Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Policy and Political History Trump Candidate’s Education

In his column “Educational Elitism Should Not Be Frowned Upon” (THE HOYA, Oct. 21, 2008, A3), Dean Lieberman writes that the most important criterion in his voting decision is the level of education that each candidate possesses. Unfortunately, while Lieberman has the best of intentions in making this criterion supreme, this attitude is indicative of many supporters of Barack Obama: They vote based upon factors other than the candidate’s viewpoints on the issues. A candidate’s record is the best way to judge him or her. Supreme education is not a valid criterion for discovering the best presidential candidate.

First, by making education of the candidates the highest criterion and advocating this as the basis for voting for Obama, Lieberman adopts a path taken by many other supporters of the Democratic candidate. They have chosen to vote for Obama because of a characteristic that has nothing to do with his governmental record, as if they have been given great insight that shows why he will be an effective leader, and the other voters are just ignorant.

I cannot count the number of conversations I have had with supporters of Obama that have ended in some variation of the following statements: “Obama represents something new and different” or “Obama’s background can help restore America’s standing.” Furthermore, any attacks on Obama are seen as ignorant. In an article for Slate magazine titled, “Racism Is the Only Reason Obama Might Lose,” Jacob Weisberg wrote, “You may or may not agree with Obama’s policy prescriptions, but they are, by and large, serious attempts to deal with the biggest issues we face. . To the rest of the world, a rejection of the promise he represents wouldn’t just be an odd choice by the United States. It would be taken for what it would be: sign and symptom of a nation’s historical decline.”

It seems impossible to some supporters that anyone could have a disagreement about the policies of Obama, so anyone that doesn’t vote for him is either a racist or an uneducated dope. Indeed, for all of the talk about how the GOP has “scaled down its intellect to entice the masses,” it seems as though some supporters of the Democratic Party might have dissuaded people from investigating Obama’s policy prescriptions.

And why would those supporters want to dissuade people from voting based upon policy? Let’s delve deeper. Obama has run a campaign based upon change and post-partisanship. However, his record could be anything but post-partisan, and the change which he seeks is a change from conservatism to liberalism. According to National Journal, Obama was the most liberal senator in 2007, holding a liberal position on 65 out of 66 key issues. It may shock some people, but the candidate of post-partisan change is John McCain.

cCain has been able to produce bipartisan campaign finance reform (McCain-Feingold) and compromise on judicial nominees (he was a member of the Gang of 14 that ended unnecessary filibusters while avoiding a Republican-backed “nuclear option”), among other accomplishments. He criticized the Bush administration for the handling of the war in Iraq and was a strident backer of the troop surge, which by all accounts is working. While McCain was working on McCain-Feingold, Obama was voting “present” in the Illinois State Senate.

Second, while Obama has a tremendous amount of education, that alone would not make him the great president that many people believe that he will be. Though there is no one of any ideology that will dispute that Obama possesses tremendous intellect, there are many who doubt that intellect is all that a person needs to be an outstanding president. Rather, it is a minor component in determining a candidate’s success.

In 2000, George W. Bush, who holds degrees from both Yale University and Harvard Business School, was elected president. Is there anyone that disputes the value of an education at these institutions? Even if Bush was a C student at Yale, he was still educated in the curriculum of one of the most prestigious universities in the world. By making education the highest criterion, Lieberman would have pledged his vote to Bush. I’m sure Obama supporters have been thrilled with the Bush presidency.

Democrats with education have made for less than popular presidents as well. In 1980, a voter who valued education of the candidates would have re-elected Jimmy Carter (he was 59th out of 820 at the Naval Academy) instead of Ronald Reagan. Comparing Carter’s disastrous first term with the successes of Reagan’s presidency serves to highlight the problems of making a candidate’s education the highest voting criterion when casting a ballot.

There is no doubt that this election is one of the most important in the history of our nation. We are at war and are staring at a looming economic crisis that calls for the best leader that our nation has to offer. I have no qualm with those who support Obama based upon his policies. Though I disagree with them, if a person has taken the time to research both candidates and believes that Obama’s policies make the most sense, then I cannot fault him or her.

I can and do fault those, like Lieberman, who base their decision based on a factor other than those that directly deal with how the candidate has and will govern. Voting for Obama because he is the most educated man is just as ignorant as not voting for him because he is black. Neither of those rationales understands that both candidates offer different ideas on how to solve America’s problems and that an informed voter should weigh the effects of those ideas.

atthew La Magna is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.

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