Student leaders debate significance of Obama’s victory

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Student leaders from the College Republicans and the College Democrats gathered Monday in the Marvin Center to voice their opinions and reactions to the results of last week’s presidential election.

The event was part of the REAL Conversation series, a semester long forum that promotes a healthy discussion about issues in order to encourage diversity and multiculturalism. During the discussion, the speakers debated various issues surrounding the election including the significance of President-elect Barack Obama’s victory and the effect of the media on the presidential campaigns.

“Barack Obama’s administration will lead to more progressive policies,” said CD President Cory Struble, a senior. “Barack Obama’s presidency will bring about change that is representative of all Americans, not just ‘red America’ or ‘blue America.’ The tone of politics in Washington will change.”

CR secretary Andrew Clark said the American people might have actually voted against President George W. Bush and the last eight-years rather than for change.

“I think the vote that we saw last Tuesday was largely a repudiation of the Bush administration,” said Clark, a sophomore.

Struble said he thinks people voted for Obama and the change his administration would bring.

“I think that if you ask people who voted for Sen. Barack Obama, they will say they voted for change and not necessarily against Bush,” Struble said adding, “(New congressmen) will be part of the new bipartisan coalition that Barack Obama is planning.”

Clark said Obama may face an uphill battle as the president-elect tries to make the United States more liberal.

“Obama has some vague politics and it will be interesting to see if he can take America into a more liberal direction and how the public will respond to this policy because I believe that we still are semi-right country,” he said.

Political science professor Eric Lawrence said the election results highlight a significant change in the country.

“Our nation electing an African-American president is encouraging and symbolic,” Lawrence said. “It’s a step forward.”

Lawrence said that one of the best ways to analyze elections is to look at forecast models, which compare past elections to the most recent election and the results of those elections, in terms of voter turnout, media influence and the ideology of the public. He said the results show that the tones of the political advertisements were much more negative in 2004 than they were in 2008.

“Most people don’t pay attention to politics most of the time,” Lawrence said. “There are some people who are affected by soft media, venues and shows such as ‘Oprah’ and Jon Stewart, but I think it’s a pretty small segment of the population.”

Junior Morgan Ray, a student coordinator of REAL Conversations, said the forum allowed political interested students to receive in-depth information from knowledgeable professors in the field.

“The people who attended the event received valuable information about the election and now can vote on facts and intellect in future elections,” Ray said.

Grace Henry, multicultural counselor and director in leadership and development at the Student Activities Center, said she was happy with how the discussion turned out.

“I wanted this discussion to really be about the election and not the petty details,” said Grace Henry, multicultural counselor and director in leadership and development at the Student Activities Center. “I really wanted the event to emphasize the importance of this election and its international impact. One of the things I took away from the event was that in actuality the participation of young voters only increased by one percent.”

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