Professors discuss Election 2000

by Nathan Baca
Staff Writer

With just 11 days left until the next president of the United States is elected, the race for the White House has reached beyond the televised debate halls to the halls of ULV. For an overwhelming amount of students on campus, this will be their first time punching out their ballot for an office higher than that of ASF President.

For the growing number of campus political activists, this election provides ample opportunity to highlight their third-party candidates and causes, thereby earning Ralph Nader a ULV electorate nearly equal to the Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls.

For the political science professors at ULV, this quadrennial ritual brings back the cycle of Hot Spot panel discussions titled, “Bush Or Gore.”

The excitement shown at ULV for the elections is not mirrored outside of campus. With the dialogue and sometimes heated debate over the elections are reaching their climax here, over 51 percent of the American voting population is expected to stay home while the course of the American nation is decided.

Despite the voter apathy, Professor Richard Gelm said at Thursday’s Hot Spot discussion in the President’s Dining Room, “We are the government. It doesn’t exist only in Washington.”

As mediator of the panel discussion, Gelm set the background for what promises to be the closest national election in more than 40 years, “This election might be so close, one of the candidates may win the popular vote but lose with the electoral college.” Though such a situation has not happened since the election of 1876, it is still plausible since Democrat Al Gore’s support is projected to come from states rich in electoral votes while Republican George W. Bush is likely to win with large popular margins in less critical states.

Taking part in the panel discussion was political science professor Kamol Somvichian, who argued that the contest between the Democratic and the Republican parties was actually a struggle between the center and the periphery regions of the country. “If you look at where the Gore supporters are, they are in the major populated regions of the country. That is where you will find your minority and women voters. Most of the Bush supporters live in the non-central regions of the country like the Midwest where most of the voters there are Anglo-Saxon males,” said Somvichian.

Business professor Jack McElwee shook his head in disagreement of his colleague’s take on politics and later defended republican views by arguing that all politics are local, a long-held plank in the party’s platform.

Much of the discussion examined how the political parties themselves are losing their worth as most voters tend to look at the candidate and not the party’s ideology. “Political parties don’t really exist anymore the same way that they used to,” said Gelm.

One look at the sample ballots received in the mail box would seem to prove otherwise as most of the card is filled with names and parties most have never heard of. While Washington may be dominated by the two-party system, that does not stop five other federally recognized political parties from putting forward their own presidential ticket.

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