All we’re missing is people on the concourse handing out cookies. That’s right folks, the campaigns have once again hit the plains. This time, however, we’re not voting on who will bring us Chick-Fil-A breakfast or promises of better parking. This time, we are voting on who will control the future of our nation. Instead of trying to tell every person on the concourse who we’re supporting, we’re telling the social media world.
After three rounds of lively debate, two presidential and one vice presidential, students have become ever more aware of their role in choosing our next leader.
The only time a series of debates has commanded this much attention was during the election of 1960. Then, Vice President Richard Nixon faced-off against Senator John F. Kennedy in the first general election presidential debates ever. Not only were they significant because no presidential candidates had ever met to debate before, but also because they were televised nationally.
Flash forward 52 years and we have advanced enough to watch these debates on television, the internet and from strange little things we carry around in our pockets, our phones. As many of you have already realized, social media has allowed armchair scholars from around the world to sound off on what they think of the debate.
This social media outlet has allowed younger voters, particularly those of college age, to find their voice. Twitter trends during the debate ranged from #ObamaDebateTips to #RealRomney, both criticizing the candidate named. So what are college students really saying with this voice? Some are saying the opposing candidate is awful. Some are saying their candidate is perfect. Others are rising above the name-calling and mud-slinging to respectfully disagree.
To find out more, I went to the Facebook pages of the real experts. That’s right, the political science students here at our beloved university. Many were posting strong opinion statements about specific issues or questions. There were posts from both sides of the aisle, and a few that spoke to both sides. Below are excerpts from one of my favorite statuses regarding the debates and college student’s reactions in particular.
“I watched the Presidential Debate with the AU College Republicans at a bar. It was a civil affair for I feared for my life should I make one of my signature snide remarks. My sole observation of the night is this: 98% of us have already picked our horse in this race,” said Michael DeArmond.
“I noticed I kept quiet when I knew Obama was saying something vague, misleading, or lying but was visibly irritated when Romney did the same. I have to think this is the case with Romney supporters too.” DeArmond continued, “This is why bipartisanship these days isn't possible. We see the faults in our own sides but refuse to address them, but are quick to call out the faults we see in the other side. Our side can do no wrong and their side can do no right.”
As we move in to the last leg of the campaign trail, there will undoubtedly be more mud slung and names called. Though this has become commonplace in the political world, it doesn’t have to be the standard. The Auburn Creed outlines the value of clean sports in the line, “I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.“
Every individual is guaranteed the right to free speech in our nation, not just the ones that agree with you. Regardless of which political party you support, you have a standard to uphold. Let’s restore the concept of respectfully disagreeing. Let’s help build sound minds, sound bodies and spirits that are not afraid. Let’s leave the mud to the politicians and keep our own hands clean.
For more information about the future presidential debates, or to review the past ones for yourself, visit the Commission on Presidential Debates website at www.debates.org.