Election 2012

Lebanon Valley College

“Campaign is a victory for tolerance”

By Jeffrey W. Robbins

“Don’t look now, but with only a few days left until the presidential election, one of the most potentially explosive and divisive issues has not become a factor: religion.”

“Consider what happened only four years ago, after Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were first introduced to the American public as presidential candidates….”

View Dr. Robbins’ extended commentary from the Philadelphia Inquirer by clicking here.

A debatable future for the U.S.

By Paul Heise, for the Lebanon Daily News

“So, why do the two men who aspire to leadership of the ‘greatest country in the world’ bicker over soundbites and make petty, out-of-context misquotes? President Obama and Gov. Romney should be using this election campaign to compare solutions to the problem of managing our future or just getting past our present mess. Very bright possibilities are being put in doubt.”

For the rest of this commentary, visit http://www.ldnews.com/columns/ci_21879964

Don’t Look Now: On Religious Liberty

Don’t look now, but there are only 12 days to go before this historic presidential election and one of the potentially most explosive and divisive issues has yet to become a factor.  I am talking, of course, about the issue of religion–an issue when mixed with politics often becomes a toxic blend.

Consider only four years ago, when both Romney and Obama were first introduced to the American public as presidential candidates.  In addition to the stubborn, vicious and utterly baseless rumors that Obama was secretly a Muslim, there was the controversy over his then pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.  When the videos of Wright condemning the history of white privilege in the United States went viral, Obama’s church’s variant of Black Liberation Theology came under assault.  By virtue of his religion, Obama was portrayed as an other, outside the American mainstream, and where he and his family chose to worship became a political liability.

Likewise with Romney, who never survived the Republican primary season where a conservative Evangelical base remained deeply suspicious of his Mormon faith.  Early during that nomination fight, both Romney and the former Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee emerged as the main challengers to the presumed frontrunner and eventual nominee John McCain.  While Romney earned widespread support from fiscal conservatives, Huckabee made frequent veiled references to religion, including his infamous Christmas commercial in which the image of a  white cross formed from a bookcase in the background sent the clear message to viewers in Iowa and elsewhere of his evangelical bona fides and Romney’s otherness as a Mormon.

It was during that election cycle four years ago that both Obama and Romney felt compelled to give major speeches explaining their religion to the American public.  Both speeches were well-considered and well-received.  Both took John F. Kennedy’s speech from nearly fifty years prior as their template, but still with important differences.  Kennedy was the nation’s first, and still only, Roman Catholic president (or put differently  JFK is still the one and only non-Protestant to occupy the White House).  Whereas Kennedy articulated a strict secularist stance, advocating for an unbreachable wall of separation between church and state, both Obama and Romney reflected a changed mood about the proper role of religion within the American public.  While both celebrated the United States historical commitment to religious liberty, they also testified to the important role faith plays in their own personal lives and how their respective faiths shape their views of public service and policy.

Obama acknowledged how the issue of race further complicates or inflames an already potentially incendiary mix of religion and politics.  He expressed gratitude to his former pastor and spoke to the righteous indignation that still lingered within much of the African American community over the legacy of racism and discrimination.  But in the end, he distanced himself from Wright, and called for mutual understanding, sympathy, and healing.

Romney used his speech to explain the shared beliefs, traditions and values between his Mormon faith and the more mainstream, or at least more familiar, variants of Christianity.  In so doing, he sought to defuse the issue of his religious difference.  At the same time, he took direct aim at the secularist stance laid out by Kennedy, making the argument that secularism too could function as a religious faith and, when adopted into legal culture, could also lead to exclusion and close-mindedness.

That was then.  This is now.  By all accounts, neither Obama nor Romney has changed his religious views.  At the latest count, there are still 17% of registered voters who believe Obama is a Muslim and 22% who admit hesitancy in voting for a Mormon for President.  Yet somehow religion has not become the explosive and deeply divisive issue it has been in the past.  With all the partisan bickering and the mounting challenges we face, might this just be a sign that the religious liberty enshrined in our Constitution and fought for for both eminently practical and principled reasons by our founding fathers has finally become a reality?

Time will tell, of course.  And there are still 12 days remaining in this race, after all.  But as we wait and see–and maybe even hope and pray–I for one have been encouraged and stimulated by my discussions about these and related matters with my students in this semester’s  “One Nation Under God?” class.  It is a remarkable and deeply satisfying experience when the learning that takes place within the classroom matches and perhaps even helps to make sense of current affairs.

Reflections on the Life of a Field Organizer – Alicia Gurdus ’09

By Alicia Gurdus ’09, assistant director of annual giving


How do you know you made the right choice when you cast your vote in an election?  Four years ago, my life was in a different place.  I barely slept, ate junk food for every meal, and worked 18 hours a day as a Field Organizer in Lebanon and Dauphin Counties.  I was in college, full of energy and drive, and determined to add my stitching to the quilt of political history in a tangible way. I became enamored and inspired in a breathtaking way by politics and the concept of the American dream.


In early 2008, I began to volunteer, transitioned into an internship, and by the beginning of fall had garnered full-time employment as a Field Organizer on the Obama Campaign in Pennsylvania.  Field work is no easy task, and after dedicating 110% of my heart and soul to it, I’m not afraid to tell it like it is.  There is no time for rest on a campaign.  There is also no time for the following: fun, BS, crying, illness, breathing deep breaths, eating well, having friends, or watching TV. I’m serious.  Does that sound like something a college student would willingly do if she didn’t believe in what she was promoting?  I didn’t think so.


So where am I now?  What happens to grassroots campaign workers after Election Day?  What happens to them four years later?  Some of us jump right back in.  Some of us never leave. Some of us jump ship, return to the world of the living, breathing, sleeping-at-normal-hours-and-never-worrying-about-poll-numbers-again American people and never look back.  That’s me.


Do I regret my decision to dedicate myself completely in 2008? No!  It was the most deeply life-changing experience of my life.  I grew up on that campaign.  I became who I am today. I have GREAT stories. I ate raw eggs to get someone to volunteer for me one time, and that’s just the tip of the crazy iceberg. I kid you not.


No one ever said all the hope and change you’ve dreamed of can happen overnight.  Or in four years.  No one can perfectly map the schedule of future events.  But I can say, truthfully, that my life is better now than it was four years ago.  President Obama extending tax cuts to the middle class affected me directly, keeping more money in my pocket.  The $787 billion stimulus bill that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2009 helped me purchase a home instead of continuing to rent by providing the first-time homebuyers tax credit.  Imagine the joy of a 22-year-old purchasing her first home AND getting $8,000 back. Bam. Today, I still own my home, where I am living happily ever after with my fiancé (who I met just three days after to 2008 election!), our two pugs, Ozzie and Yogi, and our cat, SubZero.  I’m invested in my community, succeeding in a job that I love based on the skills I learning on political campaigns, and enjoying my own little slice of the pie in GrownUpWorld.


Could I dedicate that time again? No. My life is different now, changed for the better.  But in that moment in time, I had the chance to give my all for a dream and a belief in something bigger than myself, and I loved every crazy, crying, laughing, oh-my-God-why-do-I-do-this-to-myself moment.  Does that change the depth and meaning of my conviction and belief in my President because I can’t do it again this time around? Not one bit.  He’s got me hook, line, and sinker after all the positive changes I’ve experienced.  Yes, I am better off than I was four years ago.  I made the right decision for me in 2008, and I’ll be making the same again this Fall.


Christa Levko ’12 Attends Presidential Debate at Hofstra University

Hofstra University notified its students via email on Oct. 14 of their selection by lottery to attend the presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on Oct. 16. Though Christa Levko ’12 had put her name in to attend, she didn’t get that email invitation.

“I was really bummed,” she said. “I knew the chances were slim, but I was hoping to get picked.”

But at 3:15 p.m. on the afternoon of the debate – while she was at home in her pajamas – Levko received an exciting email from the school.

Read the rest of the story at www.lvc.edu/news.

Mitt Romney’s business focus indicative of a lack of political vision

By Paul Heise, for the Lebanon Daily News

“Mitt Romney has been around a long time as a Mormon, a businessman and a political figure. Yet, no one seems to really know him.

“Friends and family object to most of the characterizations with the statement: “But I don’t think that’s who he is.” So, who is he?

“Romney is, first and foremost, a very wealthy private equity financier and that, sadly, explains everything. In particular, it explains the almost total lack of a vision.”

For the rest of this commentary, visit


Vote Liberty and Vote Gary Johnson 2012

By Alex Philp

For the past few months I’ve been debating whether to vote for the clear best candidate in Gary Johnson or the lesser of two evils, Mitt Romney.  After watching the presidential debate last Wednesday, my mind was made up.  Sure Romney won the debate, but I don’t care much about that.  His move to the center on taxes solidified my Johnson endorsement.  There was no clear choice for liberty in the debate. The candidates were mirror images of each other on each issue, be it spending, taxes, the economy, or the role of government.  I’ll admit I’d feel much better with a President Romney than President Obama.  But that’s not saying much for Romney because I believe that the Obama administration is the biggest threat to liberty since the Woodrow Wilson administration.  No, voting for the lesser of two evils is what got our country in this mess to begin with.  We don’t need another authoritarian or socialist.  We need a president concerned about our liberty.  Lets talk about Gary Johnson.

Gary Johnson is the Libertarian Party presidential nominee.  He was the two term Governor of New Mexico from 1994-2002.  During his term, he was given the nickname “Governor Veto” because he vetoed 750 bills while in office, more than all other governors combined in that time frame.   We could use someone like that in office to stop the growth of big government.  Governor Johnson left office in New Mexico with a budget surplus and he never raised taxes.  All this with a Democratic State Legislature. He cut unnecessary government jobs while the people of New Mexico created over 20,000 new jobs during his term.  Gary Johnson has the track record for prosperity and liberty.  Obama can’t say that, and neither can Romney.

What is also appealing about Governor Johnson is that he talks about issues that neither Obama nor Romney will talk about.  For example, Gary Johnson wants to end the drug war. It is a despicable war taking place on our own streets, and against our own people.  And it is undoubtedly unconstitutional.  For alcohol prohibition, we passed the 18th Amendment because there was no authority for a substance prohibition in the constitution.  There was no constitutional amendment ever passed that authorized drug prohibition; Congress just passed drug prohibitions with no regard to constitutional restraints on Federal power.   Nowadays, over 800,000 arrests are made every year on marijuana violations alone.  Obama is just fine with this.  The president has proven his credentials as a true drug warrior.

He has admitted his past drug use, laughing about it on Jimmy Kimmel Live.  What a hypocrite!  If the president had been arrested on drug charges, he wouldn’t have had the success he has had.  So why is Obama okay with arresting people for victim-less drug crimes?  Anyone who has ever used marijuana (half of the adult population in the U.S.)  should not vote for Obama.  Like most politicians, he’s just fine with the status quo, no change found here.

I think Governor Johnson will bring real change, including with our foreign policy  He would bring the troops home from Afghanistan on the first day.  Obama, the supposed anti-war candidate, expanded that war.  Not only that, but got the U.S. involved in another unconstitutional war in Libya.  And he continues to assassinate American citizens abroad, violating their due process rights.  This won’t happen under a Johnson administration.  The Governor doesn’t want big government at home or abroad.

Gary Johnson will repeal ObamaCare.  He will rollback costly regulations and push for real tax reform with the FairTax, which eliminates all Federal taxes in place of one low national sales tax.  These are real clear reforms, all bringing us toward more freedom. We have seen that Obama doesn’t care about our freedom.  And Mitt Romney appears to be a watered down version of Obama, as his record shows.

Gary Johnson is the best choice.  But he won’t win.  Still, I’m voting for him.  We need to send a message to Washington that we want our freedom back.  We want politicians to listen to the issues that we care about.  If you are still hesitant, ask yourself this: would you rather vote for a candidate that you don’t want, and win, or vote for the best candidate and lose?  So I would advise all of you to vote Libertarian just once.  I think you’ll sleep a little better at night.

Equal Protection of the Law… Unless…

Written by Tito Valdes, member of Student Government and the Board of Trustees.

I’m going to focus on Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. It was ratified to the Constitution on July 9th, 1869 – just a few years after the end of the Civil War. Here is the actual text of Section 1.

1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

In terms of the Constitution, I believe that it is a document that can and often will be interpreted differently based on who’s understanding you ask for. This is not an argument in favor of viewing the Constitution as a document without value as it pertains to its original context. I am merely making the argument that when two people read the words “equal protection of the laws,” they can interpret that to mean two completely different things.

I am of the opinion that there are groups in America that have been institutionally excluded and kept from participating in the system as equals. They have not been equally protected by the laws governing our society. Among these groups are women, racial/ethnic minorities, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Why is this relevant to this particular election? It’s relevant because issues regarding gender, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation have surfaced in this election cycle. Too often, these issues become taboo and no one wants to discuss them. I generally don’t like to point fingers, but on this occasion, I am comfortable placing a certain amount of blame for our lack of progress on our inability and/or unwillingness to discuss these issues.

Debates that should have been a part of the past are part of the political dialogue in 2012. It is troubling to me. For instance, we are still discussing whether women should be paid equal salaries/wages for equal work. It is troubling to me that every single Republican voted these measures down.

These types of disparities exist if you look at race relations as well. The issue of reproductive health is once again on the table for debate. I don’t understand why, but it is.

The last group that I mentioned was the LGBTQ community. This is a group in our society that can be credited with paying taxes, serving in our military, educating our children, and a lot more. Despite all of this, they are still kept from marrying their loved ones. While certain states have adopted gay marriage, it isn’t a nationally accepted concept yet and it’s very troubling to me.

In discussing these matters, I think of the concept known as privilege. Society tells us that discussing it isn’t wise because it’s too controversial. It’s too messy. I reject that social norm and proclaim privilege as REAL in 2012. You simply CANNOT have a race where there are two groups in society and allow one group to participate in the race and the other to participate 10 minutes later, and at that point proclaim equality on the basis of their participation in the contest. The fact is, there isn’t TRUE equality because one group will always be disadvantaged by ten minutes.

This is how I view the situation of women, racial/ethnic minorities, and the LGBTQ community in America today. The difference is that the stakes are higher because we’re not taking about a race. We’re talking about wage/salary disparities. We’re talking about being condemned by society for choosing what you want to do with your own body. We’re talking about being slapped in the face by prospective members of Congress who choose to engage in ridiculous rhetoric in attempting to REDEFINE rape as legitimate and illegitimate. We’re talking about the unabashed restriction of birth control for our women.

We’re talking about whether or not you’re perceived as a threat based on what you look like. We’re talking about whether or not a police officer is able to stop you on the street as you’re going about your business on the grounds that you appear to be in the country illegally. We’re talking about the horror story of Trayvon Martin, a young man in Florida who was killed execution-style by someone who perceived him as a threat. The term privilege is sometimes narrowly viewed through the lens of economics. In terms of the Trayvon Martin situation, economics didn’t play a role. It’s about the reality that if Trayvon Martin were a white boy in a hoodie carrying a bag of skittles and a bottle of tea cooler, he would NOT have been seen as a threat. The color of his skin made him a threat in the eyes of Mr. Zimmerman, and a family in Florida is now without a son, a nephew, a brother, and a friend.

We’re talking about whether or not you’re able to marry the person that you love. We’re talking about the horror story of a gay couple in this country that was struck by tragedy when one partner died, and because the government viewed them as nothing more than roommates, the deceased person’s partner was unable to get information in the hospital and was barred from attending the funeral and burial services by the family of the deceased.

I am of the opinion that if we’re going to claim to be the land of the free, the land where equality reigns supreme, we can’t pick and choose who gets to be free and who gets to be equal. Everyone needs to be equal, and everyone needs to be free.

It is understood that the 14th amendment of the Constitution applies only to state actions. In Brown v. Board of Education, when the Supreme Court decided that segregated schools in the states amounted to a violation of the 14th amendment of the Constitution, a new judicial principle was established that barred the states from denying students in public schools equal protection of the law. A new question was presented to the Supreme Court in Bolling v. Sharpe when the same question was raised about schools in the District of Columbia. The Court decided that the decision made in Brown v. Board of Education could be applied to the federal government through the use of the Due Process Clause in the 5th amendment.

What does that matter? Why is that relevant to this post? I believe that the federal government and the state governments to a large degree have been involved in the institutionalized exclusion/discrimination of certain groups. I believe that actions should be taken to level the playing field. It was the government’s mistake that caused there to be such a disparity between the races and between the genders, therefore it should be the government’s remedy that levels that playing field. I feel the same way and just as strongly about the unequal treatment we see as it relates to the LGBTQ community.

I am a feminist. I am pro-choice because I am pro-woman. I am in favor of rights for ALL Americans, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. Enough is enough – and I hope that these issues are addressed by whoever wins this election. We all know that enough TALKING has been done!

If you’re passionate about these issues too, don’t be afraid to voice your opinions! This is our country and we ought to have a say in how things happen here. NOTHING should be taboo!


Are you a Prospective, Retrospective, or Median Voter?

By Chris Dolan, associate professor of political science and international studies

Political scientists stress three basic factors in understanding how citizens will vote in any election.  First, citizens may base their vote on political party affiliation.  Put simply, you will vote for Mitt Romney because he is a Republican.  Second, voters are likely to view personality and/or character as most important.  Let’s face it, there will be millions of people who will vote for President Obama because they believe he understands people like them.  Last but certainly not least, voters may gravitate toward a candidate’s stand on the issues regardless of personality or party.  These are complex voters who tend to be independent.

These three factors tend to explain certain “types” of voters.  Prospective voters believe elections provide people with real choices and alternatives.  These voters presume that each party is a cohesive and unified organization that takes clear policy positions with the result being that the winning party will do exactly what it promised.

A retrospective voter assumes voters make reflective judgments about how well incumbents have performed while in office.  In effect, citizens will reward incumbents with their vote if they believe he or she was successful in office.  You will vote for Obama if you believe he has performed well in office or punish him if he made things worse.  However, citizens will only punish Obama by voting for his Republican opponent if they believe the GOP presents a stronger, more legitimate alternative to Obama.

Median voters prefer that both political parties move towards the center of the political spectrum.  This approach calls for both parties to compete for votes by taking the most popular positions they can, thereby moderating themselves based on popular opinion.  However, in doing so, both parties are likely to support the same policies, which are those favored by the most people.  The key idea is that both parties, competing for votes, tend to take policy stands near the median of public opinion.

Given that Republicans tend to be much more conservative than Democrats on a number of economic and social issues provides voters with a measure of democratic control by enabling them to detect differences and make choices.  But since the U.S. is a two-party system with third parties having little chance of winning office, how much real choice do voters have on Election Day?

Are Republicans really all that different from Democrats?  Will Romney present voters with a real and clear alternative in November?