As I turned down South U to head to Landmark apartments, I tried to dismiss the pessimistic thought in my head: “This wasn’t going to end well.” It was Wednesday night last week and I was about to go over my friend Michael’s apartment to bake brownies in his sleak, modern kitchen while watching the presidential debate with his roommates.
Michael is a steadfast Republican with a Romney campaign poster in his room and a Republican elephant as the background of his iphone. Michael’s roommate, Noah, is an extremely aggressive right-liner from Laguna Beach, California. If you rebut one of his arguments, he gives you the stare of death and then rattles off ten reasons why you are wrong AND why you are the spawn of Satan. Roommate #3, Ryan, is a moderate Democrat who likes to keep his views to himself, but will get vocal if he really disagrees with you.
This wasn’t going to end well. Nevertheless, I wanted chocolate. The boys have a huge plasma TV. And I don’t have cable.
As I started making the brownies as a peace offering around 7 p.m., I heard Michael and Ryan in the next room making bets on who would slip up first and who would perform the best. Michael and Noah both had their money on Romney blowing everyone away; Ryan felt the opposite. I, like Ryan, am registered a Democrat. I like to consider myself an informed voter; however, I also understand that there is a lot I do not know and am open to hearing other people’s opinions and informed arguments.
As 9 p.m. rolled around and the four of us sat on the couch munching on brownies, debating over who would wear what color tie, I thought we might have a chance. Everyone was in a good mood. We were eating chocolate, not doing homework on a Wednesday night. What could go wrong?
Then, Romney and Obama appeared on the screen and the atmosphere immediately shifted. I watched Ryan’s shoulders tense as the moderator made the beginning remarks and the men started discussing their plans for education. Aside from a couple disgusted murmurs and headshakes, everyone remained relatively quiet and subdued. It wasn’t until the discussion regarding Obama’s economic plan that Noah spearheaded an attack on his current tactics that lead to a full-front assault on the President. Although Michael agreed enthusiastically, I noticed he didn’t make any points of his own. “What about you, Michael? What do you think about the effectiveness of the trickle down effect?” No answer. Deer in the headlights look.
I dug further and asked what policies Michael disagreed with and why he even supported Romney. Here is where I admit that I instigated the fight. However, I stand by what I said about the importance of informed arguments — operative word being informed. If Michael was going to parade around campus with his Romney/Ryan shirt, hang a Romney campaign sign in his room, and make the gagging noise when I mentioned anything about Obama, he needed to have some solid knowledge about the topic.
Michael effectively represents a problem that I fear is far too widespread and pervasive on our campus. Many students are voting without first properly educating themselves about the issues, or they are simply mirroring their parents’ votes, as illustrated by a conversation I overheard in my English class the morning after the debate. One girl, Mary, asked another, Beth, if she watched the debate. She answered: “No, but I already know who I’m voting for so it doesn’t matter. My parents have called me every day for the past week reminding me to register to vote because they say it’s going to be really close this year and every vote counts. I haven’t had time to read much about the issues but I trust their opinions.” I didn’t know what scared me more: the point that Beth made or the fact that Mary didn’t seem bothered or even phased by the comment.
If I encountered two uninformed, yet actively voting students within 12 hours after the national debate, who else is out there? Are they the exception or the rule?
We Michigan students are smart adults and understand how to educate ourselves. We should be taking this election seriously and taking the time to learn about these critical issues so that we can decisions on our own. College students’ votes hold a great weight in the election and we are one of the main groups who will be affected by the outcome. There is no excuse to be uninformed.
By: Emily Coyle
(Photo courtesy of sxc.hu)