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Election sparks discussion on campus

As the election results rolled in on Nov. 6, the voting population of the United States raised its voice and chose President Barack Obama to continue serving as the country’s leader.

The community at John Brown University offered a variety of responses, from those who watched coverage until the final decision to those who avoided the issue.

Frank Niles, associate professor of political science, said the results of the election were surprising from a historical perspective.

“Typically, incumbent presidents running for reelection with a sluggish economy don’t do well,” he said. “But with this race, most observers were confident Obama would win.”

Obama’s level of success reflected on the weaknesses of Gov. Mitt Romney, Niles said. It also indicated that while people were concerned about the economy, they were also concerned about other social issues.

Obama additionally had a strong organizational system on his side, Niles added. This included keeping local offices in the battleground state of Ohio active for the past five years.

“If Republicans could have gotten more turnout in Ohio, they may have won that state,” Niles said. “But Obama’s well-oiled machine took Romney by surprise.”

Turnout in general was a lot higher than people expected for this race, Niles said. Analysts thought the public lacked enthusiasm about the election, but they evidently underestimated it.

Preliminary results show between 55 and 60 percent turnout, according to the Huffington Post. That puts this year’s election behind 2008 and 2004 turnout levels.

Now that Obama has gained another term, he must work with Congress to avoid the approaching “fiscal cliff,” Niles said. That is a term for across-the-board, automatic budget cuts to government programs which will occur in January unless Congress and the President can “cobble together” a way to deal with the country’s debt.

“The Tea Party was not as visible in their success this election, so maybe the Republicans can negotiate more,” Niles said.

“Obama basically has less than three years to get stuff done now,” Niles added. “That is a narrow window, especially if he wants to accomplish any ambitious social goals.”

Senior Austin Harms said he did not watch the election coverage all day Tuesday or spend time freaking out over it, as some people did. His concern centered more on other people’s attitudes about the results.

“From personal conversations and seeing people’s Facebook statuses, it seems people have given up hope of change,” he said. “In my opinion, that is a good thing. If they cannot look to the president for that, they must rely on God.”

Harms disagreed with people who acted as though God could not be in control with Obama as the leader. He added that he loved the fact that they would be forced back to relying on God’s omnipotence in light of the election.

“God does not always give us what we ask for,” Harms said. “It is ok for us not to live in an overtly Christian nation. Theocracies don’t work. I do not believe we are going to have a country centered around godly morals here. But God can still use our country.”

Freshman Shalene Green said she could not understand some people’s response.

“It seems hypocritical to me for Christians to be so sure we needed Romney to fix everything,” she said. “Because when he didn’t win, then they fall back on the ‘oh, well God is still in charge.’”

She added that Obama’s win excited her. Green’s support for Obama stemmed from her choice to live out her faith by her actions rather than legislating morality for others.

“I believe the Bible, but I also believe the Constitution gives people the right to choose their religion,” she said. “I don’t think it’s right for us to tell people with different beliefs how to act.”

She said that most of the people at the University were not still harping on the election results.

“We’re moving on with our lives now,” she said.

Niles said Republicans and Democrats need to start looking ahead to the next election now.

“Both parties have to hold a reckoning with themselves about who will become the next leader,” Niles said. “For Democrats, Obama was able to unify the wide diversity of the party. Republicans need to focus on reaching out to women and minorities, who are becoming increasingly important.”

Niles said that as a political scientist he loves the election season.

“Whether ‘your team’ wins or loses, this is a great experience,” he said. “People in China or Cuba don’t get to do this. We get to watch the most powerful man in the world get elected.”