October 18, 2004

Students Consider Debates in Voting Decisions

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“If you don’t vote in this election, then I don’t want to hear your opinion for the next four years,” said Alison Auriemmo ’06.

With the election just weeks away, Auriemmo’s comment is strikingly relevant. It has been said the entire world has an opinion about the upcoming presidential election, but only U.S. citizens can decide the outcome. It smacks of wastefulness to have a vote and not use it. But how do voters decide whom to support?

Many turned to the recent presidential and vice presidential debates for an answer. Students packed the Straight to watch the first debate while others filled the community centers and TV lounges. Some even stayed home with a few friends and debate drinking game guidelines.

Those who had already decided who to vote for found that the debate only solidified their decision.

“Going in, I was pretty determined to vote for John Kerry. After the debate, it made me even more determined to vote for him because he seemed poised, confident and, as he constantly told us, ‘had a plan,’ something Bush wasn’t too keen upon,” said Deniz Ibrahim ’07.

While watching the debate, Ibrahim picked out Bush’s misuse of facts. “George Bush [was] not aware of the fact he owned part of a timber company, a fact proven by FactCheck.org. Great investment there, chief,” Ibrahim said.

Some students weren’t impressed with the debates. Lindsay Clutter ’07 watched part of the first debate. She said, “I thought a lot of what each candidate was saying was very hypocritical.” However, her vote is going to Bush.

Much of Clutter’s opinion was formed before the debate. She explains, “Bush has got a really good cabinet and he’s got the connections that can get things done. The only two reservations I had against voting for Bush were his stance on making homosexual marriages illegal, and that he wanted to ban abortions.

But then I found out he only wanted to ban partial birth abortions and there would be an exception clause where they would be allowed in the case of rape, incest or if the mother’s life or health was in danger.”

Rashel Dorleans ’07 had also watched part of the first debate. “I thought it was awful; it made me not want to vote for either of them.”

She explains, “They weren’t really responding to the questions. Supposedly Kerry won, but in the beginning he kept on saying what Bush did wrong, and he kind of fumbled around until he found one point to reiterate, but it had nothing to do with the question asked.”

Ibrahim feels differently. “I feel Kerry was a definite winner; a better speaker, better guided, and overall, someone who’d be in a better position to be our chief diplomat when it comes to foreign policy,” he said.

Emily Sze ’06, watched the second debate and shares Ibrahim’s opinion. “I feel that Kerry clearly won. Sometimes he came across as arrogant, but he is obviously very intelligent and articulate. Bush contradicts himself a lot and makes emotional appeals without real evidence or conviction.”

When asked whether she supports Kerry because of his policies or because he’s a non-Bush alternative, she replied, “Non-Bush. But he also seems very intelligent and knows politics — especially international ones, and I think we need to work with other countries to regain our power and respect.”

Sze knew that she would vote for Kerry beforehand, and the debate didn’t change her mind. “Do you want the many reasons why?” she asked.

“Bush is impulsive, emotional and seemingly uncontrollable. He’s done a lot of damage. In the wake of 9/11 he’s created the Patriot Act and other laws that will forever change our constitution and rights,” Sze continued.

Naila Saidu-Kamara ’07 is keeping her vote a secret. But she said, “Kerry can make a lot of promises, but we can’t really believe him because we haven’t seen him prove himself yet. But Bush, we have seen him in office, and can base our opinions on more solid things because we’ve seen him in action.”

Talia Fox ’07 will support Bush. She also watched the vice presidential debate and was especially impressed by Vice President Dick Cheney’s performance. “I had really liked Edwards before, but he kind of got on my nerves [in the debate]. He didn’t seem very well prepared, and Cheney really knew his stuff. He answered really knowledgably and Edwards was really fluffy and also demeaning, especially about Cheney’s lesbian daughter.”

“Now I favor Cheney,” Fox said.

What about Bush’s stage presence? “It’s Bush, you know, he makes stupid mistakes, but he’s endearing in the old grandpa kind of way. And I’m happy that someone like Cheney is supporting him.”

Fox explained her support for the Republican candidate. “I have a close connection to Israel. The war in Iraq, on one hand, I don’t support it at all, but I do like Bush’s stance on Israel. He supports the wall, and Kerry doesn’t. He won’t take a clear stance, so that bothers me. I wish he [Kerry] could tell me what he would do.”

Even though her vote will go to Bush, Fox confided that neither candidate is completely satisfactory. “I want Clinton back.”

Dorleans agreed. “I want Clinton back, too! He was a good president even though his personal life was a little shady.” However, her vote is going to “Kerry, unfortunately.” She said she wishes there were better candidates to choose from.

Almost every student had commented on the way the debaters carried themselves. Fox has a special theory about this.

She thinks that many people will be swayed by the candidates’ looks and not necessarily by their policies. “The only reason Kerry might win is because Edwards is charming: he’s not intimidating. Bush is like a grandpa, and Clinton was too, like an old gentleman, but he was intelligent and on the ball.” She says that her theory applies, “if you’re taking looks into consideration. But a lot of the American public will go by looks, by what they see on TV.”

Archived article by Irena Djuric
Sun Staff Writer