Daniel Crofts, professor of history and former chair of the history department portrayed the importance of the increase of 14 million voters in the 2004 election at the political science department’s forum on Nov. 18, when faculty members presented an analysis of the 2004 election before opening the floor to a roundtable discussion. Students and professors debated on the implications of political persuasion and differing moral values.
“In the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, 21 percent of the vote was cast by young people,” Crofts said. “They carried the vote for Kerry.” He said that the 18 to 29 age group also decided Ohio’s Republican vote.
Daryl Fair, professor of political science, said “Evangelists want to take credit for Bush’s victory.” He said that evangelicals are relating closer to one party then they ever have, but that the margin has not increased by much. “A lot has been made of this 21 percent of voters who voted on moral values when we don’t have exit polls for 2000,” Fair said.
Gary Woodward, communications chair and professor, said that attack advertisements and even books worked again in this election. He added that gay marriage and values also played an influential role. “They want their idea surrogate carrying forward mainstream values,” Woodward said.
Woodward said that Bush’s 44 visits to Pennsylvania were enough to make him eligible for a driver’s license and noted that John Kerry had also heavily campaigned in Florida and Ohio. However, both intensive campaigns failed.
“It is very difficult to change an attitude once it has been set,” Woodward said. He said that the appeals of the Bush campaign on freedom and the war against terror were more effective than Kerry’s focus on policy change.
Nancy Lasher, assistant professor of business law, discussed the focus on the Supreme Court. With Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s diagnosis of thyroid cancer, Bush may have the opportunity to elect a justice for the first time in 10 years.
Lasher said that Bush plans on electing a justice who will strictly interpret the Constitution. “I think they would have a really hard time bringing down Roe v. Wade,” Lasher said.
However, she also said we may see limits on the decisions of the last 20 years. Lasher said that privacy has only been read into the Constitution, so contraception and abortion may involve stricter procedures like parental consent.
Melinda Roberts, associate professor of philosophy, said the problem of using moral values in a presidential campaigning is that they differ in each individual. “Wielding the banner of moral values is just the most divisible ‘us versus them’ card,” Roberts said.
“When the Supreme Court goes at odds with our own moral values, we are subordinate to a system of laws that we loathe and it makes us outlaws,” Roberts said.
She said that there will never be enmity, but that candidates should instead focus on widely shared values during campaigns. “Nothing is in the literature of the Constitution that bars them from using differing values, but there are better ways to run a country,” Roberts said.
“Do you think Democrats have a platform to take the White House and Senate or do they need to move further to the center?” Martin Smith, sophomore physics major, asked the panel of professors.
Crofts said that the Republicans have a complete lock on the South and that most of the strong Democrats are all gone. Fair said that not all Southern evangelists are Republican – Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are Southern Baptist evangelicals.
“The religious left is out there, alive and well, but not clearly identifiable,” Woodworth said.
Kyle Brownlie, junior political science major, said that he wondered what the future of the third party will be. “So many Nader voters realized the consequence of their vote; it’s hard to project, but it doesn’t look very promising,” Crofts said.
“We keep score every four years with the Electoral College. It’s an easy way to divide the country,” one student said. He said that many states were not simply blue or red, but instead purple.