Posted on Oct 30, 2008

LOgo of Democratic Party

In retrospect, the title of Mike Huckabee’s speech at Union last spring probably said it all: “The Pursuit of the Presidency and the Perfectly Insane American Process.”

As the most expensive, protracted and debated presidential race in U.S. history comes to a close, here’s a recap of how it has energized campus:

Republican Party logo

The election hoopla began with Huckabee, who’d just dropped out of the presidential Republican primary. His visit last April, courtesy of Speakers Forum, included a talk to more than 900 in Memorial Chapel and an hour of informal chatting. And before Sarah Palin became a household name, he addressed the possibility of being named Sen. John McCain’s running mate.

On the other side of the political spectrum, noted liberal blogger Joshua Micah Marshall was a highlight of orientation weekend for members of the Class of 2012. Over the summer, the first-years had delved into the life stories of both contenders, reading Sen. Barack Obama’s “Dreams From My Father” and McCain’s “Faith of My Fathers.”

In September, Alan Wolfe, head of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, reflected on the heightened role religion has played in this year’s race in a talk at the Nott.

With questions about the race on everyone’s mind, faculty members went on local radio to answer questions from the public. Lending their expertise to WAMC’s Presidential Election Round Table on Vox Pop the past two weeks were David Cotter (Sociology), Tomas Dvorak (Economics), Ashraf Ghaly (Engineering), Thomas Lobe (Political Science) and Zoe Oxley (Political Science).  

On campus, Oxley’s Electoral Politics class is running a mock election, with students playing the roles of candidates, campaign staffers, journalists and other key players in the process. The simulation ends with a public debate and election Wednesday, Nov. 5.

In Union’s interdisciplinary course, Election 2008, students have been learning about everything from the candidates’ environmental policies to the role of the media. All classes are open to the public. Still to come: talks by Chris Chabris on psychology and the neuroscience of political decision making (Nov. 5) and William Zwicker on voting systems (Nov. 10), and a campaign strategy retrospective analysis by Clifford Brown (Nov. 12). There'll be a recap and review, with final thoughts and discussion (Nov. 17), led by Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Joshua Hart.        

Meanwhile, many Minerva Houses are gearing up for election night. An event at Beuth House, co-sponsored by Alpha Phi Alpha, will feature lots of food and conversation, while Blue House is hosting “Uncle Sam Wants U in Blue.” 

“We’ll be watching the election night coverage, cheering and moaning as the results are announced,” said Shelton Schmidt, Blue House faculty advisor. “We’re thinking of serving apple pie. All are welcome.”

And it’s not too late to enter the Pi Sigma Alpha (Political Science Honor Society) election prediction contest; the prize is $50. Contestants must guess not only who the new president will be, but the Electoral College outcome and how many seats each party will have in the Senate after Election Day. To participate, e-mail by 9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 3.