by Julia Ernst
Shortly before midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 5, Rider students celebrated Sen. Barack Obama’s victory with yelling, chanting and hugging on the residential quad, in the Student Recreation Center and in their residence halls.
Obama, who will become the nation’s 44th president and the first African-American to hold the position was elected to office with 364 Electoral College votes with 12 undecided. Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, will become the vice-president. The Republican challenger, Sen. John McCain, received 162 Electoral College votes.
Ben Dworkin, director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, said that Obama’s decisive win could have a great impact on American politics.
“Obama went out — and won — a campaign that people will study for years,” Dworkin said. “From a political science perspective, there are hints that this can be a real realignment election. The widespread election of Barack Obama may well begin a new era in American politics.”
In New Jersey, 57 percent of people voted for Obama, while 42 percent went with McCain. The remaining 1 percent was described as “other” in a state-by-state breakdown on CNN.com.
Among the 18 to 29 age bracket in New Jersey, according to the CNN analysis, a little more than two-thirds of the “youth vote” went to Obama. Polls at Rider matched that trend.
“I voted for Obama,” junior Brian Alloway said. “I was happy. I liked his points about the economy, education and the direction he wants to go with tax relief.”
Junior Pat Amice echoed Alloway’s sentiments.
“I voted for Obama,” Amice said. “I’ve always been fascinated by him as a speaker. I’m impressed with the programs he’s talking about implementing, especially with health care and the economy.”
The Obama/Biden platform was important, in general terms, to students, but this relevance can also be viewed from a course of study perspective. Science and health administration students will watch the president-elect’s plans for research budgets and health care reform. Business students look to the new administration to alleviate economic issues and tax questions. Education majors are concerned about No Child Left Behind and funding for secondary education.
“I voted for Obama,” said senior Nicole Lorenzetti. “I was really pleased with how it turned out. I thought that his [acceptance] speech [Tuesday] night was really inspiring.”
One demographic of Rider students, however, did not have such a well-known and addressed concern: arts, music and theater majors in the new School of Fine and Performing Arts and at Westminster Choir College.
“A commitment to the arts was definitely a part of Barack Obama’s campaign goals,” said Robert Annis, dean of Westminster. “I look forward to the implementation of the initiatives that he proposed.”
According to Obama’s campaign Web site, www.barackobama.com, the president-elect “uniquely appreciates the role and value of creative expression.” The site details Obama’s support for greater arts education, which includes expanding public and private partnerships between schools and arts organizations; creation of an “Artists Corps” for training in low-income schools and communities; and public support for the value of arts education.
“[The initiatives] should benefit Westminster, its current and future students as well as its alumni, and the lives of the people who are touched by their work,” Annis said.
Dworkin discussed the many issues that Obama must face when he enters the White House.
“It probably is the toughest time in America to be president,” Dworkin said. “We are facing any number of challenges. The key to Barack Obama’s success is two-fold. First, he has to pass different levels of legislation. He has to figure out what comes first. The next element of his success will be managing expectations. In his speech on election night, he said that this might not take a year, five years, but he was optimistic that it will succeed.”
Dworkin also discussed the theme of Obama’s campaign, change for America, and how that impacted voters.
“The idea that there are red and blue states was shattered,” Dworkin said. “It is a new look and a generational shift.”
On Tuesday night, as Obama’s number of Electoral College votes climbed, hundreds of Rider students gathered in the residential quad between Hill Hall, New Building and Gee Hall. The desire for change was echoed in the days afterward in students’ reactions.
“I voted for Obama because of his positive health care plans,” sophomore Diana Rojas said. “He wants change. We need change in this nation — the war, our economy, education. He’ll develop programs to help us with loans so that we’re not being overcharged by the banks. I’m happy that he won — he seems like he’ll be a good leader.”
However, there were some students who were not happy with Obama’s election.
“I voted for McCain,” said senior Sarah Richards. “Neither of the candidates really blew me away. I’m a Republican, so the thing that really turned me off about Obama was taxes, so that next year, when I’m in the real world, I’m going to have to pay them.”
Although senior Mike DeRosa voted for McCain, he believes Obama won because he had a well managed campaign.
“I think [Obama] won because he had the more stable campaign,” he said. “I expected this and wish him the best of luck. I will support him and give him a fair chance to prove I was wrong.”