Column: Looking back on the election

I suppose not talking about the election in my first post-Nov. 2 column would be like not talking about the one ton, victorious elephant in the room. Looking back on the events of the past week and, for that matter, the past months of the election, I realized how intertwined the election had been with my college career. From my early days as a freshman going up to College Park to find out what the whole Dean thing was about, to seeing Bill Clinton at Dream, to working on a congressional campaign this summer, to nervously watching the election returns a few nights ago, Election Day has been an integral part of my college experience.

In roughly seven hours, this year-plus odyssey was decided by people who had been paying close attention for a few weeks. If most of the voters were paying mild attention to the election, then a political junkie like me was all but consumed by it. My roommate stumbled upon a website that totaled the multitude of polls into one electoral map. I was there at least once a day. Add to this the roughly 27 hours or so a day I was watching the various cable news channels, and you could say I was pretty well informed.

I didn’t think it would happen, but it actually got to the point to where I was sick of all the coverage. It wasn’t the amount of coverage that bothered me, but rather the shallowness of it. Much was made about these “undecided voters.” Far from being one myself, it took me a while to understand why the choice for president was such a hard decision for some people. The more and more I watched, the more I understood. Despite the hours, upon hours, upon hours of coverage of the two candidates, there was surprisingly little depth. Segment after segment discussed each of the campaign’s strategy. By strategy, it would be more precise to say: “What candidate X did to pander to group Y today.” This entailed a clip of candidate X at a rally saying that he cared deeply about the concerns of group Y in front a group of people with placards declaring “Group Y’ers for candidate X!” Absent from all of this sound-bitery was any effort to address the issues facing our nation.

Were I a thoughtful, but indecisive voter, I’m not sure if this coverage would have swayed me. No one votes on how good the strategy of a campaign is. No one went into the voting booth Tuesday and thought: “Well, the Democrats had a good get out the vote plan, but I thought Bush did a better job of hitting the key swing states.”

Even more upsetting than the coverage of the election was of course the outcome. Frankly, the most worrisome thing for me as a proud liberal wasn’t Bush’s victory. This is a president who after September 11 had a 90 percent plus approval rating. No matter how you slice it, that is pretty hard to beat. More disturbing to me was the 11 out of 11 states that voted to ban gay marriage. It wasn’t like gay marriage was legal in any of these places. What these voters did was to forbid something that was already illegal. These votes didn’t just take place in the red states. Michigan and Oregon, two firmly blue states, passed such bans. This shows how far this country is from liberal thinking on social issues.

Even more troubling to this Democrat were the results of the Kentucky Senate race. Incumbent Republican Jim Bunning won with 51 percent. Normally, a Republican doing so poorly in a heavily Republican state would be good news for Democrats. It wasn’t. During the campaign, Sen. Bunning remarked that his opponent looked like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons. He tried to duck out of a debate, and was then caught using a TelePrompTer in it. Bunning also falsely accused members of his opponents’ campaign of roughing up his wife. As a liberal, it worries me that considering all this, Kentuckians were still: “Hey, he’s not a Democrat.”

On Election Day my roommate and I were watching reports of two and three hour-long waits to vote. We figured these were Democratic voters. We thought you don’t stand in line like that for hours to vote for the status quo. We were wrong. The other side was just as fired up as we were, I have to hand it to them. They did a heck of a job in getting their base out. So my only presidential election at GW didn’t turn out like I had planned. Finally, I’ll have time to focus on the midterm elections in 2006.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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