Friday, January 18, 2008
Presidential campaign energizes CCHS first-time voters
The day I turn 18 I will only care that I no longer have to leave parties at 11:45 to be home by midnight. But in terms of finally reaching adulthood in America, the most important part of being legal is the ability to vote. I won't be able to put in my two cents for the primary, but that isn't stopping me or other CCHS students from voicing our opinions. In a predominantly (or is it permanently?) blue state, you would expect that younger voters would assume their votes don't count. But blue, red, or purple, Concord-Carlisle students are prepared to march into voting booths and make their opinions heard.
If there were voters in America who didn't care about the presidency, New Hampshire probably changed their minds. After 200 years of white male presidents, it was refreshing, if not shocking, to see John Edwards third in the Democratic race. News magazines have consistently asked, "Obama or Clinton?" but no one, it seems, has halted the race long enough to celebrate that we're arguing over which minority will take the nomination. In the shadow of these former election underdogs, Mike Huckabee has caused quite a stir. A charmer, he can play the guitar (cool!) and speak more fluently than first-place New Hampshire finisher John McCain. A common view of Huckabee at CCHS is, "I really like him, but then I remember that I disagree with all his policies!"
Policies are indeed being swept under the rug. Obama and Clinton have the younger demographic and the women coming out to rally and vote. At CCHS, it's unclear whether the Obama craze is because of his plans for the presidency or the change his skin color represents for this country. The same goes for Clinton and gender, although young women supporters have built up an arsenal of knowledge about her. Students like senior Maria Paleologos are exceptionally passionate about Hillary, and they've got the facts to support it. Putting down Hillary for her pink suit or her loyalty to Bill will rouse quite an argument from many CCHS students, regardless of gender.
There are still plenty of Republican first-time voters, and even a few independents. Senior Elisabeth Karafotias is sure that every vote is still valid. "Even though the state is heavily liberal, I think that there still are plenty of conservatives and independents out there to change the votes." One such student is Austin Bamford, a member of CCHS's political club, The Third Wing. "When Ron Paul runs as an independent, supporters should not be afraid to vote for him because he will throw the election to the Democrats," he predicts. "In order to create true change, an idea that all of the candidates are seemingly running on, the voters must look past party lines and look instead to policies that will better our country."
Faced with Obama stickers and pins all over the school, it is not surprising that students like Bamford are fed up with the hype and are fighting for a more serious vote. The excitement and thrill of having a woman or an African-American running our country has completely overshadowed the white men who still have legitimate points to make. As first-time voters head to the polls, it's important — for the sake of our country, really — that they look past skin color and gender and focus on the candidates' words. It's fascinating that while people are so excited to be breaking down stereotypes, some voters are unable to let go of prejudice against the "traditional" candidates.
This is not to say, however, that CCHS students are blinded by the obvious and not getting the facts. After New Hampshire, it was nearly impossible to hold a class in English, history, or even science, without sliding off into the direction of politics. While many schools discourage discussion on political or religious subjects, teachers were happy to see students looking for information and sharing it as well. Opinions have changed during the span of a single class. Some students are still focused on built-in likes or dislikes or simple deal-breakers that some candidates can't meet. Senior Owen Callahan puts it simply: "I strongly dislike Hillary, but that could be because I really dig Obama." And that's a legitimate reason. As a pro-choice, pro-gay rights voter, I won't cast my ballot for anyone with opposing views.
As the Massachusetts primary draws nearer (February 5), the voices at CCHS are growing louder and more diverse in their choices. No need to worry about any real confrontations, however: students are actually very diplomatic in their support for candidates. Teachers have been doing their jobs by supplying unbiased information, and the students (in a class, or at a lunch table, or hanging out after school) are molding the information into something they can take into a voting booth.
It will be a little sad for me to cast an absentee ballot in November, and not be able to see my classmates making their own choices. The general opinion about the youth in America has never been a particularly glowing one. If anything, this election will prove that teenagers are not to be underestimated, and that the minority always has a fighting chance.
© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito