Keynote speaker Erwin Chemerinsky, distinguished dean of UC Irvine’s law school, discussed the choices that students face in the upcoming election in a town hall-inspired presentation.
ASUCI and Cox Communications co-sponsored the annual UC I Vote Election Town Hall: Your Voice Your Choice 2008 moderated by Cox Vice President James Leach in the Crystal Cove Auditorium on Wednesday, Oct. 15.
Chemerinsky’s half hour lecture focused on the effects that the presidential candidates could potentially have on the Supreme Court. Emphasizing the ages of justices such as Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer, he pointed out that there will likely be more vacancies on the liberal side of the court. How the new president-elect fills these vacancies will determine the court’s liberal-conservative balance.
“If Obama wins, the court will stay the same,” Chemerinsky said. “If McCain wins, it will become more conservative.”
He cited rulings on abortion, affirmative action and the War on Terror that would be re-evaluated under a new court that would determine whether the court would stay the same under Obama or lean more conservatively under McCain.
Chemerinsky said that voting based on the makeup of the Supreme Court is a good determinant of what future presidential regimes may bring.
“I cannot think of an election that will affect [students] more than this one,” Chemerinsky said. “This election is different … There is a stark choice and it will really matter.”
A live screening of the final presidential debate and a round table question and answer session with UCI professors Carole Uhlaner and Tony Smith followed Chemerinsky’s lecture. Chemerinsky fielded questions from the audience on topics such as the propositions, tax cuts, the international community and young voters.
Following the question and answer session, the audience watched the presidential debate live in the auditorium.
Presented in a different format than the previous two, this debate allowed for more of a back and forth discussion, with Senators John McCain and Barack Obama seated next to each other, along with CBS anchor Bob Schieffer moderating. Furthermore, McCain’s more aggressive stance put Obama on the defensive, making for a more interesting debate this time around.
Although many of the issues discussed previously were reiterated, both candidates adequately explained how their administrations would differ from the current one.
The economy was discussed at length, with the candidates trading comments about tax policy, the national deficit and balancing the budget. McCain emphasized the need for short and long-term fixes, and helping the mortgage crisis with government purchase of the loans, while Obama stressed the need to cut taxes for low income families and create new jobs.
Health care was also disputed exhaustively. Both senators agreed that medical records should be digitalized, but heartily disagreed about how reform should be achieved. Obama aims to offer the medical plan that government employees have, while McCain promises a $5,000 tax credit to purchase an individualized plan.
Climate change and education were also discussed. Both senators stressed the need for renewable energy and minimized dependence on foreign oil. However, McCain stated that he wanted to tap into offshore drilling immediately and then work on alternative fuels, while Obama would use offshore oil only to supplement the transition to alternatives.
The candidates differed on education as well. Obama focused on overall reform and making college affordable, with tuition cuts for students who participate in community service. McCain stressed the need to reward good teachers, remove poor ones and to allow parents more choice as to which school their child attends.
Dorothy McClelland, a fourth-year art history and international studies double-major, stated that this debate was more insightful than the previous ones.
“It was a lot more constructive to hear their perspectives on each other,” McClelland said. “It was a platform to refute claims.”
Following the debate, professors Tony Smith and Carole Uhlaner, both from the political science department, fielded questions and offered their opinions on topics such as education and how public image influences voting decisions.
Regarding public image, Smith expressed that American citizens often rush along their political decisions too quickly.
“[Although] we love to make a quick decision … we’re really bad at it,” Smith said.
He continued to suggest that viewers cannot gauge a candidate’s ethos or make informed decisions based solely on of television debate forums because they do not provide enough information.
Emilio Aris, a third-year political science major, had a generally positive opinion about the event.
“I’m glad UCI gave us a venue [for the discussion] … and got the faculty to debate,” Aris said.
Students interested in voting in the Nov. 4 election must be registered by Oct. 20.