Editor’s note: This is another installment in an occasional series for which reporters at The Times-Tribune and other CNHI newspapers across the U.S. talk to voters about issues that matter to them and their thoughts about the country’s political landscape.
BARBOURVILLE — Ashley Ghantous is a native of Williamsburg and a registered Democrat, and while she feels strongly about her beliefs on policies, she admits that she doesn’t advocate for those policies as much as she’d like.
“I don't consider myself heavily involved [in politics]. I try to keep myself informed and updated with information so I can make my own selections confidently. I don't advocate as much as I should, in the area being anything other than Republican can be difficult at times.”
Although she feels like her political opinions vary from most around her in her current home of Barbourville, and the rest of the Tri-County, Ghantous says that she was raised like many of us, in a Christian, conservative household. However, Ghantous says watching her grandmother fight to make ends meet while she was growing up, in some ways helped shape her political beliefs.
“I watched my grandmother work (at times multiple) jobs that physically wore her body down so much and she still had difficulties making ends meet. Now that she's retired her insurance is horrid and at times she struggles to pay for her doctor's visits. The fact that someone who has worked so hard for her entire life is having trouble seeing the people keeping her alive and healthy is sickening. Something is clearly wrong with this system.”
Ghantous says she did not vote for President Donald Trump in the last election. She says the night he was elected changed things for her.
“My interest and activity with politics changed. I went to sleep on election night confident that there was no way Donald J. Trump could win and woke up heartbroken. It opened my eyes a lot. This is the new reality. This is what's possible now. As overdramatic as that seems, the hatred he spreads is a poison. I feared nothing good could come of his presidency. Four years later, not much has changed with my thoughts on Trump, but I do talk about politics with friends and family more and make sure everyone I know feels some pressure to vote.”
As she tries to use the election of Trump as an opportunity to talk to folks about voting, Ghantous’ disdain for the President is as strong as it was four years ago, if not more.
“Donald Trump embodies so much of what's wrong in this nation,” she said. “He's corrupt, he's disturbed, and I'm repulsed more and more everyday by his lack of sensitivity and sympathy. Since being in office he has divided this country more than I would have thought possible in this day and age. With all the progress we have made throughout history, having him in office is a huge step back.”
Ghantous says she votes based on policies more than party affiliation. Those policies that are most important to her are prison reform, climate change, immigration, healthcare, gun control.
She is against privatized prisons and wants a mandatory minimum sentencing. She also wishes for voting booths in prisons, and thus restoring voting rights to convicted felons.
“Private prisons are nothing more than modern day slavery. Prisoners work while incarcerated for almost nothing while living in terrible conditions being denied a lot basic needs. Prisoners are still humans and they deserve to be heard, voting booths insure that happens. If these people are supposed to be in prison preparing themselves for the world outside, they should have a say in how that world is governed. Mandatory minimum sentencing to me seems unfair, every situation is different and in some cases that minimum is too long.”
When it comes to immigration, Ghantous is in favor of decriminalizing illegal entry into the United States. She says that the process of entering this country legally is lengthy and difficult.
“People aren't dying trying to enter the U.S. because they want a change of scenery, we need to provide more urgent entry for those fleeing dangerous situations, but until then decriminalizing illegal entry would be helpful.”
Ghantous would like to see the government ban fracking and regulate the emissions of carbon monoxide to help in the battle of climate change. She would like to see more extensive background checks and mental health checks being conducted before one can purchase a firearm, and says that would like to see a ban on all assault weapons.
She is also a supporter of medicare for all.
“Medicare for all, because I'm 25 and $15,000 in debt to hospitals because I had a terrible immune system as a teenager.”
Ghantous says she will vote for Bernie Sanders if given the opportunity in the next election and wants to stress the importance of talking about politics.
“I urge everyone to educate themselves and spread that knowledge with their friends and families,” she said. “Get politics back on the table at family gatherings and stop being afraid to call your uncle a racist. The time for change is here.”