Political Reflection: Too soon to assume a winner

Michele Bachman won the Iowa Straw Poll this past summer. Now, fast forward to the present and she has already conceded after getting only 5 percent of the votes in the Iowa Caucus. Other contenders such as Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman have also dropped out of the presidential race. It seems too early to determine the Republican candidate who will challenge Obama, yet some people already have their minds set on who it might be.

Four years ago, I was a high school senior in a history class that tracked the early part of the 2008 election cycle. The class members held a mix of political ideologies. Back in January 2008, some thought that the presidential candidates would be Mitt Romney and Hilary Clinton. However, the final tickets for that election cycle were John McCain and Sarah Palin for the Republicans, and current president Barrack Obama and vice president Joe Biden for the Democrats, though these decisions were not made until after that history class had graduated.

Just as it was too early to predict the final candidates in January 2008, January 2012 is far too soon to predict which Republican candidate will be included on the November primary election ballot. In Rider’s home state of New Jersey, our primary elections will not even be until June.

There are also additional reasons why it is too early to call the winner for the primary. As previously mentioned, New Jersey has not had its primary election, nor have many other states. The primaries of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida can sometimes act as indicators of a party’s presidential candidate, but the voters of other states have their say too.

A second reason is the political movements in this country that have sprung up in the past several years. This is the first presidential election in which the conservative Tea Party movement and the liberal Occupy movement will play a part. These two movements will have their impact upon the electorate.

Finally, this is the first presidential election since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to super political action committees (PACs) that support certain candidates as an extension of the First Amendment rights of these corporations. The record- spending of the 2010 midterm elections that allowed Republicans to retake the House of Representatives will likely be a paltry sum after the numbers are tallied for this upcoming election. A Reuters report estimated the spending to be around $4.9 billion this year, compared with a U.S. News & World Report estimate of $4 billion for the 2010 midterms.

Each election season is different. There will be many factors on voters’ minds: the economy, jobs, reproductive rights and environmental issues are among the numerous components considered at the polls. In November 2008, I voted for the first time, having just registered. Four years later, I am ready to do so again and encourage everyone eligible to vote to register now, so that they are able to cast a ballot both in the primary and general elections. A simple way to register is to do so when renewing a driver’s license or when online. Representative democracy only works when citizens carry out their civic duties by casting a vote; whom a citizen votes for is secondary.

-Jess Scanlon

Senior journalism major

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