Professor Herbert Ershkowitz had a full house on Friday, September 24 for his Teach-In lecture on the historical ties of and influences that have impacted the 2004 Presidential campaign.
Opening with an explanation of the 1968 election and its impact, Ershkowitz offered historical context for the ensuing discussion.
It was in 1968 that George Wallace, then-governor of Alabama, decided to split from the Democratic Party due to his opposing views on integration. This split allowed Nixon to win the Presidential election and engage the southern states in the new Republican Party.
Since then, Republicans have won six of the last nine Presidential elections.
They have dominated the House of Representatives for 10 years and the Senate for two years. Republicans likewise control 28 of the 50 state governments.
This context set the stage for a discussion of today’s political issues, many of which are rooted in those of the past: foreign policy, labor unions, and women’s and minority rights chief among them.
“What did you think of the debate last night and what position or view do you have on where we’re heading?” Ershkowitz asked to open the floor. A discussion of United States foreign policy ensued. James Robinson, who did not watch the Presidential debate, believed that it was hard to predict which way the election would go, and was uncertain about both candidates.
“I don’t see [Kerry] pulling out of Iraq because politicians say anything during a campaign. What they actually do is more important.” Robinson said. “I don’t know about Kerry because I don’t think he has the killer instinct or knock-out
Students Terrence Harris and Tom Mosher disagreed.
“The situation in Iraq on its face is more difficult than that, because if we just get out of Iraq and
take all of our toys out and go home, other countries will think we don’t have the resolve,” said Harris. “As for Kerry, he has killer instincts, because anyone who wants to be President has to be a special person to put up with all of that aggravation in the first place.”
Mosher added, “The question isn’t who will pull us out of Iraq – it’s who will keep us out of Iran, or Syria, or other countries because Bush will not stop here. The Iraqi conflict isn’t something that you can pull out of easily. Kerry has a plan of getting us out in six months. It isn’t definite because if it goes well it goes well. It’s a highly volatile area where problems already exist.”
Along with their foreign policy proposals, the candidates’ actual performances in the debate were discussed.
Many students felt that President Bush presented himself poorly in the first debate by stuttering and taking long pauses. But some argued that the debate wouldn’t affect the voting habits of Bush supporters.
“Bush’s supporters support his personality first and then look at his policy,” student Andrew Thompson said.
Thom McDonald felt that too much time was spent talking about Iraq, and that other issues such as AIDS or North Korea should’ve been dealt with.
At next Friday’s Teach-In, Meridith Avakian will report on poetic justice and whether or not a poem can change the world.
Erin Schlesing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org