Students are giving mixed reactions following the results of the election last week, but one group remains fixed on following the issues.
Before the election results came in, students voted, campaigned and volunteered on behalf of the party or candidate of their choice. Various groups were active on campus, including Mainer’s United. Students geared up, rallying efforts, coming together in the College Republicans and College Democrats to organize in support of the parties with which they affiliate, but now that all is said and done, Obama is in the White House. King is in the senate, and Question One has passed.
One student, a junior social work major, Colby Williams explained that he did not vote for Obama, but instead voted for Ron Paul as a write-in. “I wouldn’t say I was surprised with the election,” he said. He also explained that for him the two-party system does not allow for people to best express their voices in the political process. But, he says, now Obama will not be focused on the task of re-election. Instead, he will be more fully focused on important issues such as the economy. However, Williams does not feel that the election results will change the status quo for USM students in terms of student debt and rising tuition costs. “One billion dollars was spent [on the campaign], but little has changed in regard to who’s in power,” he said. Question One, he explained, seemed to have taken the foreground in Maine this election.
Williams also expressed his concern about a potentially limited amount of student involvement with election efforts and the election presence on campus in general. “I was surprised not to see more about the election on campus,” he said. He noted that he thought it had been a relatively quiet election at USM.
Nathan Polhemus, vice president of the College Democrats, claimed that the College Democrats had been quite active this election, reporting that their efforts to get out the vote resulted in 169 students voting the last day of early voting and 304 voting on election day. In total, that is 511 students that the College Dems got to the polls. Figures have also shown that Democratic state senate candidate for district six, James Boyle, was elected with 50 percent of votes for him coming from USM students. The College Dems feel that they played a major role in Boyle’s election, and they were pleased with the outcome. “We were very happy that all our hard work paid off. It was reinforcement of our beliefs that if we got out the vote, we could win this,” Polhemus said.
The College Dems don’t plan on going away, either. Polhemus explained that now is the time for the College Dems to come to work even harder. The group wants to disrupt the usual apathy that settles in following an election. Polhemus stressed the importance of involvement and vocality on political issues during the elected officials’ terms. “We aim to be a general voice for local Democrats and a way for students to get involved,” Polhemus said. The group will adopt an “issue of the month” then a group opinion followed by a draft of a letter and an attempt to sway the votes of local or federal politicians to best represent the views of students and local Democrats. Polhemus mentioned that he thinks some of the new laws passed in Colorado and Washington on legal recreational marijuana and here in Maine on gay marriage may become “hot issues,” as they are legal on the state level, but not at the federal level. This contradiction, he predicts, will become an important issue for politicians in the near future.
Polhemus summed up the response of the group to the election results. “It was a very good night.”
Another student, Kate Wolfinger, a junior and Biology major, described her family as mostly Republican and explained that she views the election results as someone who has heard a lot from both sides of the political spectrum. Wolfinger voted for Obama, but she explained that she almost didn’t vote because of the frustration she experienced hunting for honest candidate information. She also acknowledged that her family’s belief that Obama has not been the most successful in terms of the economy is not ill-founded. She stressed government investments in long-term initiatives in the environment and the hard sciences. “Something needs to be done,” she said, referring to disadvantaged people living in poor conditions in this country who are unable to obtain the resources they need to be more successful. She believes that Obama is more likely to understand and engage in resolving those issues.
Senator Angus King, she said, wants to internally change the senate and take a more individual look at the issues instead of following party lines. Marriage equality, she agrees, was a very important issue. In the future, she hopes to see a more open definition of family, one in which the same-sex couple will be viewed as equal with all other Maine couples.
Chris Camire, chair of the student senate, told The Free Press about his reaction to the election results. “Although I don’t agree with President Obama completely, I stand behind him – he’s my President.” However, he is concerned about the negative effects of partisan politics. According to Camire, this election is a clear example of what partisan politics can do to a country. “Good Americans are pitted against each other instead of working together to build our nation for future generations,” he said.
As the first independent candidate elected to serve in the U.S. Senate, Angus King appears to agree with Camire. In his acceptance speech, King spoke out against partisan politics, saying that his election was a clear indicator that Mainers agreed that the end of partisan politics should be near. “Maine is leading by saying we’re tired of the political divisions that are keeping us from solving real problems, and we’re tired of politicians whose main purpose seems to be to divide us instead of unite us,” he said.
Williams is an example of the Mainer who wants to vote between the party lines, who wants to vote for the issues and not for the party. “Sometimes it’s almost like you have to choose between the lesser of two evils,” he said laughing. “You have to pick one way or the other. It would be nice if there was a choice that would show both sides of your beliefs, social and fiscal.”