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Elections past and present

By Andy Hallman | Nov 07, 2012

The 2012 election is in the books. I’ve heard from a lot of people who are glad it’s over. Apparently, they didn’t care for the constant junk e-mails and phone calls from robots.

I don’t mind the extra attention that politics gets in the lead-up to an election. After all, I studied political science in college, and I followed politics very closely in high school, too, so the past couple of months are right up my alley.

Well, they usually are. The most recent presidential election wasn’t quite as exciting to me as the one in 2008, and that wasn’t nearly as exciting as the one four years earlier.

I turned 18 in April 2004, which meant I could vote in the presidential election that year between John Kerry and George W. Bush. I was really active in politics my senior year of high school. Whenever we had a chance to choose our own topics for essays in English, mine were always about some political issue.

Debating politics was one of my favorite pastimes in school. My friends and I talked about it often, and I even sought out debates with complete strangers on Internet message boards.

One of my friends was really interested in space exploration, and he spent considerable time debating space-related issues on a Web site called <space.com.> I wasn’t nearly as interested in space, but I liked arguing, so I went to the site to engage in arguments with the people there. After a short time, I was really hooked on the site, and I went there every day in search of a new discussion, oftentimes unrelated to space.

Once I got to college, I got the chance to talk politics every day in my political science classes. A few professors keep their opinions to themselves but a number of them do not. I remember vividly the debates some of the outspoken students had with their professors during class.

Looking back at it, that 2004 election seemed to be a lot more emotionally-charged than this year’s. That’s probably hard to believe if you’ve just watched a year’s worth of negative ads, but the issues back then seemed to be weightier than the ones now.

Issues pertaining to terrorism and war took center stage in the debates and the convention speeches back then, whereas there was little interest in foreign policy matters from either candidate in 2012. It seemed like more people believed the Apocalypse would occur if the “wrong” candidate won in 2004.

The war in Afghanistan was not quite three years old in 2004 and the war in Iraq had just begun the year before. What did the future hold? More war? More terrorism? Nobody knew. Now, discussions of Iraq are off the table, and Afghanistan is on the backburner. Obama and Romney struggled to distinguish themselves during their foreign policy debate this year.

I became so engrossed in the election in 2004 that I would stay up late debating people on the Internet. I knew I needed help when, at 2 a.m. one night, I sat at my computer refreshing the message board’s home page every few minutes to see if a new comment had come in. Luckily, I’ve since broken free from that crazy obsession. Now I only do that until 1 a.m.

Comments (6)
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Nov 19, 2012 16:54

If you have never taken one economics class in your life, you should know that $6 trillion added to the deficit is unsustainable and insanity.

Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Nov 17, 2012 06:37
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Nov 17, 2012 05:49

When one thinks of all the men who have put their lives on the line in battle to defend and preserve this country, it is especially painful to think that there are people living in the safety and comfort of civilian life who cannot be bothered to find out the facts about candidates before voting to put the fate of this nation, and of generations yet to come, in the hands of someone chosen because they like his words or style.

Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Nov 16, 2012 15:07

This quote came from a Czech Republic Newspaper.

“The danger to America is not Barack Obama, but a citizenry capable of entrusting a man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama. It is less likely to survive a multitude of fools, such as those who made him their president.”



Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Nov 13, 2012 02:26


France was the cradle of the modern idea of democracy. French troops were vital to America's victory in the War of Independence and Paris led the world in science, medicine and the arts. And as McCullough has written, the city was irresistible to the new citizens of a new nation.

David McCullough: They came here in the droves. They were here in order to improve themselves and to go home and thereby improve their country.

They were the first wave of innocents abroad, who began arriving in Paris just 50 years after Independence. Writers, artists, medical students.

David McCullough: They couldn't quite adjust to how old everything is. When they were looking at Notre Dame they were looking at a building that was begun before Columbus ever sailed.

Paris had grand boulevards. Breathtaking parks. Great universities. All the things young America didn't have.

Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Nov 08, 2012 06:16

One of the sad and dangerous signs of our times is how many people are enthralled by words, without bothering to look at the realities behind those words.


One of those words that many people seldom look behind is “education.” But education can cover anything from courses on nuclear physics to courses on baton twirling.


Unfortunately, an increasing proportion of American education, whether in K–12 schools or in colleges and universities, is closer to the baton-twirling end of the spectrum than toward the nuclear-physics end. Even reputable colleges are increasingly teaching things that students should have learned in high school.


We don’t have a backlog of serious students trying to take serious courses. If you look at the fields in which American students specialize in colleges and universities, those fields are heavily weighted toward the soft end of the spectrum.


When it comes to postgraduate study in tough fields such as math and science, you often find foreign students at American universities receiving more of those degrees than do Americans.

A recent headline in the Chronicle of Higher Education said: “Master’s in English: Will Mow Lawns.” It featured a man with that degree who has gone into the landscaping business because there is no great demand for people with master’s degrees in English. 

Too many of the people coming out of even our most prestigious academic institutions graduate with neither the skills to be economically productive nor the intellectual development to make them discerning citizens and voters.

Students can graduate from some of the most prestigious institutions in the country without ever learning anything about science, mathematics, economics, or anything else that would make them either productive contributors to the economy or informed voters who can see through political rhetoric.

On the contrary, people with such “education” are often more susceptible to demagoguery than the population at large. Nor is this a situation peculiar to America. In countries around the world, people with degrees in soft subjects have been sources of political unrest, instability, and even mass violence.

Nor is this a new phenomenon. A scholarly history of 19th-century Prague referred to “the well-educated but underemployed” Czech young men who promoted ethnic polarization there — a polarization that not only continued but escalated in the 20th century to produce bitter tragedies for both Czechs and Germans.

In other central European countries, between the two world wars, a rising class of newly educated young people bitterly resented having to compete with better qualified Jews in the universities and with Jews already established in business and the professions. Anti-Semitic policies and violence were the result.

It was much the same story in Asia, where successful minorities such as the Chinese in Malaysia were resented by newly educated Malays without either the educational or business skills to compete with them. These Malaysians demanded — and got — heavily discriminatory laws and policies against the Chinese.

Similar situations developed at various times in Nigeria, Romania, Sri Lanka, Hungary, and India, among other places.

Many Third World countries have turned out so many people with diplomas — but without meaningful skills — that “the educated unemployed” became a cliché among people who study such countries. This has not only become a personal problem for those individuals who have been educated, or half-educated, without acquiring any ability to fulfill their rising expectations, it has become a major economic and political problem for these countries.

Such people have proven to be ideal targets for demagogues promoting polarization and strife. We in the United States are still in the early stages of that process. But you need only visit campuses where whole departments feature soft courses preaching a sense of victimhood and resentment, and see the consequences in racial and ethnic polarization on campus.

There are too many other soft courses that allow students to spend years in college without becoming educated in any real sense.

We don’t need more government “investment” to produce more of such “education.” Lofty words such as “investment” should not blind us to the ugly reality of political pork-barrel spending.


Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.



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