by Myra Saturen
November 16, 2012
Nine days after the 2012 general election, the NCC Peace Forum and the Political Science Club held a panel discussion to ponder what it all meant. The event, which attracted students, faculty and staff, was moderated by Assistant Professor of History Sholomo Levy.
Levy began the discussion by asking participants about their election experiences, whether as voters, campaign workers or observers. Several NCC students related their various active roles in the election, from driving resident students to the polls to canvassing for a candidate. A number of students reported voting for the first time.
The discussion was vigorous and ranged over a generous area of electoral topics. A sampling of the issues and questions and opinions expressed included:
•What is the history of photo ID laws? Traditionally, identification has been established at the time of registration and not at the polls. The controversial push for picture ID laws has arisen recently.
•The role of the presidential debates: the debates left out many important topics, such as the Patriot Act and poverty in the United States (1 in 5 children are poor). The choice of debaters is decided according to poll results. Campaign cycles, in general, seem too long to many.
• Is our government a shared monopoly of Republicans and Democrats, with other parties given too little attention?
•Inequality of polling places; concern that wealthier districts can afford machines that keep better track of votes than do the hand-counted voting mechanisms found in poorer districts.
•Demography. Exit polls indicated that young, women, Latino, African American, and Asian voters cast ballots predominantly for Barack Obama, while white males tended overall to vote for Mitt Romney. Many of the Obama voters felt Obama and the Democratic Party support issues of importance to them, as reflected, for example in the Lily Ledbetter Paycheck Fairness Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, both signed by the President. The question was raised of whether the Republican Party will have to reconsider its agenda as the country's demographic changes.
•What should government do for its citizens? Are government benefits "hand-outs" or "entitlements?" Should it make a difference whether recipients paid taxes into a program, such as Social Security, or did not?
•· The advent of the Internet and its effect on pre-election polls. Now that most people get their data from and communicate online, what is the accuracy of polls conducted via landline phones?
•Gerrymandering, the practice of manipulating geographic boundaries for voting purposes. Is this a political move by one major party or is this maneuver practiced by both? Should the moving of boundaries be determined by parties or by some objective pattern?
Elections in Pennsylvania and Ohio were also briefly discussed.
Kiki Anastasakos, associate professor of political science, concluded the discussion by disagreeing with the news pundits, who typically described the election as reflecting a "bitterly divided nation." Rather, she said, "disagreement means that individuals can form their own opinions. Disagreement does not make a 'bitterly divided nation.' " She said that portraying diversity of opinion as divisiveness makes it harder for people to talk across party lines.
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