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Lackluster election for campus

Molly Howell | Friday, November 16, 2012

With the 2012 presidential election wrapped up and President Obama in office for another four years, I found the campaign more dramatic and my first-time voting for president more anticlimactic than I ever imagined.
I have to admit I did not follow politics at all until I turned 18. I was completely unaware of policies and candidates alike. However, when I turned 18 I realized I needed to pay attention because my vote now counted, and though one vote may not seem to make a difference, as was seen in this race, it can. One vote often does have a significant amount of power, and it is crucial that voters are informed. And so for the past year I have been following both parties’ candidates, reading and watching the news, trying to make sense of the biased mess that many networks broadcast. At first, I fell for President Obama’s charisma and for Mitt Romney’s experience. I was politically inept and had a hard time looking past the public persona of the candidates. Then someone told me that I didn’t necessarily have to like my president, but I did have to trust him. Those words changed the game for me and gave me a new perspective while following the campaign. And, I have to be honest, I was pretty disgusted by the presidential campaign. Collectively, the 2012 presidential election cost roughly $4 billion. That is an obscene amount of money spent in a country whose debt clock is set on fast forward. Is that kind of money really what it takes to run for office? It’s discouraging to think so and it limits who is able to run for office in this country, this country that we like to think of as the land of opportunity. Also, for the presidential election, each campaign turned into a race to make the other candidate look as bad as possible to the American people. As someone who dislikes conflict, it was nearly physically painful for me to watch the debates. The passive aggressive and sometimes outright boorish behavior displayed by the presidential and vice presidential candidates was uncomfortable, unprofessional, and unlikable.
Though the campaign wore on me, I still held onto some hope for Election Day and my excitement to vote. Voting, though a citizen’s right, is also a privilege that not everyone in our country has always had. However, even this monumental milestone was ruined for me as, like most college students, I had to vote absentee. Absentee voting is the most unexciting form of voting that exists. It’s a pain, deterring the busy, or lazy, college student from making it to the polls at all. Nonetheless, I full-heartedly believe that it’s incredibly important to vote, and I hope students from battleground states such as Ohio and Florida did vote.
While some cities and states across the country were in full campaign and election mode, there was little to no visibility of Election Day’s near arrival on campus. If someone visited campus who knew nothing of American politics or the upcoming presidential election, the Notre Dame campus would do nothing to inform them. Even on Election Day, there was barely any mention of this landmark national event. This lack of discussion and attention cannot just be due to the fact that no one was wearing the “I Voted” sticker on November 6th; rather, politics just don’t seem to be on most Notre Dame students’ agendas. And this is not only true of most students, but also, in my experience, sometimes the case with faculty and staff on campus. I was surprised that there was such little discussion in the classroom surrounding both the campaign and election. Overall, I found Notre Dame’s lack of attention shocking due to the fact that this election was the majority of the student body’s first time voting in a presidential race.
The 2012 presidential election was a huge national event for the majority of the United States. The campaign and outcome have huge consequences for our country and it is vital to give it some attention. It is exactly because this election was so costly and ugly that we cannot afford to tune out and ignore it. Few current Notre Dame students will be on campus for the next presidential election, but I hope that wherever they are they pay attention and invoke discussion because young adults have a duty to be to aware, to engage, and to participate because, sooner rather than later, who is in office will be directly affecting us.

Molly Howell is a freshman Anthropology and International Economics major, as well as a Gender Studies minor. She can be reached at mhowell5@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.