The tournament for the White House
One theme resonated through the Conference on World Affairs panel “Election 2008: Don’t Screw This Up, America” on Tuesday: there’s a lot at stake in the upcoming presidential election.
An enthusiastic crowd of all ages packed the West Glenn Miller Ballroom in the UMC to hear panelists Chip Berlet, Caroline Daniel, Mike Franc and Mary Hughes give their opinions on how the 2008 elections might shape up.
The panelists come from diverse backgrounds and each lent different ideas to the panel. Berlet is a senior analyst at Political Research Associates near Boston and has written about civil liberties and social justice for over 30 years. Daniel is the comment editor of the Financial Times in London and was the former White House correspondent for the paper from 2005-2007. Franc is part of The Heritage Foundation and oversees outreach to members of Congress and the Bush administration. Hughes is the co-founder of Staton Hughes, a strategic communications and political consulting firm in San Francisco.
The panelists made special note of the passion and interest level in the elections.
Franc spoke of his second-grade daughter who revealed at school that she thought Clinton would be the next president. Another student, who thought Obama would be the next president, apparently “decked her.”
“The tension between Obama and Clinton is in my own household,” he said to laughter. “There’s a lot of passion in this election – we’ve seen it firsthand.”
Hughes compared the elections to the NCAA basketball championship that ended Monday night, saying that the world is expecting a “great game” in the elections.
“What we want is a great contest,” she said. “That’s what the world wants in America, in this election. A lot of people are counting on it; we have to give it to them.”
The panelists were complimentary to all three candidates.
“You don’t have to agree with them to see that one of them is a great American hero, and the other two are breaking through the history books,” she said.
However, the panelists expressed worries that the core issues are being neglected in the elections which will lead to a disappointing end.
“When I hear the term ‘tax and spend liberals,’ it bothers me,” Berlet said. “Then again, when I hear ‘radical religious right,’ it bothers me. These labels just dismiss the underlying problems – [the media] don’t talk about the policies, or the trends, just the labels.”
He said he was afraid the media would distort the truth, making it impossible for the public to have informed consent when making decisions.
“It’s my fear, in the upcoming elections, that hyperbole, the scare stories, the spin, are going to, once again, get jacked up,” he said. “And we’ll have an election that feels not very satisfying. I’m very worried about that.”
Franc said he had little hope the candidates would have meaningful debates in the election.
“What are we likely to get in this election?” he asked. “I don’t think it’s really possible to have rational, reasonable arguments with real data on the table with the candidates. They’re not willing to have the tough discussions.”
Franc said the candidates will most likely be forced to confront the “latest explosion” in the media rather than discuss the actual issues.
Daniel offered the European perspective on the elections. She spoke of her father who stayed up all night to watch the coverage of the primaries, telling her that “it’s better than cricket.”
She said the rest of the world is watching the elections closely.
“What the world wants for America, is they want America back,” she said. “They want America to become a moral authority again.”
She said Obama is the most popular candidate in polls around the world. However, she said McCain was also highly respected in Europe, and a viable candidate.
The questions from the audience ranged between topics such as vice presidential candidates, the role of government, the improvement of the education system and the youth vote.
When asked about McCain’s threat to the election, the panelists agreed the race is a lot closer than people think.
Berlet said he had a bet with a friend that McCain was going to win.
“There’s a big possibility,” he said to murmurs in the crowd. “I know this is Boulder, but it’s a big country, and people like McCain for a lot of different reasons.”
Hughes responded saying the public should “not paint a halo on him yet.”
“Is it not correct, that Sen. McCain has stuck with the president in an irrational continuation of the war that we were very clearly against, and was a major supporter of the surge?” she asked to applause.
The panelists were also asked if the competition between Clinton and Obama is “screwing up” the election for the Democrats.
Daniel said she did not think it was a problem because Democrats are getting more attention from the media than McCain. She said about 80 percent of the stories in Europe are about the Democrats rather than McCain.
However, she acknowledged the competition was becoming stronger between the Democrats.
“The Democrats are being fairly nasty to each other right now, but the Republicans would be a lot worse,” she said.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Marcy Franklin at email@example.com.