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Hello, Eastover students, and welcome to Eastover Votes, the official election blog of The Eastover Herald! We have started this blog so that there can be a space for Eastover students to respond to the upcoming presidential race, which seems to be escalating by the minute, in real time. You'll find regular opinion columns by Herald staff writers, as well as debate reviews like our inaugural post (see below), but most importantly, we feel that this campus deserves an open forum to share insights and raise questions during this heated political moment, so you are encouraged to submit your insights and ideas through our contact page. We will not change any of your words — not even to copy-edit, unless you ask us to — and we will repost anything, as long as a) it is relevant to the election in some way and b) it does not involve hate speech, personal attacks, or any other violation of the student conduct code.


We understand the great importance of the upcoming election; we started Eastover Votes so that we don't have to make our decisions alone.

—Sheila Abbasi '05 and Bill Bright '07, editors-in-chief

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DEBATING THE DEBATES: The Democratic Candidates at the Orpheum Theatre, 10/9/2003

SHEILA ABBASI '05: Wow! That was a lot. I look forward to a debate stage with fewer candidates on it; even after an hour and a half I found it difficult to keep track. Knee-jerk, I’d say the standout was John Edwards. By the time Al Sharpton was all but endorsing him, I found myself wondering why progressives aren’t responding to him the way they are to Howard Dean. Edwards is the candidate who, to me, inspires the most optimism: he is charismatic and seems clear in his values in a way that most other candidates do not. I also really liked Carol Mosely Braun, not only because she deftly handled being called "Sir" in her opening question, and I wish she'd gotten a little more airtime.

The losers, in my opinion, were Wesley Clark and Dick Gephardt. Gephardt mainly has a personality problem: he’s relentlessly unexciting. His significant amount of experience should be a strong suit for him, but instead he comes off as something of a political fossil, certainly not the breath of fresh air this country is looking for. Kerry is similar, though more palatable to me, perhaps because I voted for him in his senate race last year. Wesley Clark has bigger concerns. It’s really hard not to wonder if he’d be running as a Republican candidate were there not an incumbent in this race. I don’t feel dissimilarly about Lieberman, but he managed to avoid the onslaught that Clark faced (most likely because the former candidate is on a decline in the polls, while the latter is on his way up). 

Last comes Dean. Since this summer, Dean has talked himself up to be the candidate of  my dreams, but I remain unconvinced. I would happily vote for him, but I find his rhetoric a little misleading (next to Kucinich, who, granted, will never win, he looks like a centrist) and on a personal level, I find his demeanor off-putting and, for lack of a better way of putting it, strange. I’m the exact type of person Dean is currently courting, but right now, I’m not sure I’m on his team.

BILL BRIGHT '07: I couldn’t agree more about the stage being overcrowded; midway through the evening I was already feeling exhausted. In particular this was because of how strikingly similar so many of the candidates are from one to the next. I also agree that the standout was Edwards —- there’s a fundamental decency to him that makes him an exceptional candidate, and if I’d had no knowledge of the candidates prior to last night’s telecast, I think he’d be my front-runner. Based on where he is in the polls, I don’t see it happening for him this go-round, but I can see this being good groundwork for a run in 2012. (You’ll notice I’m anticipating a two-term democratic presidency from whoever our candidate is… What can I say, I’m an optimist.)

Here’s the case for Dean. Whether or not you connect with his personality (which I have no problem with), he has clearly built up a movement of people who wouldn’t otherwise feel motivated to vote. He’s raised more money than any other candidate, and he’s done so through small donations. No other candidate has come close to mobilizing the public, which makes Dean look like he’s the only candidate who’s in touch with the times. There was consensus at last night’s debate that the invasion of Iraq was a bad decision, but I seriously wonder if the conversation would have looked like that if Dean hadn’t already tapped into public outrage about the war. I agree that last night wasn’t his strongest night —- in part because he, like Clark, seemed bullied by the others, who I felt were very manipulative in their attacks about Medicare —- but I see him going all the way with this one.

SA: I hope you’re right about that, and again, I would be happy to vote for him. You make a good point about his agenda-setting; I too was struck by the candidates’ outspokenness against the war. If nothing else, Dean has certainly pushed the conversation among Democrats to a more critical place, which is a deeply good thing for the party. 

That said, I don’t think it was out of bounds for Dean’s rivals to call him on his record. We need to be sure this doesn’t become a single-issue election, especially given that all the Democratic candidates have come out against the war. Part of what makes me nervous about Wesley Clark is that his experience is exclusively military-oriented; it’s very difficult to get a vivid picture of how he would handle domestic affairs or even how he feels about them.

BB: That’s a very fair point. Hopefully the next debates will offer more time for discussion that doesn’t have to do with Iraq —- and, with some luck, a few less cooks in the kitchen.



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