Second Place Writing – Editorials


The Daily endorses… Barack Obama

By Josh Hillman

How do eight college students come to a conclusion on which candidate to endorse? They have a lot of meetings about it. We’d like to take you to one of the more recent:

“I named my fish Maverick last week, and it got its head bit off.”

“Great. Let’s just write an editorial about that.”

“Can we include it though? It’s actually pretty funny.”

“We still haven’t even decided if we’re doing an endorsement. Did you read the Time article? There are lots of good reasons for newspapers not to do endorsements.”

There are lots of good reasons for newspapers not to endorse — “Gosh darn it, it’s tradition!” isn’t going to cut it anymore. Foremost, endorsements cast doubt about the objectivity of the paper’s political coverage. Readers say they don’t understand how the people sharing their opinion on one page can flaunt their objectivity on the other. And while we can assert — and we do — that all our election coverage was planned before this editorial was ever discussed, and that the decision-makers on the editorial board, minus the editor-in-chief, have absolutely no influence on the decision making of the news desk, readers have no way of verifying that. They have to take our word for it. We can’t blame them if they don’t, especially given today’s media environment.

College newspapers face additional endorsement hurdles. Real-world editorial boards often represent an ideology that’s stood for decades, an ideology that changes only when the owner says so. Readers know what to expect from these pages. The Daily Editorial Board, on the other hand, changes every semester. Its current incarnation has two conservatives, two liberals, a socialist and three chilling in the middle of the political spectrum. Ideally, it represents a swath of the student population and a barometer of how campus feels at the moment. Comparing what we write this semester to the editorials of three years ago is like comparing apples to oranges; Alaska to Delaware, if you will.

But there’s one value the Daily Editorial Board always holds true: stimulating and leading the discussion on campus. This election is a big deal. We wouldn’t be serving our readers if we opted to write nothing at all.

“So if we want to stimulate the conversation but not do the standard endorsement, where does that leave us?”

“I’m definitely up for something unconventional.”

“Have we even decided who we’re endorsing yet?”

“Yeah, let’s go around the table and talk about that.”

Facts, figures and policies are great, but they don’t sway people like a real-life anecdote. In fact, it’s quite possible no one on the editorial board remembers exactly what policies we discussed or what we said about them. One story does stand out:

“When I saw Palin in Des Moines this weekend … one of the chants was ‘Drill, baby, drill!’ I didn’t realize that was something to get excited about. To me, it exemplified everything that’s wrong with the McCain campaign. It’s all about short-term fixes, short-term solutions. More oil is great right now, but what does it gain us in 20 years? Palin might have picked up a ton of steam initially, but how exactly is she going to help the country?”

Of course, that wasn’t the only thing. One member harped on intellectual curiosity, something “grievously” missing from the White House this past eight years. Several held disdain for Palin, who scared away whatever moderate appeal McCain initially held. The consensus appreciated Obama’s steady decision making and handling of his campaign, compared to McCain’s impulsive, flashy manner. The majority despised the McCain campaign’s use of Rovian tactics, and the shortsighted, impotent decision by McCain to “suspend” his campaign and “fix” the economic crisis. On economic policy, we preferred Obama to McCain, although both would benefit by delegating those decisions to someone more qualified. When it came to the idea of fiscal responsibility, McCain’s support of the economic bailout belies his conservative label, earmarks or not. Really, when the Republicans have been in control the past eight years, what have they done to show they favor small government?

“So Obama it is, then?”

“Wasn’t it always going to be on a board with more liberals than conservatives?”

“So it seems.”

“Are we sure? If McCain-Palin get elected, we get Tina Fey for four more years.”

“Palin was great on SNL, though. That pageant experience must have paid off.”

“Who’s writing this?”

“I will.”

“Are you including the part about Maverick the fish?”

“Yeah, probably. If it fits. It’s pretty funny.”

“Isn’t it kind of morbid?”

“That too.”

How do eight college students come to a conclusion on which candidate to endorse? They sit around a table in one-hour increments for several meetings waiting for the most vocal people to shoot their mouths off. They care about education, about civil rights, about the economy, about the war, about the job market they’re entering and the world they’ll inherit. They care about polar bears and Tiny Fey glasses and integrity.

To steal a trodden-to-death meme from this election: We’re Joe the College Student, and we’re going to vote. For Barack Obama.