Election 2004 gave 58 million Americans reason to celebrate, and left an additional 55 million wondering what went wrong. Last Friday’s Teach-In sought to answer their questions and offer some closure on the election.
“Maybe today’s teach-in is going to be more of a therapy session, but I think in the end we’re all here because we’re interested in what will happen in the next five to twenty years from now,” said Professor Ralph Young.
Professor James Hilty, the speaker at Friday’s Teach-In, believed prior to the election that it would be one for the ages.
“It occurred to me that there are a lot of questions that we have. Some of them are: what happened, what was our investment in it, what will happen now, what can we learn from this, and what is the impact or historical importance of this election?” Hilty explained. “You have been suffering through this for a long time, and you have been engaged in it, you have studied it, you’re learning about it and have been working on it.”
According to Hilty, the election proved that Democrats could aim to carry the white male vote, something that hasn’t occurred since 1964. And although young voters didn’t turn out in record numbers, Hilty believes that they have made their viewpoints known.
“Before, there was a tendency to think young people weren’t involved because they weren’t participating in arguments over the war. But this election showed that they’re thinking these issues through,” he said.
As for the outcome, Hilty claimed that there were several influential factors.
One of them was the fact that evangelical Christians turned out in force, which was beneficial to the Republican Party.
There was also the issue of voting for moral reasons rather than economic reasons. Among the Republicans, 80 percent cited moral values as most important in casting their votes. The opposite held true for Democrats, who cited other areas such as the economy or the war as most important.
Voter’s loyalties changed due to the threat of terrorism and the war. Soccer moms who voted for Democrats in the past on family and social issues this year supported President Bush because they considered homeland security to be a part of family issues.
Hilty said that the media also had a large influence on this year’s election, in that both the polls and the media overestimated the impact that they had upon the public.
As for how voters could react to this news, Hilty had a few suggestions.
“Sulk, display self-pity, be angry, castigate the idiots for putting Bush into office, blame the electoral system for manipulating the system and using it to their advantage, leave the country, form a third party, or run for office yourself,” suggested Hilty with Democrats in mind. On the other hand, he added, they could “stay involved, find some common ground, sit and wait patiently for the next election and wait for the inevitable disintegration of the Republican Party.”
Hilty recommended that Republicans either “hoot, holler, celebrate and avoid getting another D.U.I. while they’re at it, nominate Karl Rove for sainthood, banish all Democrats, gays, intellectuals, and academics to California and wait for the San Andreas fault to do it’s work,” or “find some common ground… and bridge the gap.”
Jordan Pascucci, a student at Temple, agreed that both sides need to reconcile.
“I hope that in the future we won’t be talking about elections in terms of Democrats and Republicans because neither candidate appealed to the majority of Americans. The conservatives were abandoned by Bush and the liberals were abandoned by Kerry,” Pascucci said.
Sean Purdy noted that both parties have shifted too far to the right in his opinion.
“You talked about the large shift in politics and the changes within the parties. But their rhetoric has shifted so far to the right in this country that we have a liberal candidate using the words ‘hunt down and kill’ within his campaign,” said Purdy. “Even a change in parties I don’t think will be beneficial because the center is so far to the right that it is unclear what moving to the center will do.”
Xandra Kanoff argued that it’s up to the public to inform themselves about the candidates and their parties.
“Obviously for the past four years the media has not been on top of the government. So when we see a problem, it’s our responsibility to point it out to other people with supporting facts to back the information up with.”
“The election became a thing for left America where, when Dean didn’t win, we all fell in line with Kerry,” he said. “We weren’t allowed the chance to pick the candidate; the candidate was picked for us. We allowed the candidate to dictate to us instead of the other way around.”
Heather Cunningham also believed that fear had an affect upon the election.
“People voted this year on morals, not facts. And I think that translates into fear. After last year, people are so scared that they’re voting out of fear instead of the facts,” Cunningham said. “So I think the solution to this problem is how do we get rid of this fear?”
Erin Schlesing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.