By James Ewers
As Election Day approaches, we must decide whether characteristics will trump the issues of the day. This conundrum makes for a slippery slope for some of us. Those of us that are voting age have participated in some local, state and national elections where we did not always vote for the “conventional” or for the “favored” candidate. The same goes for some pieces of legislation. In order for change to occur, our country’s lawmakers had to think outside of the box and in addition listen to their constituents. Title IX for women and the Voting Rights Act are just a few of the laws that were created simply because America believed that it could do better and be better. The song does cry out, “my country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.” Our nation’s history is filled with stories of courageous people and periods where change happened. But of course there were people who stepped in the path of progress only to see their efforts to “stay the course” swept away in the movement of change. Imagine for a moment that there was no Title IX. Michele Wie, the golfer, would not have had an opportunity to compete. Where would tennis be without the Venus and Serena Williams? Dara Torres, the swimmer, would not have been able to compete in 5 Olympics. Obviously there are endless examples of what can happen when you change the landscape and give people hope. So this is what happens when you take flight on the wings of change. The irony of change is even those who are ardently against change benefit from it.
Now in just about six weeks Americans will exercise their time-honored privilege of voting for the next president and vice president of the United States of America. Recently, I participated in some voter registration efforts and we are indeed fortunate to live in a country where our votes actually count. Even for the registered naysayers, they must also cast their ballots. For the first time that I can recall, you have gender, race and age all playing out in this election. Both major political parties are waging fierce campaigns to capture the vote. We have seen both political conventions and watched as each candidate received a “bump” in the polls. I have always wondered about these polls. One day Sen.Obama is leading, and the next day he is not. Have you ever mused about who is making these calls and who are they calling? Have you ever been called by any polling organization? I know that I haven’t. I continue to sit by the telephone but I can’t get a call. This election is absolutely about “firsts.” Obama has the chance to become the first African American president. Sarah Palin has the chance to become the first female vice president and John McCain has the chance to become the nation’s oldest sitting president. These are all dynamics that will weigh mightily on the American voters. Some will argue that a percentage of Americans will vote for Obama because he is African American, the McCain-Palin ticket because Palin is a women and McCain is a decorated war veteran. While to some degree this is true let’s hope that the issues outweigh the characteristics of the candidates.
We know what the issues are in this important election. Pretending that the country is in good shape only makes your imagination run wild as it just isn’t so! Just a few days ago our government had to bail out AIG, the insurance company. Whether you read the newspapers or watch television, you can see that America is at a cross roads and at a defining moment in its history. To a certain extent, we are all stubborn and have a bit of pride when it comes to change as it is far simpler to keep things just the way they are. The telling question is will the realities of the day or the pride of yesterday take over when we are in the voting booth. Change for some is just too difficult. They would rather stay on the same road even as it is exploding in front of them. However for many of us we see just over the horizon change that we can believe in!
Dr. Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown in Ohio. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues.
By James Ewers
Thank goodness we live in a country where we can freely vote. It is something that we should not take for granted as we only have to look at other countries to see the chaos that has occurred because of voting or the lack of it. Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican or an Independent your vote has counted in the Buckeye State so far this year. Obviously it will count again in the Fall when the general election is held. With many of the caucuses and primaries now in the distant past, I would offer that we had more people voting in them than ever. For example young people voted in record numbers and all of the candidates benefitted from this increase. There has been so much build up to this primary season. You only have to look at the amount of hoopla that surrounded the primaries held in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Voting has simple dominated the news coverage for some months now. Unless something really strange happens we know that John McCain is the presumptive Republican nominee for president. He has pretty much been able to watch the top Democratic candidates fight it out for the votes of the American people. Of course we know that some months ago, John Edwards dropped out of the race and it left Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to convince the American public who on the Democratic side is best suited for the most important position in the world and that is president of the United States of America. I will say more about John Edwards later. While we all have our favorite Democratic candidate, we have to admire both Clinton and Obama. They are both convincing and highly skilled orators able to deliver their message of hope and opportunity.
The media has absolutely been enthralled with both campaigns on the Democratic side while the Republican nominee, John McCain has not gotten as much national coverage. Each day that Clinton and Obama campaign is a day that history is being made. While there have been other women and other African Americans to run for president, none have captured the hearts and minds of Americans like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I never thought that in my lifetime, I would see a serious bid by a woman and an African American to become president. It is simply unbelievable to me! In my quiet moments, I consider how far America has come. It is without debate that women and people of color have travelled a long and difficult road to get to this point.
I think many of us get caught up in the Clinton and Obama battle because it has been so testy and fiercely contested. Before we lose perspective let us just remember this couldn’t have happened in previous years. The momentum for each candidate has been hanging in the balance with every caucus and primary. The political pundits have gone back and forth about Barack’s strengths and Hillary’s strengths. I have been watching the presidential elections for years and I have never seen so many women and people of color as political commentators. Every time that I see Roland Martin on CNN, I say, “go boy”!
With the closeness of every contest, it means that every vote literally does count. You only have to take a look at the Guam primary which Barack Obama won by a grand total of seven votes. The news about each campaign becomes more compelling as the days go by. Just the other night Hillary Clinton defeated Barack Obama pretty handily in West Virginia. However not to be outdone on Wednesday Barack Obama introduced John Edwards while campaigning in Michigan. And of course Edwards gave an enthusiastic endorsement of Barack Obama. So the delegates that Hillary won and the delegates that Edwards has have almost cancelled each other out. It makes Clinton’s victory in West Virginia not as sweet. So in many ways it looks like from a practical viewpoint that all eyes are on Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee for president. I know some are pinching themselves. However, all indicators suggest Obama will be the party’s choice. While all of the momentum is on Obama’s side, there is no quit in Hillary Clinton. So let us give her high marks.
Having given great “props” to Hillary Clinton, I believe the nomination is in sight for Barack Obama. It is the thinking of many that his victory in North Carolina and his narrow defeat in Indiana provided him with an insurmountable lead. Of course Michigan and Florida are still on the outside looking in, but that will be fixed before the Democratic convention. So when we have to vote, let us remember that every vote counts. Just ask the citizens of Guam!