BEFORE THE DIE IS CAST
?It?s hard work, you know.? That is not George Bush referring to his role in the Iraq war, although he used the phrase, ad infinitum, during his pre-poll debates. Today, the phrase aptly describes the plight of us on university campuses in the United States of America (not to mention the 62 million television viewers), exposed to the screening of the ?events?, in an effort to help undecided voters make up their minds on whom to back. From an almost non-existent campaign and total voter apathy a month ago, the Bush-Kerry face-offs and the Cheney-Edwards encounters have finally got the electorate animated. Live screenings of the four debates in colleges across the country registered healthy turnouts, while professors happily moderated the impromptu discussions that followed.
But whether it is intellectual dissection over cold gazpacho at Mory?s in Yale or over steaming decaf at the Memorial Union ballroom in Rhode Island, first-time voters claim that the debates (the lack of substance and hackneyed posturing notwithstanding) have managed to induce ?newly-developed political opinions? in them. But the erstwhile ?swing voters? like sophomore Josh Sisson are unimpressed: ?It?s like a puppet on the left and a puppet on the right. It doesn?t matter who gets elected; it?s going to be another four years of the same...?
State of suspense
It is true that the voters are hardly spoilt for choice. Countless Americans want a new president. They are sporting lapel pins that read ?George Bush: You?re fired? or have placards on their driveway which read ?Vote John Kerry and John Edwards for a stronger America?. But they are far from ecstatic with the Democratic candidates. The student community on the whole say they prefer George W. since he came across as ?a better human being? and was easier to connect with. So where does the anti-incumbency factor come into play? It is not a term one hears of, at all.
With just about a week left, the battleground has begun to narrow down to about 10 states. The University of Wisconsin has a project monitoring these swing states and says that the Kerry camp seems to have given up on Arkansas, Arizona and Missouri, while Oregon and Washington will be likely to stay with the Democrats.
Wait and watch
The states which are likely to prove the deciding factor in this ?dead tied? race are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It is to these that ?foreign observers? like us are being deputed from the day before polling to ?monitor? the great democratic theatre. Pax Christi USA and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation?s oldest and largest civil rights organization, are partners in this monitoring effort.
According to the executive director of Pax Christi USA, Dave Robinson, ?After 2000, when so many were denied participation..., when their basic rights were denied and they were treated without respect, we are obligated to assure that such a situation does not repeat itself.? Charges of voter intimidation by the Florida department of law enforcement and the Florida division of elections arose in June as armed officers interrogated elderly black voters in their homes, claiming to be investigating charges of voter fraud.
It remains to be seen whether the presence of international observers can have any impact. But it is possibly the best entertainment that could come our way before the Thanksgiving and Christmas festivities get into full swing next month. By then, the die will be cast, and it will be time, surely, for recriminations on what could have been.