Ten minutes before 7 p.m., the official start of Knox’s Election Night Party, Taylor Lounge was already packed, with nary a seat left unfilled. Among this crowd of Knox students and professors were junior Nick Pernice ‘14, senior Gretta Reed ‘13 and senior Alex Uzarowicz ‘13, presidents of the Knox Greens, Knox Democrats and Knox Conservatives, respectively.
When asked about their thoughts on this election’s campaign process, Pernice said, “I feel like there are a lot of issues that have been left out. … It’s hostile, and it always is. I mean, that’s politics.”
Uzarowicz also remarked upon the vitriolic political climate, citing the Jeep ad that Romney ran in Ohio as an example of the “‘I’m better than this guy; this guy did this, this and this’” form of “demagoguery” that exists in no short supply this election season.
Pernice discussed how, as a member of a third party, he feels that even in such a close race, “It’s important that people realize … just because people are voting third party doesn’t mean you can say, ‘Oh they’re the reason we lost…’” He encouraged voting for “what you believe in,” even if it does not align with either major party.
Uzarowicz and Reed both commented on the amount of campaign spending, the latter calling it “absurd,” the former characterizing it as “catastrophic.”
“I think it’s ridiculous when there are billions of dollars spent on the campaigning, this much time, when there are a lot of issues that could have been resolved by that time and money,” Reed said, while Uzarowicz would likewise prefer to see the funds put towards the stimulus.
Compared to the 2008 election, Reed viewed the economy as playing a larger role this time around.
“I think it was huge in 2008 as well, but I think there are more people that it’s directly affecting,” she said. “There’s more potential for real change on social issues, depending on who wins this election… I think gay marriage is up for grabs. Obviously, Obamacare is a huge issue.”
Uzarowicz characterized the 2012 election in terms of the “23 million Americans who are unemployed, 46.7 million Americans who are living on food stamps … [and] the lowest middle net worth since 1995.” He postulated that the deciding factor in this election would be how voters answer the question, “Am I better off or worse off?”
In regards to what they expect of the government if progress is to be made in the next four years, Pernice saw focusing on climate change as being of pinnacle importance.
Climate change is “the big issue that’s facing not just our country, but every country in the world,” Pernice said. “The fact that our climate is getting to the point where hurricanes are hitting New York, where our temperature is increasing three or four degrees Celsius. To have a government that isn’t acknowledging that in debates, in their elections, is ludicrous to me. We need to work on getting the green energy that sort of goes into minimizing that greenhouse gas effect.”
Meanwhile, Reed and Uzarowicz both emphasized the importance of bipartisan cooperation.
“We need to take a step back and look at what’s going on. One example I always give is that Alex [and I], we’re really good friends, and this election has actually been really, really good for both of us because we’ve been learning from each other and actually listening, and we’ve come to a point where we agree to disagree, and we also realize that we are a lot closer than lots of people believe,” Reed said. “That’s what needs to happen in Congress. I think people need to realize that we’re not as polarized as we’d like to believe.”
To get to that place of cooperation, Uzarowicz pointed to the necessity of “fiscal disciplines, in the sense that Democrats have to accept that we’re going to have to pile on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and reform them. And Republicans are going to have to accept the fact that we’re going to have to cut the military and that we’re going to have to raise some taxes.”
Bringing the conversation closer to home, the club presidents told The Knox Student what their clubs have been doing to raise political awareness at Knox. Pernice mentioned tabling, giving out information and the holding of third party debate watch parties as endeavors that the Knox Greens have made so far in their first year.
“We brought a lot of different candidates from other congressional districts in … But beyond that, a lot of what we’ve done this term is just try to raise awareness about issues — not necessarily just Democratic issues,” Reed said. “We did a series of three debates … We had pretty good turnout at all of them … We also did a few open forums, general meetings … Really, we just wanted to have a lot of open discourse on campus between the two groups … We’re actually a lot closer together than we thought.”
As for the level of political interest on campus, she added that “some people are just going to disengage. … It is really overwhelming being inundated with all this information.” They also hosted a voter registration drive.
In regards to the decidedly liberal campus atmosphere, Reed also noted her excitement over having “a fairly solid conservatives group, because it doesn’t really do the Knox Democrats any good to not have anyone to have a high level of discourse with.”
Uzarowicz discussed how the Knox Conservatives, sponsored by the Young America’s Foundation, tabled, gave out literature and in general attempted “to spread political diversity.”
“Right now, what we have, it’s a very liberal demographic all around campus,” Uzarowicz said. “The depressing thing about that is, you ask most people in our generation, ‘Who are you gonna vote for?’ … Probably most of them will say Obama … And if you vote for Romney here at Knox, you’re probably a bigot, you’re a sexist, you’re a nativist … It’s detrimental to our liberal arts mission.”
Like Reed, Uzarowicz is interested in promoting civil discourse between the parties, describing how he’s “very close with Gretta … and we get along: We disagree — but we respect each other. Why? Because we actually know about the issues. And I don’t think Gretta’s crazy — and she doesn’t think I’m crazy. If we were more informed, we would not be calling each other names.”
While predicting their respective candidates’ chance of taking home the election, Reed felt nervous but “also very hopeful,” while Pernice didn’t feel Jill Stein had a good shot at all “because people refuse to think that third parties are valuable.”
Uzarowicz, on the other hand said, “I think enthusiasm on the Republican side is much higher than on the Democratic side. I think there are very few Americans who would say that they’re better off.”
After the election results came in, Pernice was disappointed with Stein’s performance but acknowledged that “that’s part of voting for third-party candidates” and declared his interest in seeing “how well Greens do in local office elections both now and in the coming couple months. The results just inspire me to keep on doing what I am doing.”
Though a somber evening for him, Uzarowicz conceded that it was also “a good night for America — the popular vote is very close, and for good reason. Both parties are going to have to reevaluate what they wish for, because it looks like the public is fed up.”