Notre Dame Talks Politics

Notre Dame Students

By Lindsay Sena

By Lindsay Sena
Unigo Campus Rep at Notre Dame

People often describe Notre Dame as a bubble — a microcosm, which protectively shelters its students from the outside world for weeks, sometimes months at a time.  But it has become increasingly impossible for any American, even a “Domer,” to ignore the historical 2008 Presidential election. 

“Between school and social life, there isn't much room for political activism,” said Mallory Laurel, ND Votes ’08 co-chair. 

Nonetheless, Laurel said it is imperative that students make the effort to get involved in politics.

“We can't mute the rest of the world simply because we're only halfway in it” she said.  “The reality of the matter is that this ‘real world’ is only four years away, less for some of us. So we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and take proactive steps towards our future by participating in the presidential election.”

ND Votes ’08 is a student-run educational campaign under the Center for Social Concerns.   The organization assists with voter registration and absentee voting, while trying to increase political awareness on campus through student-oriented events. 

“We basically want to shine as much light on the election as possible and make sure students on campus are both informed, and more importantly, are voting,” Laurel said. 

In addition to hosting debate watches, campus debates, and guest appearances, such as a presentation by Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, ND Votes ‘08’s most popular event is “Pizza, Pop & Politics,” in which a new issue is discussed almost weekly and “expert” speakers are invited to weigh in. 

“I am absolutely amazed by how successful every event has been,” Laurel said. “At the majority of our events we've had more than a hundred people in attendance, an impressive number considering the number of events that we host weekly.” 

Adding to the recent surge of political activism on Notre Dame’s campus are the College Republicans and the College Democrats, each trying to promote their candidates. 

“This election has a lot of people excited,” said Spencer Howard, co-president of College Democrats. 

The College Democrats have put up posters around campus highlighting Senator Barack Obama’s energy plan. The organization plans to put up more posters on Obama’s others positions in the upcoming weeks. 

Howard said part of the reason the College Democrats are so excited is because Obama put forth an effort to reach out to college students. But Howard also clarified that Notre Dame students are not fair-weather activists.

“We have a dedicated group of students who believe in the Democratic Party’s principles and were ready to go even before primary season,” he said.

Notre Dame Democrats are not limiting their campaigning to campus, however, but are working with other colleges in the South Bend area as part of the Students for Change office.

“[The Students for Change offce] is a place for college students to come and work together for Senator Obama and other candidates including Congressman Joe Donnelly …and other local candidates,” Howard said.  “Around 80 Notre Dame students have volunteered at least two hours of their time, with many students putting in more time.” 

From what Howard has seen and heard, Notre Dame students seem most concerned about the economy, foreign policy, and the environment. 

“Students are worried about what is in store for them when they graduate and need a job,” he said.  Furthermore, Howard has observed that “students are concerned about the United States’ standing in the world and are anxious for us to restore our relationships with other countries.”  

But how do Notre Dame students really feel about this election?  Notre Dame Student Government, in conjunction with ND Votes ’08, held a Mock Election Tuesday, October 7th, in which 2,692 undergraduate and graduate students voted.  Surprisingly, when considering Notre Dame’s conservative reputation, Obama won with 52.6 percent of the vote, while McCain received 41.1 percent. 

As for the issues, 41.5 percent of students voted the economy as the most important issue in the election, followed by foreign policy at 17.7 percent.  Of the remaining issues, 9.8 percent chose energy and the environment as the most important issue; 9.5 percent chose other, 7.7 percent chose abortion, 6.2 percent chose the Iraq War.