Election Issues at Swarthmore

Swarthmore Students

By Xiaoxia Zhuang

By Xiaoxia Zhuang
Unigo Campus Rep at Swarthmore
Oct. 14, 2008

With the 2008 Presidential Election less than a month away, Swatties are undoubtedly abuzz with political fever.

No, make that Obama-fever.

Obama CreativeCommons Everywhere you look, Obama-emblazoned insignia has attached itself to students’ messenger bags, coffee mugs, or American Apparel t-shirts. This, of course, is not to say there aren’t any McCain supporters here on campus. With the resurgence of the fiercely active College Republicans last year, it’s surprising that there haven’t been more Swat events this election season related to McCain/Palin. However, it doesn’t seem that most of the student body mind this as the excitement for Barack Obama and Joe Biden has overshadowed any talk of John McCain and Sarah Palin.

The Phoenix, Swarthmore’s weekly newspaper, has tried to give more visibility to the McCain/Palin ticket with two of their seven covers so far this semester devoted to them, with one cover devoted to Palin and the other to McCain. Is this positive visibility though? With the Palin cover headline reading, “Asset or Liability?” and an op-ed in the same issue titled “Republican or Democrat: Vote Obama in November,” there does not seem to be much room on campus for anything that isn’t pro-Obama.

This election holds enormous stake for almost all Swatties and despite the fervor over either political ticket, there are key issues that Swatties have focused on. With the recent upheaval of the stock market, the economy is one of the central issues that students have keyed in on, especially in regards to financing the costs of college. Another key topic at stake for Swarthmore students is the environment. Earthlust, the College’s environmental issues group, has been a visible presence on campus working towards “greening” not only the campus, but pushing to make environmental issues to the forefront of the student consciousness.

The College Democrats, though not an “issues-specific” group, have also played a major role on-campus by taking advantage of many nearby campaign events, including a rally led by Joe Biden in the nearby town of Media and one led by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden in Philadelphia. John McCain and Sarah Palin were also in the town of Media, but the overall student body did not seem to be as excited over this as they were over the Biden rally.

Members of Swarthmore’s Intercultural Groups have also responded to the election, though these responses are not always as issues-driven as other student groups. For example, the Swarthmore Asian Organization has led an initiative with the New York City-based Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) to set up poll-monitoring sites in Philadelphia to monitor any instances of racism targeted towards Asians and Asian-Americans.

When asked about why he is working with AALDEF, Toby Wu, a senior history and education special major said, “I'm doing poll-monitoring because AALDEF recognizes how Asians have been systematically excluded from conversations about politics of our nation, and it is doing its part by documenting not only the voting patterns of our community, but the political voice of our community.”

Other cultural groups also recognize the historic importance of this year’s elections: Enlace (the Latino/a student organization) is reaching out for volunteers to serve as translators at local-area poll sites.

It does not seem that Swatties as a whole are keyed into any particular issues. Individually however, each Swattie has issues that are important to him or her, but at this point in the election, the talk over a meal at Sharples is not over particular issues, but it is a contagious excitement over the fact that there is going to be a new leader and the country will have a potential for change.


Photo courtesy of Joe Crimmings Photography