U.S. Constitution Day, Election Forum
During student activity hour on Oct. 16, tables along the new quad were set up for the Democrats, Republicans and independent candidate(s) Ralph Nader (and La Rouche).
The "U.S. Constitution Day and 2008 Election Forum" event was taking place in the grass area. Introduced by Prof. Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and MC, children from the Roosevelt Elementary School started the event, talking about pressing issues that will affect them, like the unending war in Iraq, globalization, the environment and, most importantly, the economy.
The "Pizza and Politics" event put on by the Phi Theta Kappa Club, the Associated Students, the SMC Political Science Dept. and the SMC Academic Senate started with a positive note.
The adults took then to continue informing, or mostly solidifying, what the crowd present already thought about the candidate of their choice. Representatives of the two major parties were on a panel with prepared questions, asked by Prof. Tahvildaran-Jesswein, as well as others from the audience. On the Democratic side, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (41st District) was ready to take on Austin Dragon, a part of the Southern California Republican campaign and SMC alumnus.
The questions were about immigration, education, the war, the bailout and other issues that are important not only for Americans but for the world. "This presidential election means a lot to me and to Phi Theta Kappa. Let's get everybody's opinions and participation for this event, to answer all this questions we really have. We're trying to dispel the myth that my vote doesn't count." Said Karla Washington Phi Theta Kappa President. "My great grandmother used to tell me that there are three sides to the story, your side, and my side and then there's the middle. Everybody is fair game, let's give both parties their fair chance to express their issues and that's what debates are about."
The answers given by the panelists did not differ much from what most of the audience that had watch the debates between Obama and McCain, or anyone who reads the news had heard over and over again. "This ultimately was an opportunity to give the students who are already swamped with so much information, an hour at least, to sit down and consider the issues that are really important come this presidential election. The importance of voting, we have propositions and congressional leaders in California. Fifty Three are up for election," said A.S. Vice President and also A.S. Representative Jafet Santiago.
The promised pizza came in the middle of the event, and whether it was the sun, or the pizza, about half the people left their seats.
Or maybe, just like Political Science Major Gladys Sanabria confessed, "Honestly I just came to participate for the extra credit for my Poly-Sci class. I am neither am Republican or Democrat. I am going to stick to the party that I love. I won't be caught up in the pressure to vote for either democrat or republican because four years ago when I hear of Obama I thought he was an amazing man. Yet, the party I don't agree with anymore, I've been open to see other parties and the Republicans and Democrats are not too different. There is no difference. I see no change in my community. Ralph Nader from the Freedom Party and it is all about peace."
Sanabria had a point. A question about affirmative action, which was eliminated in a bipartisan effort and the cause why Dragon left the Democratic Party, demonstrates that both parties have more in common than people believe. "In 1996 Prop 209. I was an activist Democrat... They (Democratic Party) flew David Duke, the Klansman, to Cal State Northridge, and I was the only one in the room that thought it was an outrageous thing. I was done. I resigned. I was also in the executive board of the NAACP. I left," Dragon said. "The Republican Party was the anti-slavery party; the Democratic Party started the Klan, started segregation. I felt in the Democratic party the most racism against blacks and Latinos."
Dragon may have to change parties again, as also on Oct. 16; the Chaffey Community Republican Women were sent a very racist newsletter by their president Diane Fedele, which depicted Obama on a $10 food coupon, head attached to a donkey next to a watermelon, ribs and a KFC bucket. Dedele even had the audacity to claim she didn't know what she was doing when she sent this image found on the net.
"I find it kinda interesting that Austin Dragon kind of danced around a lot of issues and he kind of pretended that certain things aren't the case." Referring to Dragon answering a question about funding education instead of building more prisons, "Saying those things don't make sense and they do. That was kinda insulting to my intelligence," said Jaimee Sharp, a sociology & American Sign Language major.
The last question was asked by new SMC student Mike Piltzecker, "The Patriot Act essentially repeals or revokes our 4th and 6th Amendment privileges. The government can legally do search and seizure, deny a right for a fair trial, the federal government can hold you in jail without a provable cause and hold you indefinitely without any cause. How do you feel about the Patriot Act?"
Both candidates did not know much about this last-minute provision added to the Patriot Act. Brownley said "Civil liberties have been abused and I hope that Barack Obama, when he becomes president, his first action is that he gets us out of Iraq and the second that he repeals the Patriot Act." "I disagree with your premise. I don't think that's what the Patriot Act is about." Dragon said.
In the end, as most of the population is forced to think, "You ultimately have to vote for the lesser of two evils. You vote so your state is affected a certain way, and that's how you are going to live in the United States of America," Santiago said.
And this event helped others realize that maybe they do have a choice to vote for another alternative.
"This is a place for this forums to happen, this is higher education, there needs to be more forums like this that express the feelings of the students," Washington said.