Verbum Ultimum: A Head Start to Vote Smart

by THE DARTMOUTH SUMMER EDITORIAL BOARD | 7/9/15 6:19pm

Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Hanover should be a wake-up call to campus — it’s election season. Students at the College on the Hill are in a position from now until next November to get up close and personal with candidates. What’s more, students have the opportunity to pose questions to candidates that could help shape the debate. We know, that sounds fantastic, but being a student in New Hampshire comes with the benefit of being able to vote here without residency. New Hampshire voters get to set the tone early with the First in the Nation Primary.

The University of New Hampshire and Dartmouth will be the two most frequented colleges in the state visited by candidates. Dartmouth students should be aware of and eager to exercise their right to not only vote, but also influence the debate for both parties. Though campaign schedules have yet to be finalized, we can expect quite a bit of exposure to various candidates, particularly from the Republican Party, which currently has 16 candidates.

The visits from presidential hopefuls should not be taken for granted. Dartmouth students should gear up to ask difficult and meaningful questions of each candidate, while deflecting populist rhetoric and generic terms such as “freedom,” “change” and “democracy.” When presented with the opportunity to engage candidates, students should be ready to challenge them in an intelligent and professional manner. We should refrain from the antics that occurred during Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-Texas) visit this past fall, when some students asked inappropriate questions concerning his stance on homosexuality and marriage equality. While their angst is warranted, we should recognize that such public displays of unprofessionalism put Dartmouth students in a bad light. Yes, it is important to call out candidates on the positions with which we may disagree, but we need to remember to do it in a way that will productively contribute to the debates.

Of the many candidates, we find a wide range of backgrounds to explore. Among 16 Republicans, we find candidates who are present and former members from both congressional houses, governors, business people, as well as a few individuals with little or no public experience. Among the five Democrats, we find a group with experience as senators and governors. While media, advertising and rhetoric will have a large influence on voters, Dartmouth students should act as role models for the electorate by taking the time to research candidates. Websites such as Votesmart.org are great ways to dig up facts about candidates’ political stances and voting records. Want to find out why people view Hillary Clinton as “hawkish,” or why Bernie Sanders is both a socialist and a federalist? Checking out these candidates history is the best way to shape your own opinion and ultimately your vote. Remember, there is nothing more intimidating to a candidate than a well-informed electorate.

The New Hampshire primary is one of the most publicized events in politics. Iowa and New Hampshire are generally the initial focus of every presidential campaign before the swing-states. In the spirit of “Live Free or Die,” non-resident students have the right to vote. If you do not intend on going through the trouble to obtain an absentee ballot, do not deny yourself the opportunity to contribute to a candidate you might favor.

This election cycle is likely to have a profound impact on the country. The Republican primary will determine the fate of a divided party, while the Democratic primary will decide what the mission of the more cohesive party will be. While there is a clear Democratic frontrunner in Clinton, do not doubt the potential of other candidates to shape and reshape the political landscape. Ultimately, it is up to the voters, but as Dartmouth students we owe it to ourselves to make sure that we are informed, and that when given the chance, we test these candidates who hope to become the country’s next commander-in-chief.