Question This Column; Your Future Is Too Important Not To

    Hi! I’m Hadley Mendoza reporting from sunny San Diego and with the Oct. 20 voter-registration deadline fast approaching I have invited two special guests to join me in this installment of “Stealing the Shoes.” I’m pleased to introduce Chris Moffat, president of UCSD’s College Democrats and Megan Rodriguez, the statewide southern region chair for the College Republicans.

    The 2008 election is more important for students to vote in that any other in their lifetime. Forget that it’s historic — for the first time the White House won’t just be for white men and all that jazz — America has reached a turning point, and the next administration is going to be presiding over some of the greatest issues that our country and the world have faced to date. Though our communities are more open and accepting than ever, our government is still denying us simple rights: the Patriot Act takes unreasonable liberties with constitutional freedoms, and evangelical demagogues threaten to dismantle the country’s very foundation — separation of church and state — by governing with their religion, reversing Roe v. Wade and continuing to legislate prejudice by denying homosexual couples the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. The United States is in two big wars, the futures of which are uncertain, with men and women our age dying every day. Terrifying as it is, the economy is on the verge of collapse — it doesn’t take an expert to see that when the largest banks and financial firms are being taken over by the feds it’s a pretty dire situation, and this is the economy that students will turn to for jobs as they soon graduate. In an international arena characterized by globalization, rising nuclear powers, out-of-control genocide and entire countries so poor their citizens are dying from birth, the Bush administration has completely destroyed our credibility with the rest of the world, reducing America to a disgusting joke. And decades of frivolous waste and pollution are finally taking their toll on the Earth, as increasingly dangerous storms ravage the coasts, water levels rise and ice caps melt.

    These are the facts, and while parties, politicians and pundits can argue over causes and solutions for these problems, everyone can agree that the time to address them is now and the person who will be addressing them is the next president of the United States.

    So let’s open the floor to my guests: Why do you each feel it’s so important for students to vote in this election?

    College Republican Megan Rodriguez: Well obviously this election is really important just because of the issues that have been happening lately … so this is a vital election where people really need to get out and vote in order to pick the right candidate that they feel will best handle the situation and get us out of this recession and help get out of the wars successfully. Personally, I really encourage everyone to get out and vote I think it’s a great right to have and something that people should definitely take advantage of. And that’s the best way you can really get your opinion out there and elect someone that you feel is right for the position.

    College Democrat Chris Moffat: I think what’s different about this election … [is that people are] taking a very close look at the issues, they’re taking a very close look at both candidates and everyone seems to feel that their vote truly matters. In fact, the College Democrats at UCSD registered about 1,300 students in the past two weeks on Library Walk. I’m incredibly excited about that. And those aren’t just democratic numbers; those are everyone numbers, from what I’ve seen, of people who have registered at the College Democrats table. … You can just feel it. Whenever you go to a debate party and you see students booing John McCain or booing Barack Obama or shouting their approval of something one of them said. People feel like this election truly does matter.

    But let me interrupt my guests for just a moment to remind readers that their votes are so much greater than the small pieces of paper on which they’re cast. Your vote can and will change the future — if every college-aged American voted we’d determine the election’s outcome every time. That’s a lot of power, and it’s power that I expect and demand UCSD students to take seriously, by educating themselves on the issues and the candidates. An uninformed vote is just as bad, if not worse, than an individual who denies himself a voice altogether by not voting. Allow me to illustrate this point with another question for my guests. Here is a candidate-specific question for Megan, and then Chris, you’ll have a chance to respond.

    I think many students are very curious about Sarah Palin. She’s kind of been kept away from the media, she hasn’t had too many interview opportunities so far and she’s pretty new to the game, so can you speak a little about Palin and why students should really get behind her?

    MR: I think Sarah Palin was actually a great pick. I think she helped boost our ratings in the polls, she gave the campaign a whole new dynamic, which is something that I don’t think any other VP pick could have done. I think Palin, yes she is a new player in the scheme of the political world, but so was Obama two years ago. He doesn’t have that much more experience, she does have the experience of being an executive. I mean, she was the governor of Alaska, which is a state and she did have the same powers that would be equivalent to a president or vice president. Yes, she’s new but she does have experience. I mean, she has an approval rating of over 90 percent in Alaska, which is phenomenal for a governor. That’s very rare, so obviously she is doing something right there. She has helped fight the oil corporations, under her leadership Alaska has actually started bringing in more money and so she returned that to the citizens instead of wasting it on earmark spending. … Something we really need to get on top of is being more efficient with taxpayer money and that’s something that Sarah Palin has done. I mean, she did give back money to the citizens of Alaska. Also, she’s someone that people can relate to, she’s not one of these politicians that’s part of the good old boys club or who’s been around forever. She’s someone that women can relate to and she’s someone that people from small towns can relate to from all across America, obviously.

    CM: Well when I was thinking about who McCain would pick for vice president and when I heard that he picked Palin I was incredibly shocked and confused at the same time. First off, I had never heard of Palin, and then the fact that she has such little experience in politics, I mean we can argue the fact that she has more executive experience, being the mayor of a small town and then governor of a state, but what does that really show the American people, the fact that you’ve been a governor of a state? When you think about it a lot of our presidents have come out of the legislature, whether it’s the House of Representatives or the Senate, as many as people who’ve been coming out of the governorships of states. … Really, it doesn’t matter if you have experience in the legislature or experience in an executive position. What matters is the experience you have, and then not just experience but what you do with that experience. … The reason why it seems to me that the McCain campaign seems to be hiding her from the voters is because they don’t want them to see that Palin is a very right-wing ideologue. Specifically, the position she takes on abortion, she wants to outlaw abortion in all cases, even if it’s a rape case. That’s not even right, to me, that’s how incredibly confused I was by McCain’s choice. I would have thought he’d pick someone more moderate.

    Wait, what? I’m afraid I need to respectfully intervene. These shallow answers are symptomatic of a huge problem with the political process. By failing to educate ourselves beyond what we’re told — be it by our friends, our parents or our party — we are undermining our democratic freedoms and spitting in the face of every person who fought for the 26th Amendment. Voting isn’t just about jumping on a bandwagon, it’s about thinking critically, questioning thoroughly and exhausting your research until you are absolutely sure you’re supporting something you truly believe.

    Megan, your response failed to answer my question and you merely recycled the same conservative talking points we’re already flooded with. You start by telling us that Palin was a strategically good choice, which, if anything, detracts from her legitimacy. Then you take a cheap — and off-topic — jab at Obama. You go on to point out that she has a high approval rating (your figure was innacurate; it’s actually barely 80 percent) in a state that on a local level deals with very few of the same issues facing the other 49 in the Union. Next you make two misleading claims — it’s true she gave money back to citizens, but just as she distributed the budget surplus, she recommended borrowing money to pay for necessary road projects. And although while governor she made a show of cracking down on earmarking — forget that many of her vetoes were reversed since she had actually failed to understand the importance of the legislation — as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, she brought a record amount of pork to her tiny town. Finally, you say she’s strong because people can relate to her; she’s the just-like-us candidate. But does that mean hockey moms around the nation are fit for the White House? Certainly not; President George W. Bush played the “I’m just an average guy like you” card and lo and behold, average folk aren’t quite qualified to lead the country. What is this push toward the anti-intellectual? We, especially as students, should understand the importance of having leaders well-versed in the nuances of public office.

    And Chris, you should be ashamed of yourself! You let her get away with this unsatisfactory answer and even legitimized it. By showing that you know even less about Palin than someone who was unable to give us a fresh answer, you make us question your support for Obama — how can you choose a candidate, or even a party, if you have no idea what else is out there? Your entire response was anecdotal, unfounded, convoluted and ultimately pointless. You have let down your organization, your party and your candidate and I can only hope that unlike you, the hundreds of people you have helped to register will give this election the respect and careful consideration it deserves.

    Tritons, casting your vote in this election is the single greatest thing you can do to impact the future of your country. So please, register now — the College Democrats, College Republicans and CalPIRG will all have booths set up on Library Walk from now until the Oct. 20 deadline — and inform yourself. It might just be the most important homework you ever do.

    Listen to the debate here:

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