2008-02-21 / Front Page

Interest in presidential politics mounts at Cal Lutheran University

By Joann Groff joann@theacorn.com

By Joann Groff  joann@theacorn.com

A packed house and lots of questions made for a successful panel discussion on the current presidential campaigns, with superdelegates, caucuses and electability as topics for discussion.

"Witness to History: The Unprecedented 2008 U.S. Presidential Election" brought more than 80 students and residents to the Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center at California Lutheran University last week.

The panelists, five of the school's political science professors, discussed the differences between open and closed primaries and caucuses as well as other factors in the race, including the June 6 Puerto Rico primary.

"For some reason the (Democratic) Party has given them 63 delegates, but that's a place where local party leaders allocate delegates under mysterious criteria," professor Herb Gooch said. "You couldn't write a better screenplay."

Professor Jose Marichal agreed that the election made for "amazing drama."

"I can say this is the most exciting election of my lifetime, and I'm 38, so I'm sure it is for you," Marichal said to the mostly college-age crowd.

"The candidates are in these roles, and it's great theater. And it's for the biggest price--leader of the world," he said.

There were also questions about the effect that the Democratic Party's nearly 800 superdelegates would have on the election. Some panelists said the process isn't democratic, while professor Fred Gordon said superdelegates serve "as a check-and-balance process."

Professor Haco Hoang discussed some of the differences she's taken note of in this election compared to those past.

"I've noticed that the sentiment among voters is that they are beyond party politics," Hoang said. "They are over voting because of the parties. They are voting for the best candidate."

Hoang also commented on the fact that, despite the possibility that the United States could have the first African American president, the first female president or, until recently, the first Mormon president, the candidates aren't talking about that diversity.

"While we know that, they are making a conscious effort to downplay that pervasive identity," Hoang said. "The candidates are intentionally downplaying it in public and on the campaign trail. They are running on the issue of change and unity, but not identity."

Marichal said the change platform is nothing new.

"They always talk about change," Marichal said. "They always say they want to get the lobbyists out of Washington and bring the people into the process. What is so different about 2008? It's really possible that the 'change candidate' becomes president."

And beyond the issues, some said the personalities of the candidates could be the deciding factor.

"I don't see a lot of daylight in policy positions, even in Iraq," Hoang said. "There aren't huge differences between this person and that person. This campaign is more about style than substance. People are still in the dating phase. Do we want to take a walk on the beach with (Clinton)? With McCain? Who do we want courting us?"

"We are witnessing history whether you like it or not," Hoang added. "History is a great way to give you context. But at this point, you can read history and check it, because frankly, nothing has prepared us for what we're seeing today."

Return to top