American Voter: Youssef Osman

Al Jazeera asks the same key questions about the presidential election to voters across the United States.

Youssef Osman's top election issue is justice [Courtesy of Youssef Osman]

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.

Youssef Osman

[Courtesy of Youssef Osman]

Age: 21

Occupation: Student 

Residence: Summit County, Ohio

Voted in 2016 for: N/A

Will Vote in 2020 for: Joe Biden

Top Election Issue: Justice

Will you vote? Why or why not?

“I will be voting in the upcoming election because I think it’s a duty for every American. And I think that these past four years have been very important in the sense that it’s impacted so many different people’s lives in very significant ways. Everyone has been touched by the pandemic and other crises that this country has faced, so I feel like everyone should vote. And I think that a large number of people will be voting this election season.”

What is your number one issue?

“My number one issue going into this election would be justice. And I think it’s twofold – I think it’s economic justice and social justice.

“I think that a lot of this has been exacerbated during the COVID crisis. And people have seen a lot of economic injustice during these times. We’ve seen billionaires make billions more. And I think that’s absolutely insane, considering that so many people are out of jobs and they don’t have a source of income.

“And, you know, 1 in 1,000 Black people have died from the COVID crisis [from this study], which is absolutely absurd. Economic injustice and social injustice [factor] in – [they go] hand in hand. This has really been a crisis that this country has been facing for a long time, but I think over the past four years, it’s just been [maximised] in so many different ways.”

Who will you be voting for?

“I’ll be voting for Joe Biden.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?

“I’m an international politics major, I love politics. But I’ve always been an independent, and I really just look at, every single election season, what the candidates stand for – I don’t really vote just based on party specifically.

“I’m going to vote for Joe Biden, because I appreciate his rhetoric. I appreciate his honesty. I appreciate the fact that he’s been through so many struggles throughout his life, but he still worked so hard for the American people. I appreciate that he’s very old, and he’s still passionate about what he does. And I appreciate the fact that he’s so passionate about civil rights.

“And, you know, [Biden] has had his wife die at a very young age, he had his daughter die at a very young age, he had his son die. He’s been through so many different struggles, but he’s still there fighting for the American people. And he’s just someone that I can relate to. I think that that’s a great role model for people to have in this country.”

Are you happy with the state of the country?

“Absolutely not. I’m not happy with the state of this country. If you asked me before the coronavirus, I think the answer wouldn’t be as extreme. But through this pandemic, just on a personal level, I’ve had a lot of friends struggle because of the coronavirus. I’m a student at Georgetown [University], and my senior year is virtual – completely virtual – and [I’m] having a lot of difficulty with my thesis project and some of my classes, and I’m not able to enjoy it like so many other people are in different parts of the world with presidents or leaders that dealt with the coronavirus in the proper way.

“It’s just very, very frustrating. I think it’s very frustrating for so many people across the country, and I’m not happy whatsoever because of it. I think so many lives could have been saved if the coronavirus was dealt with properly. I think that the justice issues that I was touching upon earlier, they wouldn’t be so severe. But because of what we’ve gone through with an administration that hasn’t dealt with us properly, we are in the state that we are in today.”

What would you like to see change?

“Going forward, I would like a president to be held accountable for rhetoric that he or she says. I would like a president to be a role model for kids all across this country and around the world. I want respect for America all across the world. Because I feel like throughout America’s history, we’ve built a great reputation within the international stage and all of that has come to just ashes with the Trump administration.

“It’s not a good thing. As an American, I have a lot of family overseas in the Middle East and I travel a lot overseas, and the first conversation I have with them is always about the state in America. And they think that America is just a laughing stock at this point. I don’t feel proud in that sense – it’s not a good feeling whatsoever.

“I would want a president that respects women. I would want a president that respects minorities. I would want a president that is honest and truthful, and doesn’t make fun of the media all the time. Unfortunately, this is not something that we’ve seen from President Trump, and it’s frustrating.”

Do you think the election will change anything?

“I do think the election will change things in the future. As President Obama has said, the United States has gone through a great trajectory of improvement in so many different metrics. But there just seems to be a blip with the Trump administration.

“I think that we can get back to that overall upward trajectory that we were going at. And I think it starts with the leader being honest and holding other people accountable, and being a role model for other people. And when we have that – as someone to look up to – I feel like everyone is going to work harder, and be more passionate about their work, and be more honest and trustworthy. And I think that America will be truly great again.”

What is your biggest concern for the US?

“I have two concerns for the United States right now. One is obviously the coronavirus pandemic – I’m afraid that if and when a vaccine comes out, people will be afraid to take it because everything was so rushed. I also think that because there’s so much misinformation always being spread around, people will be afraid to take the vaccine. I also don’t think that the vaccine will be readily available for all people who want access to it, and it will be given only to specific people. That’s not going to be fair or just whatsoever. It might be too expensive for many people.

“Another thing that I’m really worried about is social justice issues. I think that we’re in a really difficult state right now as a nation. I don’t know where things are going to go. I’m worried about this election season. I’m worried about there being rioting going into election night. And I think that the country has just become so polarised that a Republican doesn’t respect a Democrat, a Democrat doesn’t respect a Republican, everyone calls each other a liar, everyone calls each other names. And there is no unifying force or unifying leader whatsoever. And it’s not good at all for the state of a nation, and for young people that are looking at this country and seeing where things stand.

“If you saw the vice presidential debate, the last question they closed with was, I believe an eighth-grader, who asked the vice presidential candidates that whenever she turns on the news, everyone is always arguing and bickering, and it doesn’t seem like people want the best for America. How do we move forward? And the responses given were very diplomatic responses, but in reality, people only care about the best in their party. They only care about what’s best for their team, what’s best for their side. And that’s not good for the American people, because we’re the ones who are suffering. We don’t have another stimulus package right now because people are bickering, but so many are struggling right now. So how do we get over the hump? I think we need a leader to do that. And it’s just non-existent right now.”

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

“I touched upon this a little earlier in the interview. I’m from the Middle East originally— I’m Palestinian-Lebanese, and I’m proud of where I am. I’m also Muslim American. And very early on in the Trump administration, when I saw the Muslim ban, it affected people in my family and affected a lot of family friends as well. And it was just a bad omen, I think, for what was to come. I fear for my Muslim brothers and sisters, I feel for my brothers and sisters that are minorities all across the country, whether they’re Black or Hispanic or Muslim or Asian American. Trump’s America doesn’t truly have everyone’s best interest at heart.

“Also early on in the Trump administration, he cut a lot of funding for UNRWA [The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East]. UNRWA is how my parents went through school overseas in Lebanon. My parents are very educated – my dad has two master’s degrees and a PhD and owns his own company. He’s [been] employing almost 100 people for over 25 years now – this is helping the American economy. This is the American Dream. But he only got here because of UNRWA funding and opportunities that America gave him … for Trump to just say that UNRWA is a terrorist organisation or ‘we shouldn’t support people from overseas that may be politically aligned in a way that doesn’t align with what I believe in,’ that’s just creating a narrative of ‘us versus them’. And that’s extremely dangerous, I think. And, again, it’s not only the policies that are affecting people in this country, but internationally even, he’s going after people like me, and that’s not a good thing.”

Source: Al Jazeera