Friday, December 14, 2007

Jealousy or Justifiable Criticism?

Presidential candidate and Illinois senator Barack Obama is a favorite among many demographic groups. He is a favorite among college employees, especially professors. College employees have donated far more money to Obama than any other presidential candidate, and his strengths as a leader are often described as including “his [professorial] ability to engage people who hold various viewpoints, scrutinize their ideas, and forge rational solutions.”

Obama is also a huge favorite among college students. For example, Obama tops Hillary Clinton “by a nearly 2-1 margin among students at four-year colleges.” As Obama travels across Iowa, he is encouraging college students, many of whom will now be away on winter break, to come back for the Iowa caucus on January 3, 2008. In so doing, he is reminding them of their civic duty to engage the political process.

But, Obama’s opponents find this tactic to be unfair. A spokesperson from the Clinton campaign has indicated the following: “We are not courting out-of-staters. The Iowa caucus ought to be for Iowans.”

A campaign supporter for Chris Dodd made similar comments, asserting:
“I was deeply disappointed to read today about the Obama campaign’s attempt to recruit thousands of out-of-state residents to come to Iowa for the caucuses. . . . ‘New Politics’ shouldn’t be about scheming to evade either the spirit or the letter of the rules that guide the process. That may be the way politics is played in Chicago, but not in Iowa.”

But are these campaign officials just jealous or justifiably upset by Obama’s push for more college participation? After all, as Obama’s campaign contends, “It’s doing nothing unusual . . . . Iowa college students have long caucused near their colleges.” But for the Iowa caucus date moving up to January 3, most of these students would be back from break to participate in the caucus anyway. Additionally, what is wrong with students caucusing in a state where they will spend at least 4-5 years of their lives? In fact, many students register to vote in the state where they attend college and participate in local politics. I attended college in Iowa and registered to vote there when I was a student. Besides, shouldn’t we be encouraging young people, who tend not to engage in politics at high percentages, to participate in the caucuses—to become more politically involved? In the last presidential caucus in Iowa, only 4 percent of participants in Democratic caucuses were between the ages of 18 and 24. Shouldn’t any politician want to see these numbers rise?
University of Iowa professor Angela Onwuachi Willig cross-blogs from

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