Category Archives: Opinion

The Opinion section is not only our voice, but yours as well. We encourage all currently enrolled U of L students as well as faculty and staff to use the Cardinal as a soapbox for the issues that are important to you.


Thou shalt not hug for money

Cartoon by Simon Isham/The Louisville Cardinal

By Simon Isham–

Religion, ideally, brings people together, helps us see similarities across societal boundaries and gives us the ability to love one another more perfectly. The point of the Secular Student Society at U of L is likely something similar, but without requiring members to believe in a deity of any sort. These good intentions come out a bit muddled when atheists begin charging for hugs.

On Nov. 15, the SSS held their Hug an Atheist! event on the West Lawn by the SAC. Students could pay $1 to hug a member of the organization. Proceeds were “donated to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.”

As a member of a few student organizations myself, I understand the need for a low-cost, low-maintenance fundraiser like this; they’re especially prudent when the club doesn’t expect a return on the investment. But the concept of “Hug an Atheist” brings up different issues than do embracing a francophone, a feminist or a fratboy. Religion, or lack thereof, stands in the way of what is otherwise a pretty solid charity event.

Specifically, the fundraiser may give students, who are not involved with the SSS, the false impression that atheism is a belief set centered on material reciprocity—that they’re pimping out their love. ‘If you give me your money, I’ll give you the emotional satisfaction of a hug.’ Quid pro quo, Clarice.

On the other hand, many religions espouse the value of unconditional platonic love to all; in a perfect world, hugs from religious people would be on the house. Why would I want to pay a dollar to hug an atheist when I could hug a Christian for free?

Furthermore, Hug an Atheist Day is already ‘a thing.’ It’s celebrated on the first Friday in June, but for reasons entirely different than those practiced by the SSS. Hug an Atheist Day was founded by William Bermudez on Facebook in 2009 as a way of showing love to people who do not believe in or doubt the existence of a god. Hugging an atheist on this day is symbolic of a person’s sympathy for atheists and agnostics, who take a lot of flack from religious communities. According to a 2011 study done by psychologists at the University of Oregon and the University of British Columbia, atheists are as distrusted as rapists in certain situations.

I’ll concede that it was probably an unintentional blunder on the part of the SSS to hijack the concept for this “holiday.” I’ll concede as well that the SSS’s fundraiser probably did more good for the victims of a tragic disaster than the harm it may have wrought in my ideologically nit-picky scenario. It certainly shows character that members of the organization were willing to suffer outside in the cold for four hours in the name of charity, while I charged right past them to buy some hot coffee at Jazzman’s.

What I won’t concede is that the fundraiser would have been better, in theory, if it had been a bake sale, a clothing drive or a car wash. I think that every day should be Hug an Atheist Day.


Campaigning Smarter: How social media revolutionized the election process for President Obama

By Aaron Williams– The role of social media cannot be understated in the 2012 presidential election. Coming back from Cincinnati on election night, I found myself glued to the Twitter app on my iPhone, discovering that it was the most ideal medium for the distribution of real-time election results. Tweets from Bloomberg, AP, the NY Times, NPR and CNN came at an unrelenting pace every couple of seconds as each news organization battled to be the first to project a winner in states where the polls had already closed. Surrounding these tweets were the proclamations of political allegiances from everyday Twitter users on both sides of the aisle. “#TeamObama” and “#FourMoreYears” were trending nationally as the American public rushed to one of their favorite social media platforms to let their voices be heard. President Obama, for the most part, did an excellent job tapping into social media with his cyber-campaign. The president’s Twitter account was sending out tweets imploring voters still in lines at polling centers in swing states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia where the polls had already closed to stay in line and let their voice be heard. Numerous celebrities, including Spike Lee, took it upon themselves to assist the president by tweeting out similar encouragements to their thousands of followers. President Obama also took to the popular Conde Nast website Reddit for a second time this year to crash servers in order to get the procrastinating youth voters out to the polls. The president’s thread on the top of the political forum read simply “Reddit, this is important.” Obama’s advocacy of social media in this campaign separated him from his Republican opponent in an important way by reaching out to youth voters. Yet it wasn’t just simple strategy that won the Obama campaign a victory in 2012. It was how the campaign used social media to organize itself. All week long we have been hearing the moans from Fox News about how the Obama campaign was simply better organized at getting their vote out. But how exactly did the campaign do that? I witnessed it for myself first-hand interacting with the leaders of Organizing for America in Price Hill, Cincinnati on Tuesday. College kids, my own age, utilizing iPhone map applications to divide and conquer streets and neighborhoods at a time, knocking door to door in search of Democratic voters. The director of the whole Price Hill initiative came bounding up to the polling center at St. Lawrance Parish on Tuesday evening with her MacBook in hand, ready to show us where all the polling centers in the district were at with just the click of the button. This is the face of the new Democratic Party, a coalition of the willing united by the way they believe the United States should be run and utilizing today’s technology to ensure their candidate’s victory. Republicans simply cannot generate the same level of excitement among youth voters that Democrats seem to be capable of. And until they can, the GOP will face a distinct and ever-growing challenge on the social media front in the form of new, emerging technology connecting voters in ways never before possible in an election. Photo courtesy


Best of/ Worst of the week


Rifle season opened Saturday. That can only mean one thing: venison bacon on Sunday.

Ville Grille cup sizes finally graduated from thimble-full to Hurricane Sandy size.

Kentucky economy rises to an all-time high after democrats capitalize on a surplus of republican tears, selling them at $4 a gallon to Ohio and Florida.


Louisville football drops to 18 in AP polls. Could be worse, though. At least we’re not UK.

Four alcohol and drug-related arrests in one week at U of L? Ouch!

Dorm-dwellers were shaken when more than just beds were rocking. The cause? A 4.3 earthquake
Photo: Flickr/.reid.


Our President, Our America

Paducah, Kentucky meets Price Hill, Ohio

By Lee Cole–

My grandmother always called Franklin Delano Roosevelt “my president.”  Fancying myself a conservative, as a seven year old kid, I would criticize, in more of a teasing fashion than with any seriousness, FDR and Democrats in general.  I repeated my favorite Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly lines and stayed up late in middle school to make sure that George W. Bush, of all people, won the election.  At one point, in exchange for receiving some kind of gift from my grandmother, she had me admit that FDR was a good president.  “He was okay, I guess,” I said.  In general, we had a lot of fun bantering.

Luckily, I outgrew my fundamentalist conservative phase.  I can’t say the same for a lot of people.  In my hometown of Paducah, Kentucky, you still hear people quoting Rush, Sean and Bill, calling President Obama an un-American socialist, without really being able to say, with any certainty, what socialism entails.  Some of them are quite openly racist, despite insistence by Fox News and conservative pundits that racism isn’t a factor.  I’ve heard the n-word shouted at television screens there countless times when the president appears, for the brief few seconds before the channel is changed.  Some are more subtle with their hatred.  They will vehemently deny any charges of racism or xenophobia, while at the same time proclaiming with a straight face that President Obama is a secret Muslim, a Marxist, that he wasn’t born in America and even that he is a terrorist conspirator, working to overthrow America.  It really is a bad joke.  In some remote rural areas, there was even widespread belief that he was the anti-Christ in 2008 (I know, it’s crazy, but I heard it quite a bit).  He hasn’t sprouted horns yet, much to their chagrin.

One reason my views shifted and I became much more liberal was that the horizon of my worldview expanded greatly.  McCracken County is about 86 percent white.  The crime rate is very low, land is plentiful and people generally live quiet, economically comfortable lives.  I used to believe, when I was very young, that my hometown was all that existed of America.  I thought that the mansion, which serves as a rest area off I-24 in Paducah, called Whitehaven, ironically, was actually the White House, and that President Clinton lived there, right in the middle of Western Kentucky.  It seemed impossible to me that the world could be bigger, more complicated, than the sprawling farmlands, shopping malls and chemical plants that made up the already difficult to comprehend place that I called home.  The borders of my subjective world, of my America, were so very small, perhaps to make this bewildering life a little more manageable.  For so many people who live there, America does not extend beyond the Ohio River, which forms the northern border of our state.

Follow that mighty river northeast along Kentucky’s border, and you will find yourself, as I did on Election Day, in the neighborhood of Price Hill, in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Price Hill is about 52 percent white, 38 percent black and 7 percent Hispanic.  Cincinnati has the third highest childhood poverty rate in the nation, behind only Cleveland and Detroit, with 48 percent of the city’s children living below poverty line, due in large part to neighborhoods like East Price Hill.  In Lower Price Hill, where the population is mostly white, 56 percent of people in general live below the poverty line.  But these numbers can never tell the whole story.  They cannot illustrate the dilapidated buildings, the children who are hungry or those that are hurting for work and for the same opportunities as everybody else.  Neither can they reflect the defiant optimism and resilience of those who waited in line for hours to vote at St. Lawrence Parish, in the cold, while those in more affluent neighborhoods were in and out of their precincts in a few minutes.  These are the 47 percent, and they don’t consider themselves victims.  They consider themselves proud, hardworking Americans.  I saw so many people who were truly poor and truly need help, living in circumstances that many in my hometown would find unimaginable.  They have no two or three story homes, no country club memberships.  They have no one acre lawns to complain about mowing.  They don’t have the same healthcare opportunities and the schools are underfunded and have inadequate amenities.  And yet, despite all this, I saw in them a stubborn sense of striving and hopefulness that is uniquely American.  They’re doing their best to get along and make a place in this world, a task which is given to each of us to face alone in life.

There is a sense, however, in which we are not alone in our struggle.  We have common hopes and dreams that could be realized if only we made an attempt to understand one another.  Many in my hometown didn’t just believe Mitt Romney would win – they knew it.  They had become so convinced that Obama would lose because their worldview is so narrow, their America so small.  I wrote before the election that the republican party would lose in 2012 and in the future because they’ve ignored minorities and become the party of white America only, and even before Ohio was called, Bill O’Reilly had proclaimed that Obama would win because “The white establishment is now the minority.”  They can’t understand how Barack Obama won in the first place, and they feel the supremacy of their worldview slipping away from them.  They are bitter, confused and afraid.

I wish that the people of Paducah could meet the people of Price Hill.  I wish that the residents of Western Kentucky could walk those streets and see what I saw.  I think that they would be embarrassed, as I was, by my life of privilege and by how lucky I am.  I think that they would be moved to give more, to make an effort to understand.  I think they would acknowledge in them the same spirit of hard work, neighborly kindness and striving that all Americans possess.  I think that they would see that we are, after all, just human beings, and that we are all trying in our own way.

By the same token, I wish the people of Price Hill could see my home.  I wish they could walk with me beside fields of corn or pick blackberries with me along a fencerow.  I wish they could hear my grandfather’s stories about hopping trains, World War two and a life spent farming.  I wish they could see the vast woodlands, creek beds and teeming wildlife that my friends and I only began to explore as kids and never fully appreciated.  I think they would be won over by a plate of garden-grown squash and tomatoes.  I think they would see the dignity of working the land, of self-reliance and the bond of tradition and family and life lived simply.

I’ve heard the phrase “hardened heart” many times growing up, as Christians use the biblical phrase to indicate someone who stubbornly resists the grace of God, though it be available.  I didn’t get the meaning for many years, but I understand it now.  We’ve hardened our hearts, not just toward Barack Obama, but toward one another.  Our hope is in Christ, who said to give all that we have to the poor, that rich men could never enter the kingdom of heaven, that we cannot judge our neighbors lest we be judged and that we should love one another as he loved us. I’ve never met a biblical literalist or fundamentalist that takes those verses literally.  Conservative Christians have to change.  So much of their worldview depends on an us versus them mindset because they are afraid of change.  They need to feel like their worldview is right to give their life meaning – that they will see heaven while others will not.

Barack Obama is my president.  Like FDR, he has worked to make sure that we focus not on wealth or profit, but rather on people.  Like FDR, he will be called a Communist and a Socialist by some for many years, even though FDR was much more anti-Wall Street and much more in favor of big government.  But Barack Obama is not just my president – he is our president, and before we can go on, we must all take him as our own.  We don’t have to agree, and we should, by all means, argue and debate and make our cases.  I admit that I’ve been a partisan and I’ve said things that I shouldn’t have, things that were mean spirited, but I don’t hate Mitt Romney or George W. Bush, and before we can continue, we have to admit, rather than deny that racism and hatred exist, and we have to give up that bitterness.  If you disagree with Barack Obama’s policies, all I’m asking is that you accept him as a decent man – a good man, who loves this country.  All I’m asking is that we make the admission that was good enough for my grandmother when I was a little boy: that at the very least, “He’s ok, I guess.”  I’m asking that we try to see America not just as Paducah or Price Hill, not as city or rural, north or south, east or west, but as all of us, here together.  We have to soften our hearts and give ourselves up to compassion – the true message of Christ.  Another great liberal, Robert F. Kennedy, put it better than I ever could when, in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and just a few months before he himself was killed, he said: “you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.  We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization – black people amongst blacks and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love…we have to make an effort in the United States. We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond or go beyond these rather difficult times.”
Photo courtesy


Best of/ Worst of the week


- Cardinal football held strong throughout the week, remaining undefeated at 9-0.

- “Elect Her — Campus Women Win” workshop and conference announced which strive to train young women for positions of political power. Righteous.

- “Supporting Autism 24/7” is a series of workshops that combine autism specialists of the Kentucky Autism Training Center at the University of Louisville with new parents of autistic children to create a more positive environment at home.

- U of L stays on the sustainable side by hosting the Bluegrass Bioneers Conference, now in its fourth year, on Nov. 2 to the 4th.


- The tragic bus crash in Carroll County may not have been a University of Louisville incident, but our collective hearts go out to those lives affected by this accident.

- A chemical spill on Dixie Highway, dangerous enough to warrant a Hazmat 3 status, is still in cleanup and containment stages. So far, we have no word from any U of L students who live on Dixie.

- Campus is still silent about the shutdown of our only radio station. The lack of outcry is a bad sign for those of us in the communications business.

- Apparently, Lil B The Based God made an appearance at the American Turners Club on River Road on Sept. 29, and Louisville somehow missed the opportunity for a million great jokes at his expense.
Photo: Flickr/.reid.

On most campuses, wearing another school’s attire is a major faux pas.

Repping your school: Why wearing non-U of L attire on campus is unacceptable

On most campuses, wearing another school’s attire is a major faux pas.

By Noah Allison–

If a stranger were to take a casual stroll through Belknap campus, then they wouldn’t have much trouble knowing where they are. The multiple Cardinal birds painted on various sidewalks, the high amounts of U of L insignias on the buildings promoting the positive impact so many faculty members and schools have had on the students here, the giant pictures of student athletes hanging from buildings showing off our top of the line athletics, and countless subtle U of L treats placed around or carved into campus really set the tone for where you are.

The only area that U of L lacks in in terms of showing Cardinal pride is through the students themselves. Sure you may be walking to your class and see a few Louisville hoodies, but you will also see a UNC, Ohio State, Indiana and multiple Kentucky hoodies. The school has entered a new era of making U of L nationally known and revered by those who don’t go here. U of L is one of the best sports schools in the nation if not the best sports school in the nation, and I don’t feel the need to bring up just how good of a school it is in general. Being a student here, everyone should know the top of the line education that is being distributed to the youth here at U of L.

I understand that for many of you, U of L is just the school in the city you grew up in, it is nothing new and not all that special to you, but in all actuality, U of L is something special, and the students here need to treat it and respect it is as such. You would be hard pressed to find somebody wearing a Michigan sweatshirt on the campus of Ohio State, and an Auburn fan wouldn’t even consider showing their colors on Alabama’s campus, because on those campuses there is only one school that the students there care about: their own school.

The forces at work are turning U of L into a top program in this country; a top ten football team, a No. 2 ranked basketball team and winning programs in every other sporting event are proving Louisville too is something to be reckoned with. If U of L were a 40,000 strong state school in some small college town, then there would be nothing but red for miles. U of L is way to awesome to be treated as just the local school in the city of Louisville. No, this is the University of Louisville, and I want every student to be as excited about being here as they should be, to start letting people know where you go, that you are proud to be a Cardinal.

My hope is that a few years from now, after a few championship titles, you won’t be able to find somebody promoting a school other than U of L on campus. That everybody who applies to U of L is doing so with the hope that they will be able to attend a school that so many others around the nation wish they could. That to live and learn in Louisville means the world to its students, and that they want to be able to express their gratitude in any possible way. We aren’t at that point just yet, but we are on the right path.

So next time it’s cold outside, and you are trying to stay warm, don’t put that UK hoodie on, just use it to make a fire, they burn quite nicely.
Photo: Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal

President Obama meets Governer Chris Christie of New Jersey to survey storm damage.

Perfect Storm: Why the most important issue in this mess of an election, climate change, was ignored

President Obama meets Governer Chris Christie of New Jersey to survey storm damage.

By Lee Cole–

This election has been, in more ways than one, a perfect storm – a vast, churning maelstrom of confusion, lies, warring ideologies and massive sums of money.  It will undoubtedly leave in its wake an electoral mess of epic proportions and its reverberations will affect not just our generation, but generations to come.  The campaign season effectively ended with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, but like so many other aspects of this campaign and the past year in general, it only left me feeling once more like I was in the middle of some kind of absurd, cosmic joke.  Five hundred years of industrialization, expanding urban sprawl and the burning of fossil fuels is now culminating in scientifically verified climate change and storms of terrifying, freakish proportion like Sandy, and the response from some conservatives – the conservatives that would have Mitt Romney become the next president – is that it was caused by gay people.  I was, and am still, at a loss for words.

Because the Cardinal comes out on Tuesdays, and in this case, Election Day, it puts serious limitations on a writer covering the election.  I can’t see into the future, and as much as I would like it, neither can Nate Silver nor any of the other pollsters and statisticians who have been perpetuating this state of pre-election day, ratings-boosting anxiety now for months, years even.  If the election is decided on Election Day, I would be shocked.  Many are already expecting recounts, like those conducted in 2000, except on an even greater scale.  The wealthiest, most powerful people in the world are investing money on both sides, and thanks to Citizen’s United, the sums are larger than they’ve ever been and the sources are usually undisclosed.  Underlying all of this is the ridiculous notion that we still live in something akin to a democracy.

The fight we’re having today, and the fight that we’ve been having since our founding, has been over our idea of what America is.  On the one hand, there are those who think that America is a Christian nation, and that the norm is to be white, of European descent, heterosexual and of the belief that Jesus Christ was a capitalist, who would have approved of someone like Mitt Romney or George W. Bush.  This sector of the population also tends to favor small government when that means they get to legislate morality at the state or local level, but favor big government when it means investing in war and law enforcement, whether it’s in state apparatuses, like the DEA, our prison system and police organizations, conducting the subtle, nearly invisible war against minorities and the impoverished or in the machinations of our military-industrial complex, conducting acts of overt violence in faraway places, broadcast through our television screens and sterilized by the likes Wolf Blitzer and Shepard Smith.

The other, less vocal, sector of the population believes that America is something else entirely.  They believe that America is a place for people of all faiths and all ethnic and racial backgrounds.  They believe it is a place where freedom of speech and a fundamental right to privacy are paramount.  They favor small government when it comes to the rights of individuals, and women in particular, to govern their own bodies, but favor big government when it comes to investing in technology, education and healthcare.

It should be clear which sector’s policies are more beneficial and more likely to result in long-term success for America as a nation.  Parties have shifted and switched ideologies so many times since our founding that labeling either viewpoint historically is difficult, but looking at our current situation, the Democratic Party clearly represents the latter sector.

Neither viewpoint is complete, however.  There is something forgotten, something we’ve lost as a people and as a nation which must be regained for us to continue on.  We’ve lost our connection to the land itself – to the earth and what grows from it and is nurtured by it.  We’ve forgotten that there is an America that exists separate from our ideas and our politics.

Both candidates remained silent for most of the campaign about the environment and climate change.  At least Barack Obama believes climate change is happening and has us moving in the right direction.  Mayor Bloomberg cited climate change as one of his reasons for endorsing President Obama, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  But there is a disconnect between climate scientists and those in political office, and even our leaders who believe climate change is a real problem approach it with naivete.  What is required is a total, drastic shift in the way we live our lives.  We have to stop burning fossil fuels and shipping food from thousands of miles away.  We have to stop using materials from the earth in an unsustainable way.

It’s not a popular issue, but the environment has to become a part of our election process.  We cannot afford to elect someone like Mitt Romney, who doesn’t believe in climate change and who will do everything possible to give oil and coal companies government subsidies.
Photo courtesy of

The dumpster where the asbestos was deposited.

Asbestos on campus and no one cares

The dumpster where the asbestos was deposited.

By Lee Cole–

I don’t know which I find more disconcerting: the fact that there is a huge dumpster full of asbestos next to the Humanities building, or that there is enough asbestos in the buildings on U of L’s campus that removing it takes a nearly a week.

I first noticed the warning signs labeled “asbestos” as I was leaving class last Monday.  Initially, the dumpster itself was covered by a plastic tarp, as though that would somehow protect us.  I had heard that there were large quantities of asbestos on U of L’s campus, but it’s one thing to hear a rumor and quite another to see a giant crane dumping it in a disposal area.

What’s perhaps most alarming is that no one seemed to notice.  Students may have glanced down at the sign and wondered fleetingly where they had heard the word “asbestos” before.  It might’ve been stuck somewhere deep in their brain, having been placed there by one of the countless mesothelioma lawsuit commercials during daytime television.  Ultimately, however, it didn’t cause campus-wide outrage.  That very day, there were students eating bagels and drinking coffee outside within a few feet of a heap one of the world’s most dangerous carcinogens.

While I suppose it’s good that the asbestos is being removed, it leads me to wonder how much asbestos could be found throughout the rest of campus.  A lot of the buildings on campus, excluding the Speed School, were built around the same time and according to the same construction standards.  If there is a considerable amount of asbestos still to be removed in campus buildings, then this would only add to the list of growing concerns about campus structures, after the most recent mold and bedbug incidents.  Asbestos is unseen, however, and isn’t “icky” like mold or bedbugs.  As long as the asbestos remains in the walls, no one will care.  In fact, no one will care if it’s hauled out into a dumpster in the middle of campus (although someone might write an article about it).  But if one sorority girl finds a bedbug or some fuzzy mold in her dorm, you better believe it will be a scandal.  We don’t mind getting cancer slowly over many years, but being grossed out – well, that’s where we draw the line.

It should come as no surprise, however.  We live in a culture that is sustained by a rich tapestry of harmful chemicals, from plastics and preservatives to pesticides and petroleum.  Many of them do cause cancer, but this monumental danger to society as a whole has become banal.  On the bright side, maybe the asbestos will kill the mold and the bedbugs.


Taylor Swift loves Papa John

By Michelle Eigenheer–

Taylor Swift’s new album, “Red”, hit stands last week to the joy of fan girls across the world. Who else experienced Taylor’s newest project? People who order pizza.

Taylor Swift partnered with Papa John’s in order to let fans of the country-turned-pop crossover order their copies of “Red” and have it delivered straight to their door –with a large 1-topping pizza – for just $22, plus tip.

I can’t even imagine what kind of PR campaign thought, “Hey, people who love pizza must love Taylor Swift.” It’s kind of ridiculous. While I’m a fan of “Fearless”, and can definitely sing along with the uncomfortably catchy “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” I don’t think I would want to order a cd with my grease-covered pepperoni pizza. That’s just not appealing. Most of me says that this was a horrible idea.

But a tiny part of me thinks that this is genius.

What if no one ever had to go to another RedBox? Or stand in line for the midnight release of the next “Hunger Games” DVD? Instead, it could be ordered over the phone and brought to your door, with pizza, for your screening pleasure. Video games, too, could fall into this new marketing strategy.

Just think how fast Jimmy John’s could get the new Assassin’s Creed to your door – with a delicious sandwich and drink, too.

Maybe, someday, other things could be delivered. If I were to run out of shampoo and didn’t feel like going to the store, maybe I could just order some Chinese food and have them pick it up on the way.

Okay, so the whole thing is a little ridiculous, but we live in a society where this isn’t even at all surprising. “Instant gratification” is the motto of the U.S. and “lazy” doesn’t begin to describe the attitude of the majority.

Who knows what Papa John’s will start delivering next.
Photo courtesy Papa Johns

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama facing off in the final presidential debate, showed a difference in tone but not so much in policy.

Horses and bayonets: Why the Democratic Party is the party of the future and Republicans are stuck in the past

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama facing off in the final presidential debate, showed a difference in tone but not so much in policy.

By Lee Cole–

My last article explored the possibility of Mitt Romney becoming president, a possibility that is becoming less feasible by the day.  It was written during a time when polls seemed to suggest, as well as the general mood of the campaign, that Romney was picking up momentum.  Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight pointed out in an article released on Thursday, Oct. 25 that any gains Romney may have squeezed out of his first debate performance were losing steam and that President Obama had regained lost ground.  The third debate was largely unremarkable; most counted it as a victory for Obama, but foreign policy issues are not at the forefront of this election.  The one moment that will be played again and again, however, and is perhaps a perfect microcosm for the Romney campaign and the Republican strategy in general, was the now infamous “horses and bayonets” zinger.

While President Obama was only trying to underscore the ridiculousness of Romney’s criticism that our navy is the smallest it’s been since 1917 (battleships are basically obsolete now, as we don’t have naval battles like we did in World War I), his point raised a number of issues about the state of the Republican Party, namely that they are out of touch old fogeys who long for the “good old days” when minorities knew their place, women’s bodies were strictly vessels for childbearing and sandwich making and only rich White men with rich White names like George, Dick and Taggart could ever reasonably expect to be elected to higher office.  In short, the Republican Party is on the wrong side of history, and if they continue their current strategy, I don’t know if they can reasonably expect to win any elections in the near future.

First of all, Latino and African American populations are growing, and white Americans will not constitute a majority in 50 years, perhaps within 30.  Republicans have used some variation on the southern strategy for the last 30 years to win elections.  This is going to become increasingly more difficult, as older southern whites die off or lose influence and their children attend universities and are exposed to increasing levels of diversity.  The Republicans will no longer be able to count on racism and bigotry to fuel their base, even though it’s taken them pretty far this year.  But to illustrate the point, consider that Obama is probably the most hated president in history, often for racial reasons, and this still probably won’t be enough for Mitt Romney to win.  Unless Republicans radically change their strategy, the math just won’t add up.  They would have to actually make themselves appealing to minorities and the impoverished, a Sisyphean task, to be sure.

President Obama’s slogan, “Forward,” sums up the Democratic Party’s position.  They believe, like many Americans, that discrimination, whether it is to gays, African Americans, Latinos or women, is always unacceptable.  Polling suggests that my generation expresses unprecedented support for gay rights and women’s reproductive rights.  Republicans have made almost no attempt to court the under 35 vote, either now or in 2008.  This will inevitably come back to haunt them.  Furthermore, younger Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about environmental issues, which Republicans have either repudiated or ignored.

One of the many memes created after the debate featuring Romney on horseback.

The Republican Party’s alliance with Conservative Christians is also troublesome.  I recently saw a bumper sticker that read “Pro-choice and Catholic: You can’t be both.”  What Republicans have done is to make certain religious issues the main points in their platform.  Suddenly voting is no longer a choice based only on economics or foreign policy, but is also based on fear of eternal damnation.  Republicans have managed to convince Christians that God is a neocon and that Jesus was a free market, greedy, Wall Street-type who hated gays.  The central thesis of Republican campaigns across the country this election cycle has been centered around fundamentalist Christian dogma and biblical literalism, made all the more ironic considering that the man who commissioned the Bible’s translation into English, thus allowing for them to quote it in speeches and on anti-gay signs, was King James, who was by all accounts very gay.

There are other reasons why a Romney victory looks to be increasingly unlikely.  There are very few paths to 270 electoral votes for him.  While few polling or news agencies, besides the FiveThirtyEight, have been willing to place Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nevada in the president’s column, all the numbers indicate that they should.  It seems as though most outlets want the race to appear closer than it actually is, so they can boost ratings.  But if Obama wins the aforementioned states, Romney’s chances are all but quelled.

So while Obama takes advantage of social media and pushes the country forward with progressive, tolerant ideas, the Republican Party will continue to be the party of old, crotchety white dudes.  The only question that remains is how long before the horses and bayonets are retired for good.
Photo courtesy