The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Maintaining political enthusiasm

I, like many of my fellow St. John’s students, am rarely interested in politics. But with the election of President Barack Obama last November, something magical happened. Obama offered the country a fresh perspective and a new hope for the future. Not only that, he ignited passion in so many young adults, including myself. This is a passion that hasn’t been seen in decades.

As I worked on an issue of The TORCH the same night as the election, I saw the energy that Obama’s win created on campus.

It was truly amazing to see the response from the St. John’s community when the results were announced. I’ve never seen St. John’s students so excited about anything while I’ve been a student at this university.

However, with local New York City elections about a month away, the excitement that Obama’s campaign generated among youth voters seems to have died out.

“There has been a drop off, overall, in college students’ interest in politics from last year,” said Brian Browne, assistant vice president of Government Relations at St. John’s and one of the coordinators of the Participate in ’09 initiative. “I don’t think you see the same excitement as this time last year.”

The TORCH interviewed a few students last week for a story about the upcoming elections, and many of their answers echoed what Browne said. A lot of students who said they are registered to vote in New York said they are not interested in these elections. Some students also said there’s not enough media attention surrounding these candidates for them to be fully aware of who they are and what they stand for.

I can see where these students are coming from. While there has been some attention paid to the democratic candidates for comptroller (John Liu) and public advocate (Bill de Blasio) because they had to have a runoff race last week after their primary results were too close, I admit that I don’t even know who their republican opponents are.

But in the race for mayor, it seems as if Mike Bloomberg has continually controlled the media, not just during this campaign, but during all three of the times he has run. He has more money than his opponent Bill Thompson (and just about anyone for that matter), so I can understand if students are not as aware of Thompson, since Bloomberg seems to have overshadowed him.

During this campaign alone, Bloomberg has spent more than $60 million of his own money, while Thompson has spent about $4 million, half of the $8 million he received as donations and public funds.

St. John’s is doing its part to keep young voters aware and informed about these local elections. Last year, the University launched Participate in ’08, a successful initiative co-sponsored by College Democrats, College Republicans, Student Government, Inc. and a few faculty members. This year, the initiative is back under the name Participate in ’09, with a focus on New York City elections for mayor, comptroller, public advocate and many city council positions.

Since the beginning of the semester, Participate in ’09 has hosted forums where candidates running for comptroller and public advocate visited the University in an effort to define what their role in city government actually is, (comptroller is the chief fiscal officer for NYC and public advocate acts a watchdog of the city govenment ), and they informed young voters on their positions on various issues.

In addition to this, College Democrats and College Republicans are hosting voter registration drives until Oct. 9, the deadline for voter registration in New York. If you haven’t already registered to vote, this is a fast and easy way to do so before the November elections.

“The old cliché ‘all politics are local’ is very much applicable and that’s why it’s important to know what’s going in on in the neighborhoods right around you,” said Browne in an interview with a TORCH reporter last week.

Browne is definitely on target. For example, last week, I wrote about Bloomberg’s potential smoking ban in city parks and beaches-if you’re a smoker, this would have a direct effect on your life. Therefore, it is extremely important to be informed about what all of the candidates stand for. Although these local elections are not of the same magnitude as last year’s presidential election and the candidates may not be as inspiring as Obama, the decisions they make will have an impact on your life.

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