Though the presidential general election is still over a year away, some students at the College are already sure who they are voting for.
p. Among the many candidates, the three who have active student groups in the form of chapters of Facebook groups on campus are Republican candidates Rep. Ron Paul and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, along with Democrat Sen. Barack Obama.
Kelli Chappel ’08, creator of the College chapter of the Facebook group Students for Ron Paul, reported that as of about two weeks ago, Students for Ron Paul expanded beyond Facebook and is now an official campus group.
p. “Our strategy for this semester includes raising awareness about important issues, informing voters about Congressman Ron Paul’s positions on those issues, and registering and turning out voters,” she said.
p. Chappel explained that it is Paul’s unique platform that distinguishes him from the other candidates and inspired her support. “I realized the only politician, Republican or Democrat, campaigning to be president who offered the hope of a real change was Congressman Ron Paul. Before I had heard about him, I was disgusted with the way that Washington politics have been over the last few years, but I had accepted it as a necessary evil.”
p. Paul’s supporters deny the common criticism that Paul’s views on foreign policy effectively make him an isolationist.
p. “He is a non-interventionist,” Chappel said. “Non-interventionism is spreading democracy by setting a good example for the rest of the world to see and not with the barrel of a gun. Our interests here at home need to come first before the interests of other nations.”
p. Joe Luppino-Esposito ’08 created a campus Facebook group in support of Rudy Giuliani, the Republican candidate who has maintained front runner status throughout the past year. “Right now, it’s just me and a few others consistently involved. We’re hoping to garner more student support, but there’s still four to six top Republicans and students aren’t necessarily ready to commit yet,” he said.
p. “Our first task has been gathering the 10,000 signatures necessary to get Rudy on the ballot for the Virginia primary.” Luppino-Esposito expressed further plans to make Students for Rudy 2008 an official campus group in the next few weeks.
Giuliani has been criticized by some who claim that his tenure as mayor of New York City leaves him lacking credentials necessary to be president. For Luppino-Esposito and other Rudy supporters, it is his record of leadership that makes Giuliani the candidate most qualified for the nation’s highest executive office.
p. “It’s not as if he was the Mayor of some small city,” Luppino-Esposito said. “He managed a huge budget and school system, cleaned up the city and made it safer and economically prosperous.”
p. The Facebook group “William and Mary Students for Barack Obama,” created by Jared Calfee ’10, is the largest of the three, with 85 members. It is also an official student group on campus. Calfee described the group’s campus activities.
p. “We have done things like gathering petition signatures to get Obama on the primary ballot in Virginia. We have also collected pledges, handed out signs and just answered people’s questions about Obama. We want to increase name recognition and make all the information possible available to anyone who wants to hear it,” he explained.
p. Obama supporters say they look beyond policy and see in the senator a leader who has characteristics that America should seek in their next President.
p. “The qualities that Obama possesses may seem somewhat intangible, but they are vital for a successful president,” Calfee notes. “His ability to inspire and motivate people is a crucial quality for someone in a major leadership role. To be successful and get things done that need to get done, you have to be able to convince people that your ideas are right and beneficial to them.”
p. Obama is the junior senator from Illinois and has served for two and half years. His supporters are adamant that experience is not the only factor that voters should utilize in evaluating candidates.
“The qualities that make a good president are intelligence, leadership, judgment and genuinely caring about the people of the country you will be leading. We believe Senator Obama has these qualities to such a great extent that he is the most qualified candidate for president,” Calfee said.
p. Noticeably absent is a group dedicated to candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Neither a Facebook nor official student group in support of the Democratic front runner exists at the College. Rachel Wolin ’08, a member of the Young Democrats, offered an explanation.
p. “I would hazard a guess of why Hillary is not as popular to younger voters; she has not made the honest, good-faith effort to reach out to the kind of voters that we have here at William and Mary.”
p. Wolin did say a contingent of Clinton supporters will likely emerge from the student body at some point. “I think time will tell. Give it a few months. Let the first few primaries happen. I do not think we can declare a complete lack of support for Hillary by W&M students. It just is not as loud.”
p. Regardless of the divergence of their views on policy, the students articulated a bipartisan dedication to increasing awareness and involvement in the voting process.
p. “Most people realize that whether or not they agree with the issues that we’re talking about, we’re informing voters,” Chappel said. “For me personally, I’d rather have informed voters causing us to lose the election than people just voting for who the media tells them to vote for.”
p. Calfee reaffirmed the sentiment. “Our goal is to both help advance our candidate on campus, but also to increase students’ awareness about politics in general as well as our candidate and encourage them to register and vote,” he said.
p. “Our belief is that if everyone is well-informed about all of their choices, the majority will make the choice that is best for the country, and that is democracy in action.”