Every year, Townsend Harris High School, in Queens, New York, holds a schoolwide election simulation. Students are assigned roles and begin campaigning in September. Every candidate has a staff, raises money, and makes ads for the school’s radio and television network. This fall, the school simulated the Democratic and Republican primaries. Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden got into a rap battle. The American Family Association joined the fray and released a rap of its own.
The New Yorker’s Joshua Rothman first observed the simulation during the primaries of the 2016 Presidential election. At the time, he saw that Trump’s political arrival was greeted with distaste at a school where many students come from immigrant families. “There was some stuff Donald Trump was saying that, if you heard from any other candidate, it would frankly be disgusting,” Justin, who played Pete Buttigieg this cycle, said. But Togay, who was assigned the role of Trump—he’s a Democrat in real life—was determined to make the President more appealing to his classmates. “In preparation, I watched Alec Baldwin for a couple weeks,” he tells Rothman. For Togay and the Townsend Harris student body, Donald Trump’s unprecedented Presidency is normal. “We’ve seen what’s actually going on in Washington, because it’s been like a reality show to us,” Justin said. “This isn’t really surprising. This isn’t new.”