Four More Years: Town's Kerry fever extinguished

by Katherine Harrison | 11/4/04 6:00am

Voices were both crying and cheering in the Dartmouth wilderness as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry conceded to President Bush Wednesday. A sense of disillusionment on campus was hard to miss, with large numbers of Kerry supporters going as far as to organize a midnight vigil to grieve for their candidate's loss in the popular and electoral vote.

Kerry's defeat may be shocking to Dartmouth students who found their campus politically dominated by the efforts of the Young Democrats. Carrying signs and clad in bright T-shirts to declare their preferred candidate, the students campaigned heavily and provided shuttle service to voting booths Tuesday. However, Hanover's Kerry fever was not matched by nationwide agreement, and as some students coped badly with this reality, others were elated.

Dartmouth students supporting Kerry grew disheartened quickly, indicating that they had been misled by the liberal bent of the surrounding region. Michael Martin '06 said he thought if things were going well for Kerry in Hanover, it must be the same elsewhere.

"In my mind I thought of Hanover as a litmus test for the sentiment in the rest of the country," Martin said. "I thought that the high young voter turnouts were good signs for Kerry."

Martin and others were further upset by a perceived political divide in the nation.

"I looked at the election breakdown map and saw blue states in the East Coast, the upper Midwest and the West Coast -- and in between I saw a giant block of red," Martin said. "I just feel like there are two distinct Americas, and that makes me feel like a foreigner in my own country."

Kerry supporters also expressed concern that Republicans will retain control of all three branches of government. Ricky Cole '06, who organized a midnight vigil on the Green to help students vent and deal with disappointment about the election's results, said he finds the notion alarming.

"I'm scared, because we not only have a Republican president, but also a Republican Congress," Cole said. "It makes me think that there's going to be a disproportionate balance of power in the next four years."

Cole's vigil attracted a group of about 80 students to the center of the Green, largely gathering in silence with only candles to ward off the bitter cold.

Distress over the election results affected some Dartmouth students greatly. Monica Murphy '07 said she had trouble sleeping the night before the election results were announced.

"Apparently I kept walking up and asking my roommate if Kerry won," she said.

Student supporters of President Bush, though, were thrilled and relieved with the results. Pointing to Bush's success in the popular vote as evidence that he has the country's support, Bush supporters were optimistic that his win will not be disputed as it was in the 2000 election.

Mike Stroup '06 attributed Bush winning the popular vote to the American public's ability to "see through Kerry's attempts to convince them that the economy was in poor shape, despite all the strong indicators to the contrary."

Despite Stroup's opinion on Kerry's economic message, he praised Kerry's graceful exit. "I did appreciate that Kerry decided to concede the election, rather than sue. It was in the best interest of the country. It was really disappointing in 2000 to see Gore drag our nation through that for his own personal gain."

While the College Republicans were not as visible as the Young Democrats on the Dartmouth campus, members watched the election together and celebrated Bush's win. "It was truly amazing watching the election unfold last night," Matthew Alexander '06, co-vice president of the Dartmouth College Republicans, said. " We were all huddled around the TV, and you could feel the collective excitement build as we began to realize Bush had done it."

While Kerry supporters described themselves as worried and upset, Bush supporters were optimistic.

Meg Thering '05 said, "I'm looking forward to the next four years. I think the country will be safer and stronger because of this election."

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