducing the deficit and lowering taxes.

I think this could have a direct impact on many aspects of life, especially the future of public education (which is in need of serious reform), and my generation’s ability to get a job after college.

* * *

Graylyn McKeithen, senior, Morgan Park High School

Graylyn McKeithen, senior, Morgan Park High School

I think this year’s presidential race, from what I understand, has been a death match between all the Republicans, while the Democrats, or at least THE Democrat, have decided to sit back and ride out the rest of Obama’s current presidency and swoop down at the last minute to finish off the winner (but Obama might not be able to).

Not to be too metaphorical, I think the Republicans have been tearing each other down, competing for votes, without regard toward their fellow candidate.

As for the future, it’s not necessarily all that bright when I think of the prospect of President Gingrich. But it’s also “whatever” to me since I’m going to college and no candidate has a plan for free education, the only thing that has my concern.

* * *

Elandra Gilmore, sophomore, Chicago Military Academy-Bronzeville

Elandra Gilmore, sophomore, Chicago Military Academy-Bronzeville

Hello, The Mash and TribLocal, I’m Elandra Gilmore, a sophomore at Chicago Military Academy-Bronzeville. As an avid reader of The Mash, I read this question in your “Talk 2 Me” section and I was immediately excited that adults took their time to see how teenagers felt about the race for the presidency.

Well, let me start with the major contender, our current president, Barack Obama. I feel that Obama has so much to do in the office and shouldn’t leave just yet because Obama has done a lot over these four years to clean the mess that President Bush made, and maybe a lot people don’t realize it yet, but luckily I do.

Obama’s the prime example of what the 21st century president should be like: charismatic, charming, a hard worker, one who never gives up in the sight of danger and a great man. Obama reminds me of Spider-Man a lot because they are both young players in a big game (Obama, the government, and Spidey, the superhero world) and not widely respected among their peers (Obama not being addressed as “Mr. President” by some Republicans while Spidey gets daily tongue lashings from J. Jonah Jameson in his newspaper).

Obama should have four more rounds in this presidential game because, honestly, he really deserves it. The other contenders in the race–Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul–really make me sick!

They all treat this race like a popularity contest to see who can be on the front page on every newspaper or become a hot topic on television, and I don’t like that because that makes me believe that you’re running to get your five minutes of fame being a president.

Their theories to help the people are so wack and out-of-order that it’s a shame; they only seem to help the rich instead of taking care of the middle class or the poor, which sickens me.

You want to be president, then show me how seriously you are trying to be one, instead of telling me how many ex-wives you have or letting Darth Vader’s theme be your campaign music. I’m not feeling any of these men should become my president because they’re just not worthy.

This race is an ulitmate (testament) to my future, which depends on whether my mom can keep her job and whether I can afford for college, so that’s why I believe in Barack Obama so much. Two of his focuses are to save people from losing their jobs and make college affordable, which draws me in.

If he fixes that then I think I’ll be on my way to bright, debt-free college days.

 * * *

Find out more about The Mash at facebook.com/mashchicago or http://www.themash.com/about/. Have a question and want a straight answer from a teen perspective? Write to themash@tribune.com or tweet your question to @mashchicago with the hashtag #backtalk.

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