Although there was not a final election result when this paper went to print yesterday night, one thing is for certain: the political energy on campus has been infectious and impressive. If this election is any kind of bellwether for student interest in national affairs, the outlook is bright.
Williams students have proven themselves talented at spectator activism – and to no small degree. Public viewings of last night’s election returns, and before that, the vice presidential and presidential debates, drew crowds upwards of 200. And around campus, students tuned in on common room televisions. In a new era of political coverage, many looked to political sketches on Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report to keep themselves informed. Games of Palin Bingo abounded. Stickers were worn. Facebook statuses were donated. We say: whatever it takes, folks. Just so long as you voted.
Still, as positive as this relatively casual attention to politics has been, the real props go to a few leaders heading the several student organizations that have contributed significantly to the election effort on campus. Williams Voter Registration, Williams Students for Barack Obama and Thursday Night Grassroots (TNG) have all gone to great lengths not only to get students registered to vote and receive absentee ballots, but to keep the election on everyone’s mind early and often by tabling, hosting events and encouraging political activism in the active sense. Our hats go off to them.
Without a unique, journalistic perspective on the national election, we at the Record did not have grounds to endorse a specific candidate. As a campus newspaper our contribution to the election was instead to scrap our traditional policy of publishing only campus-minded opinions pieces in order to make room for politically-minded op-eds.
But when it came time for us to solicit those op-eds from the student body, we noticed it was a harder task than we expected. Admittedly it is easier to slap on a bumper sticker than craft a policy appraisal, but we were a little surprised at how few students – particularly from the pro-Obama camp – were ready and willing to engage. Still, if this election has taught us anything, it’s that there’s no one right way to participate in politics and public life.
Today is the day to celebrate the end of a historic campaign, but it is also a day to ask: what next? TNG’s PowerVote is sending stacks of pledges to politicians indicating students’ intentions to vote based on environmental and social justice issues. In the spirit of this kind of activism we hope to see students continuing to enact the fact that they care.