Kagin watch party caps off election season

By Kyle Coombs

Tuesday night, nearly 500 Macalester students watched an historic night for Minnesota and national politics during the Election Night Watch Party in the Kagin Hill Ballroom. With record voter turnout, Minnesota became the first state to vote down an amendment to ban same-sex marriage and voted down a voter ID amendment, while Barack Obama won his bid for re-election. True to the student body’s characteristic liberal lean, the night was punctuated with cheers every time Barack Obama gained electoral votes or a democratic senator or representative was elected, and groans when Rep. Michele Bachmann, who won a close race against Jim Graves, took an early lead. The non-partisan watch party was sponsored by MPIRG, Mac Dems and Program Board. “[We’re keeping it as non-partisan] as we can,” Johnson said. “Obviously, a lot of people here are democrats, but we don’t want to make people feel offended or like their opinion doesn’t matter.” MPIRG co-chair Nick Matzke ’13 and Mac Dems co-chairs Lucas Asher ’15, Zack Avre ’14 and Rick Beckel ’15 said they were pleased with the turn out and energy of the crowd. Excitement peaked when Barack Obama was declared the 44th president of the United States at 10:12 p.m. As the realization spread throughout the crowd, students rose to their feet cheering, crying, hugging and even dancing. Another spike in emotions came when the Voter ID amendment was called as not passing several hours later. “I’m absolutely thrilled that we won this election,” Asher said. “It doesn’t feel real.” “Ermergerd,” said Matzke, “I’m personally a big fan of Obama, so I’m very glad this is happening.” Mac GOP member Jeff Garcia ’14 was less excited by Obama’s victory. He cast his vote for the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson and voted no on both amendments. “I take a certain sort of ambivalence when I look around this room and I do see how partisan this campus really is,” he said. “…I am interested like everyone else is given the energy of the room, but just to see which of the shinier of the two turds is going to govern our country.” However, he was happy to see Independent Angus King of Maine will join Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in Washington, D.C. Mac GOP leadership chose not to co-sponsor the event and some members, including Andrew Ojeda ’14, who lost his bid for State Representative of District 64A, watched the results at the MNGOP Election Night Victory Party in Bloomington. “We wanted to be with people that would be cheering or mourning the results alongside us,” Ojeda’s campaign manager, Daniel Surman ’14 said. “Nothing against Mac students, but sometimes you want to be with people you agree with.” David Melms ’13 said he struggled with his decision to vote yes on both amendments and for Mitt Romney. “I couldn’t sleep last night cause I didn’t know who to vote for,” he said. “I went to the polls and wasn’t ready and had to sit for 90 minutes and think.” He saw strengths and weaknesses in the Obama-Biden and Romney-Ryan ticket, as well as both options on the amendments. “I voted yes on voter ID because I thought it was a great opportunity for seniors [to] get a photo ID, but I do agree that it would keep some people from voting,” he said. “I voted no on [the marriage amendment] just because of my Christian values … I am worried the amendment will create divisions in discussion in the long-term.” Several students briefly participated in the celebration for Obama, before turning back to their computer screens to monitor the amendment results. “No matter what, we have to keep fighting to legalize same sex marriage after tonight,” Queer Union co-chair Alvin Kim ’14 said. The marriage amendment race grew exceedingly tight as rural precincts started reporting and was not decided until early Wednesday morning. Julia Turner ’16 and her RA Esther Biesse ’13 watched the results broadcast with concern. “I’m nervous because the numbers are close and a lot of rural counties have yet to report,” Turner, who canvassed with Minnesotans United For All Families, said. Despite being born in France, Biesse has dual citizenship in France and the United States and voted in her first presidential election. International students without U.S. voting rights watched the results as closely as domestic students. Dinesh Rathakrishnan ’14 said he considers the United States his home even though he cannot vote. However, he said he valued his Malaysian citizenship over U.S. citizenship since Malaysia does not allow dual citizenship. “This is my home, but I couldn’t give up my Aman Imani ’16 said he follows the elections in the United States closer than those in his home country of India. “There is not this level of enthusiasm for voting in India,” he said. Several students did not vote in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood. Jacob Krause ’15 decided to vote in his home state Ohio, a historically critical swing state. Badhaftu Kadir ’14 decided to vote in District 67, her home district, so that she could vote for the DFL State Representative candidate Foung Hawj, who won. “I’ve seen Foung speak and I think he has good ideas,” she said. During the night, Kadir, Kim, and Kiah Zellner-Smith ’14 posed mockingly with a full-size cardboard cutout of Mitt Romney. Garcia said the cutout compromised the non-partisan spirit of the event. “This is a non-partisan event and that [cutout] doesn’t make me feel comfortable or welcome,” he said. “…you can’t bring a cutout if you’re not going to bring a cutout of the other guy too.” Johnson said students brought the cutout and Program Board did not sponsor it. “I saw [the cutout] and I was hoping that people would just let it be,” he said. Students put off differing workloads in order to attend the party and get out the vote over the course of Election Day. “I have a paper due tomorrow that I haven’t even started yet,” Alison Goodrum ’14 said. “…I also am a preceptor and my office hours are supposed to be tonight, but my other preceptor is taking care of that – but he’s from Ghana.” “I made sure I got everything done,” Rathakrishnan said. Avre, Beckel and Asher praised student participation during Get Out The Vote week. “The DFL was super happy with us, OFA Minnesota was really happy with us, because we produced so many volunteers and we knocked just under 10,000 doors, focusing on low-income apartments,” Beckel said, “That’s really good for a school of our size.” Mac Dems member Oliver Kendall ’15 said he was disappointed in overall participation for the semester. “In general, I have to admit [student participation] left a little something to be desired,” he said. “Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but given Macalester’s reputation as being such a politically active campus, I would have liked to see a little bit more.” President Brian Rosenberg wrote in an e-mail that students were noticeably less involved than they were in the 2008 national election, but the amendments drew far more interest at the state level. Dean of Students Jim Hoppe wrote in an e-mail that enthusiasm ranked between the low of 2004 and high of 2008. He credited the many political organizations and Ojeda’s bid for the legislature with creating enthusiasm. “MacGOP is in a much stronger position now than they have been in the past,” he wrote, “And along with No Labels, MacDems and MPIRG added a lot to the conversation this year. Having one of our students on the ballot also added another level of energy and discussion.” Elle Schalow ’12, who graduates in December, was a first-year during the 2008 elections. She said the drops in enthusiasm had negative and positive impacts on campus. In 2008, she said streaking was rampant and a party opened up on Kagin Lawn full of champagne. “Everyone exploded when they made the announcement,” she said. “There was screaming and crying and jumping up and down.” However, she said student political organizations, specifically Mac Dems, were more a
ggressive at getting out the vote. “I got told a bunch of times to switch from [my home state] Wyoming to Minnesota because Wyoming would go Republican,” she said. This year only seven individuals were seen streaking after the party and the atmosphere was more relaxed than that described of 2008. refresh –>