Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, marked exactly one year since the 2012 presidential elections between Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and the Democratic candidate and current president, Barrack Obama. Despite the fact that voter participation has dwindled in recent years, especially among younger generations, many Northwestern students made their voices heard by casting their votes. This is the story of a few of those votes
It’s 7 p.m. Eastern Time on the evening of Nov. 6, 2012. After a busy Election Day, the polls in Vermont, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Georgia and South Carolina close. Romney jumps out into the lead by taking Georgia and South Carolina; Obama claims his first victory of the night with Vermont. The media cautions that Virginia is too close to call. Stay tuned.
José Martinez glances up from his laptop at the flat-screen 10 feet from the couch on which he sits. It’s Tuesday night—election night. He has been casually following the election results for some time now. He should leave; he has homework due tomorrow that is having a difficult time competing with the buzz from the TV.
Martinez ends up staying in the dorm lounge well into the night.
“I was kind of disappointed in Obama, especially with his response to my interests, mainly immigration reform and the economy,” Martinez said after reflecting on that night. “I understand that sometimes Congress doesn’t cooperate, so I was still kind of hopeful. I didn’t like Mitt Romney, so my choice was fairly clear.”
Martinez, a junior from Nebraska who is double-majoring in computer information systems and translation and interpretation, found his way to NW after an unlikely unfolding of events. Unlike many members of the predominantly white campus, Martinez wasn’t born in Iowa or the Midwest. In fact, his birthplace is Mexico.
“When I lived in Mexico, my grandparents would teach me the traditional way of life; they played a huge role in my childhood,”Martinez said.
After spending his first years on earth living in poverty, Martinez immigrated with his family to California and eventually Washington State. Although the transition indeed opened up new possibilities for Martinez, it also took its toll on a personal level.
“Moving to the United States was hard because I didn’t know how to read English. Eventually I learned, and now I love reading.”
Martinez grew up within the Catholic Church and held those beliefs most of his life. But since coming to NW, that has changed.
“This past year, I spent a lot of time reading in the book of Matthew,” Martinez said. “It talks extensively about what it looks like to love your neighbor, which I have come to appreciate.”
David Crowder’s song “How He Loves” is dear to Martinez because it not only defines true love but also draws him closer to God.
Taking into account his background, his struggles, his hardships and his uncertainty and doubt, it is no surprise that Martinez perceives life in America a little differently than most.
“Growing up in poverty has made me more aware of those who have the same experiences,” Martinez said. “My parents took advantage of government programs because they had to. It’s not that they were lazy; they just didn’t have the education and social standing to get the good jobs.”
Politically, Martinez ranks immigration as the most important issue to him, as well as the benchmark by which he judges presidential candidates.
“It’s how I vote for them – I’m really for immigration reform in the United States,” Martinez said.
In recent years, the Democratic Party has embraced the immigration issue, whether intentionally or not. Because of the polarization between the right and left on the topic, said he often feels divided.
“It’s always interesting to me how everyone’s beliefs sound so right that it’s hard to argue the other side,” Martinez said. “I try not to come to conclusions too soon.” That’s why he doesn’t strongly affilliate with one party.
“I would consider myself a moderate Republican, but I feel that the Republican Party has moved so much to the extreme right that I’m considered liberal by today’s standards.”
José Martinez supported Barrack Obama’s historic run in 2008. He voted for Obama in 2012. And yet he considers himself to be a moderate.
“The most liberal issues can be argued both ways, and the Bible offers support on both sides,” he said.
Martinez paused and then laughed at the apparent irony: “It’s crazy how slavery was justified by religion, and so whenever there’s an issue that is extremely controversial, I feel like people will always be on both sides justifying their support with God’s Word.”
“To say liberal isn’t Christian is really ignorant.”
But Martinez isn’t alone in his beliefs. He represents a large number of Americans who are frustrated with today’s political structure.
Both the Republican and Democratic parties are so ideologically polarized that many Americans struggle to vote for a candidate they feel best represents their views. All too often, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are merely generic labels society has given to politics. Consequently, certain stereotypes are often associated with both parties, and, unfortunately for Christians with left leanings across the nation, “Democrat” and “Christian” simply don’t mix.
It’s just after 9 p.m. Eastern Time. Obama has just won Mississippi as well as New York with its essential 29 electoral votes. Romney responds with big wins in Texas and Louisiana. Moments later, both CNN and ABC report that the Republicans will maintain power in the House of Representatives.
Two hours later, the race appears much less competitive. At 11 p.m. Eastern Time, the Associated Press announces that Obama has taken California, Washington and Hawaii. Romney manages to grab Idaho. In several minutes, CNN will inform the nation that the Democrats will maintain majority in the Senate. It will only be a matter of time until the race is officially called.
“My family, we’re all Democrats, but I think I’m more conservative than them. But here, I’m definitely more liberal than my friends. I’ve learned a lot from them, and I’d like to think they’ve learned from me.”
Meet Alyssa Currier. She grew up in Ottawa, Kan.. She was raised American Baptist. Her favorite Bible verse is Psalm 121:8: “The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Her mouth waters at the thought of a Super Cheese Burrito. Owl City is on her iPod’s Top 25 Played playlist. “Gone With the Wind”is her favorite book. She’s a Democrat.
“I don’t think it is a huge deal,” Currier said. “I don’t want people to think that it’s bad to be a Republican because I don’t. I only speak up when I feel like it’s necessary, like with the situation with the girl bashing on immigrants. But I really try not to be confrontational.”
Bashing on immigrants?
Currier sighed. “My freshman year, I had a conversation with a girl who really didn’t like undocumented immigrants and felt that they should be shipped back to Mexico or learn our language. That was a really frustrating conversation to have because it went against my values as a Christian. The Bible talks so much about welcoming strangers, and I feel like as Christians that should be our attitude. This is a country that is for everyone, not just English speakers.”
A senior at NW , Currier is double-majoring in political science and Spanish. If all goes well, she hopes her career will take her abroad, perhaps as a mediator between countries or an expert in conflict resolution with the United Nations. A law degree might fit somewhere, too. And lots and lots of traveling.
With her current aspirations, it makes sense that politics has always been an interest of Currier’s.
“I’ve always liked politics; I think it is good to get a perspective on politics for the things I want to do in the future.” Currier said.
With her family historically leaning to the left, Currier generally favors the Democratic Party, although there are always exceptions.
“A lot of it is it was the way I was raised, so a lot of certain values have been instilled in me.” Currier said. “The part I believe in strongly is how the Democratic Party pushes for social programs for the poor.”
She cites some tension with her political views, especially after deciding to attend college in Sioux County. She is in the minority, which she’s accustomed to, given that her home is in heavily Republican Kansas. But the prominence of conservatism in Sioux County still baffles her.
“I was surprised to find that it was one of the most Republican counties in the country, but I don’t think it’s hostile,” she said. “Everyone is pretty nice. But it is too bad that people don’t get exposed to the Democratic side because it’d make them more informed as voters. Around here, Christian and Republican go together,” Currier said. “To branch out would be like exploring another religion — why would you?”
“A lot of my friends growing up were Republicans, so I’ve always kind of been in the situation of a Democrat among Republicans,” Currier said. “But I think it has been good because it has given me an inside perspective; it has made me sensitive to both sides.”
Currier is not a devout Democrat. She said she firmly disagrees with abortion and would like the party to return to its peaceful international affairs platform. Not surprisingly, the events recently unfolding in Syria and President Obama’s handling of them have made her nervous, borderline exasperated.
“I really like the idea of diplomacy first, war second; just not going to war quickly,” she said.
For Currier, her political decision comes down to people. Poverty and immigration are two issues she sees as being central to Americans.
“I don’t like the ‘We earned it; it’s ours’ mentality because as Christians we should vote to have our money given away,” Currier said. “I think that the only Christian response is to help those in need.”
Currier said she is pasionate about the immigration issue. “I would really like to see the Republican Party adopt a more open platform on immigration because I agree with a lot of their policies,” Currier said. “There’s a good chance that I would vote Republican if they were to do that.”
In the end, Currier summed up her thoughts on politics in America by saying, “It wasn’t designed to be a Godless country, but it also wasn’t just designed for Christians.Overall I think there are a lot more moderates, and the media definitely makes politics seem more extreme than it really is.”
It’s nearly 1 a.m. on Nov. 7, 2012. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has just finished his concession speech. His ruffled hair and sagging eyelids testify to the strenuous campaign that began 18 long months ago. Romney exits the stage and leaves the Republican Party angry, confused and dilapidated.
Martinez has long since finished his homework and sits alone in the lounge. He’d celebrate if he could, but most of the guys in the dorm either don’t care or voted for Romney. Martinez returns to his room both excited and anxious to see how the next four years will unfold.
Currier grabs two empty bowls off the table and heads for the door. The chips and dip had been brought by her roommate, a registered Republican. Alyssa smiles at the thought of her friend attending the Campus Democrats election party.
She also smiles because President Barrack Obama has won a second term.