The Cavalier Daily
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Campaign worthy of student interest

I HAVE never really been interested in politics. I've always followed the elections at a distance. During previous elections, I could recall a candidate's stance on general issues, but I never really tried to find out anything beyond that superficial level. Instead I settled for whatever I heard from friends and family.

More recently however, I have become intrigued by the presidential campaign. Over the past break, I was lucky enough to catch parts of the recent debates on the radio. Surprisingly enough, far from boring, most of the debates were interesting and sometimes funny. Similarly, I had time to read the paper, and to catch up on the campaign trail. Again, I found that there was a lot that I found engaging and fun.

I first listened to a debate between the Republican candidates. They discussed many of the issues that are supposed to be most important during this campaign. Each candidate discussed gays in the military, violence and taxes.

The debate, however, was far from boring. Despite the seemingly heavy topics, banter between the candidates kept me engrossed. Their quips and jokes, retorts and cross-examinations all kept the debate lively.

Each candidate has his own personal flair and style, something that doesn't come across in the papers or the political commercials. Texas Gov. George W. Bush, despite sometimes being maligned as unintelligent, displayed a quick wit that had everyone laughing; Orrin Hatch was eloquent, but seemed prone to long rambles when answering simple questions; John McCain was straightforward and forthright; and Steve Forbes seemed about as stiff as I had pictured him.

While listening to each candidate respond to the moderator, as well as to each other, I was able to get a much better picture of where each candidate stood on the issues. I noticed not only their rhetoric, but how well they were able to respond to challenges and new issues, and whether they stuck to their outlined policies.

Above all, it remained lighthearted and I did not hear anything that could have been considered slanderous. I had no desire to hear any mudslinging, and I was happily surprised.

When reading about the Democratic campaign, I once again was amused. I read about Al Gore's record as vice president and Bill Bradley's as a senator. Most intriguing however, was the small blurb in The New York Times about "Corn Man," a volunteer for the Gore campaign who chases Bradley around in a giant corn suit, taunting him on his farm policy.

The presidential campaigns are not as I had pictured them. Images of bureaucrats and pandering politicians danced through my head, while the actual proceedings revealed all the candidates as down to earth.

Unfortunately, as a general rule, younger adults are uninterested in elections and politics; voter apathy in general is high. According to the Federal Election Commission, only 31 percent of voters ages 18-24 voted in the 1996 presidential election. This compares rather poorly with the turnout for other age groups; people ages 45-64 had a turnout of 64 percent, over twice that of the youngest voters.

For a college student, there are some obstacles to voting. Since most elections occur during school, some planning is required. Unlike in previous years however, these obstacles can be surmounted with only a minimal effort. For instance, it is now possible to register to vote without going to your town registry. Sites like provide online registration for almost all 50 states. Fill out a few online forms, and in 10 minutes you'll be registered to vote.

The bottom line is that politics has acquired a dirty image over the years. Thanks to the conduct of our president, as well as a number of mudslinging congressional campaigns, politics has assumed a tarnished image in the eyes of many young people.

Nevertheless, that is only one more reason to follow the current campaigns and to make an informed vote. Rather than shy away from the responsibilities of a citizen, students should embrace the opportunity to affect the political process.

For myself, and many other college students, this presidential campaign is the first in which we are able to vote. Take advantage of that chance; register and vote. Do it for "Corn Man."

(Nick Lawler's column appears Wednesdays in The Cavalier Daily.)


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