Searching for Mr. Right
The Managing Board endorses Barack Obama, Tim Kaine and John Douglass
The diversity of opinion on Grounds shows that the political views of college students cannot be taken for granted as belonging to a typical creed. There are activist students advocating for the candidate of a traditional political party; many denounce the lack of transparency in the process altogether, or call for additional options. “Bipartisanship,” what is normally a laudatory term, can also be a slogan well worth dethroning. Indeed, groups such as The Commission on Presidential Debates – the bipartisan organization that hosts the presidential debates to the exclusion of third parties – prevent many from ever engaging with alternative candidates in a mainstream televisual format. Voting students should not take this as an excuse to neglect their potential array of options, such as Green Party nominee Jill Stein or the Libertarian Gary Johnson. Should students examine the issues that will impact them most immediately – including financing in higher education and matters of civil liberty – we believe the most promising choice is the incumbent, President Obama.
What Obama has already done for students should not be overlooked. Passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act allows dependents to retain their parents’ health insurance until their 26th birthday. Obama also became the first sitting president to openly come out in favor of same-sex marriage: a notion Mitt Romney forthrightly disagrees with. There is no cogent argument for why same-sex couples be denied the right to marry besides prejudice masquerading as religious or moral sentiment. Romney not only supports the Defense of Marriage Act – which would make marriages in one state potentially invalid in another – but also wants a Constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and thus the ratification of bigotry.
The two candidates deserve credit for making higher education issues a mainstay of their political platforms. But in the exam on collegiate topics Obama outperforms Romney. The president signed a law this summer that extended decreased interest rates on federal student loans. His most sweeping student loan reform he passed in 2010, as part of the Affordable Care Act. With that, Obama removed banks from the student loan process, thus eliminating the expensive subsidies the federal government was expected to pay to banks for handing out loans, which came at a cost to the taxpayer. Romney wants to repeal such reform by reintroducing banks as the primary arbiter of loans. His running mate, Paul Ryan – in the national budget he presented to Congress in 2012 – moreover proposed to reduce the funding and make it tougher to qualify for Pell grants, a chief source of federal aid. The Republican ticket also opposes the “gainful-employment rule” created by Obama’s Department of Education. The gainful-employment rule aims to regulate for-profit colleges, and potentially withdraw aid from those for-profit schools by tracking the income and debt of their students.
In the race for the U.S. Senate seat in Virginia, former Gov. Tim Kaine outpaces former Gov. George Allen in the issues of education. Both candidates have done well by vouching for low interest rates on student loans; both, too, have warned against increasing tuition. Yet Kaine has succeeded by articulating ways in which the state could help keep tuition down by increasing student assistance. Allen, meanwhile, has only promised a freeze on tuition rates without outlining how universities would replace the lost revenue.
In Virginia’s Fifth District, Democratic congressional candidate John Douglass wants to create a “Direct Loan Program” which would decrease interest rates and expand the size of Pell Grants to account for the rise in tuition. “Education” is the top issue on Douglass’ website, under the “Policies” heading. Less is known about his opponent’s plan as Robert Hurt’s website asks those interested in his views on education to contact his Washington office.
Next Tuesday is the date of a national election foregrounding Virginia as a battleground state – it is also the date for second midterms in courses of numerous disciplines. If students are concerned about making it to the polls on Tuesday, they can still vote in-person with an absentee ballot at the Charlottesville or Albemarle registrar’s office 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Although we’ll never advocate skipping classes outright, neither should eligible students miss out on the equally educative act of voting in a national election.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that Bob McDonnell was governor in 2007, when a salary freeze for state employees went into effect. Tim Kaine was governor at the time.