Rock the Vote debate lacks equal representation and audience

    The sparse audience at Alianza’s Rock the Vote event. Photo by Katherine Tang / North by Northwestern.

    Lone Republican Jonathan Green debated four Democrats on the stage of the Fisk Auditorium Sunday evening for a “Rock the Vote” event.

    Alianza, the Hispanic/Latino Student Alliance, sponsored the event as a dialogue for Northwestern’s political bipartisan groups to present Barack Obama and John McCain’s platforms and principles.

    “It was our last chance to discuss the issues pertaining to our age, demographic, and voting and any multicultural issues in voting,” said Esperanza Salgado, Weinberg senior and board member of Alianza.

    Representing Obama was Weinberg senior Ryan Murphy and Weinberg junior Jeff Cao of College Democrats, and Weinberg sophomore Michael Lobel and SESP junior Aireale Rodgers, coordinators for Students For Obama. Students for McCain coordinator Jonathan Green alone represented McCain.

    “Statistically, I was the odd man out, but it didn’t bother me,” said Green, a Weinberg sophomore. “I think most of the people who came here had a distinct opinion. Getting to discuss the issues and giving people a choice is important.”

    Both speaker and audience turnout was “unsatisfactory,” according to Aldo Gallardo, Weinberg senior and president of Alianza. Although the Facebook page for the event had nearly 120 confirmed guests, only 25 showed up, including those speaking on the stage.

    The first topic of debate was each candidate’s education policy. The debate moved from common subjects, such as the economy and the war, to less represented topics like euthanasia and animal rights. The questions Gallardo asked as moderator also varied from more conventional in form to less than, such as:

    “Multiculturalism: Please discuss melting pot versus salad bowl.”

    “Please discuss the social construct of the self. Who are we now and who will we be in 20 years?”

    Aireale Rodgers (right) listens to Michael Lobel discuss Senator Barack Obama’s stance on education. Photo by Katherine Tang / North by Northwestern

    Green, as the sole representative for McCain, fielded the most questions throughout the evening. He often distinguished between his personal views and McCain’s stances, even occasionally criticizing McCain’s policies.

    “Both candidates supported a socialist policy with the $700 billion bailout bill,” he said in response to an audience member’s allegations that Obama’s “spread the wealth” statement was a socialist policy.

    Both Green and Lobel felt confident afterward on how they represented their respective candidates.

    “I admitted that I can’t know everything. Other than that, I feel had a pretty good handle on the issues,” Lobel said. “Barack Obama’s views speak for themselves.”

    Several questions from audience members showed favor toward Barack Obama.

    “If McCain has ‘such a good relationship with immigrant communities,’ then why do only 11 percent of Latinos say they would vote for McCain?” asked SESP sophomore and Alianza Community Outreach Chair Veronica Morales.

    While Alianza may seem to be mostly Democrat, Gallardo clarified that also present in the organization are “a number of conservative Catholics.”

    “We definitely wanted to make sure there was representation for both candidates,” Salgado said.

    The event was particularly important for Gallardo, who was born in Lima, Peru, and will be unable to vote in the general election as he is not a naturalized citizen.

    “That’s why it’s important that I mobilize others to get out and vote,” he said. “My dad and brother just became citizens, so we’re ‘Baracking’ the vote.”

    Full disclosure: Jonathan Green writes for North By Northwestern’s Election ‘08 blog.

    [Clarification: The article originally listed Jeff Cao as a Weinberg senior. He is a Weinberg junior. We regret the error.]


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