Point: Praiseworthy Campus Politicos

by Leslie Adkins | 11/14/08 4:32am

Trust me, I get it. The Democrats, Republicans and every other organization under the sun drove me to the edge of my politesse. Politics were crammed down my throat every time I set foot in Collis Cafe. I was going to have a conniption if one more person accosted me to ask if I was registered to vote or if I wanted to volunteer. I am, I did -- seriously, now slow your roll. Thankfully, now that the election erection has come to a climax we can sit back and complain about how it really wasn't all that great for us, despite all the hype.

And yet, it was pretty great (insert amused smirk here). Yes, it was mostly because of the petty Red-versus-Blue cat fight that has become the centerpiece of our current campus culture war. But more than the fights, it was that singular group of characters that made it a pleasure: the student volunteers.

Despite their overabundance of zeal and pushy natures, our partisan and non-partisan peers have accomplished something that is nearly impossible at Dartmouth: They made us care. It's no secret that apathy is as contagious as that yet-to-be-diagnosed virus spreading across campus. So to actually foster in us the desire to argue over the issues, wear stickers, table for voter registration and steal blue signs says something about the connection we felt this time around. Though you might not long for the return of the GOP at the corner of Main Street, there are some things I know you'll miss.

Like any breathing Dartmouth student, I love having my pick of free, useless stuff. I enjoyed the reliability of my fellow peers, parked in Collis or Thayer with a table full of free T-shirts, water bottles, carabiners, stickers, pins, pens, whistles and signs. Some took these because they wanted to show support; some took because they could. What matters is that regardless of affiliation, our own budding politicos knew we liked to be greedy and were happy to enable our vices.

It grew tiresome to hear the people tabling in Thayer discuss their take on the same bad election interview or poor debate performance, but there is something to be said for having easy access to a recap of the previous day's campaign debacle. This is current events at our fingertips, without research, prodding or question. It's convenient and easy, and yes, we like those qualities -- in a historical event or a person -- too.

All joking aside, the access our student organizers provided us was phenomenal to say the least. The number of politicians who came to campus exceeded that of previous years. Their visits may have come in the form of town hall meetings, but with these more "official" events there was almost always a special forum given mainly for students. These arrangements were done not to self-promote organizations but to collectively encourage knowledge and involvement. Few colleges can boast that Barack Obama visited their campus or that they hosted the Democratic National Debates. Even fewer can boast a population of students who were able to shake hands with our leaders and interact with them directly.

Because of our student organizers, Hanover itself became important in this election. Within the swing state of New Hampshire, Hanover has become a politically salient community. Our student activism shows the outside world that a) we as students actually do care about our futures and b) enough of us care that we can continue to make an impact on the state and national government. Our votes are as visible, as they are important, largely because of the attention our peers bestow upon them.

The opposition our student organizers face in vying for our motivation and attention isn't trivial. When your target audience is more concerned with midterms, meetings and pong tourneys, it can be hard to get it interested in something outside of the Dartmouth sphere. The people you approach tend to be at the very least dismissive, if not blatantly rude (I've been on all ends of the spectrum). But day by day, the closer we came to elections, campus politicos were able to impart upon us that this was our election, and that the votes we were to cast would have a greater impact on our lives than Harbor or pledge meetings.

Now, we finally have our friends back, our common spaces, our sanity. But even when these things fell victim to the politics, it was for all the right reasons. Politics are cliched -- an old-boys club of mudslinging and false promises -- but the students who brought this world to us did so in an encouraging manner rather than a cynical one, asking us to care enough to change what was problematic. For that feat alone I can forgive them for the endless sidewalk chalk messages.

Yes, I am sad to say, I will miss them. Posters and pins be damned, those students made this hot mess of an election an experience to be remembered.

Leslie is back as a staff writer for The Mirror after a long hiatus to watch CNN all day without interruption.