Coffee and politics proved to be a winning combination for all those who attended the Cappuccino and Campaign Debate at Irene’s Coffee House on Thursday, Feb. 21. The HWS community was joined by members of the Geneva community to discuss and learn about the ensuing political campaign, which has been anything but ordinary.
Students from the HWS Chapter of Americans for Informed Democracy kicked off the event, with Daniel Thorson ’09 explaining one of the group’s goals is to raise awareness and educate others to build a generation of globally conscious leaders. “We are trying to help sponsor non-partisan events, where we can facilitate elevated political discussions,” Thorson said.
Fellow member Michele Viterise ’09, introduced the panel of HWS Political Science faculty members: Professor Iva Deutchman, Associate Professor DeWayne Lucas and Instructor Andrew Milstein.
Deutchman described her experience at the recent 2008 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. She and Lauren Zeitler ’09, president of the HWS College Republicans, and was Timothy Offray ’09 were in attendance when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pulled out of the race for the Republican nomination. Deutchman explained the atmosphere of conference attendees possessed “a lot of hostility for McCain,” and explained that some Republicans questioned whether their frontrunner, Arizona Sen. John McCain, is conservative enough.
“There is no single definition of what it means to be conservative,” Deutchman said. “It isn’t true that there is one conservative point of view.”
Lucas gave a recap of the primary and caucus season thus far, describing both the slight lead on the Democratic side by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and the prominent lead on the Republican side by McCain. Lucas informed the group that it will be “interesting to keep this in mind as we watch over the next few months,” reminding them that “this hasn’t been a textbook election.”
Milstein gave the crowd his positives and negatives of the election to date: “What an amazing turnout has occurred, what an amazing process has occurred. Look at voter turnout itself: women, African Americans, youth are all turning out.”
In the Iowa caucuses, the first event of the year, the turnout was, as Milstein explained, a “whooping 16 percent.” This may not seem like a lot, but in comparison to 2004’s eligible voter turnout of 6 percent, this year is setting new standards. The New Hampshire primary turnout was 52 percent, a number usually only expected in election voting in November.
Thorson asked the panelists, “Is my hope for Obama to be elected president and bring change to Washington naive?”
Lucas replied, “I don’t think it’s naive to put faith in him. He’s not an empty shell, he has policy with sustenance.” Milstein followed up by commenting, “Anytime young people get excited about politics, it’s exciting. The earlier you get excited about politics; it forms patterns for the rest of your life.”
Milstein concluded by saying, “My students laugh at me when I say this, but I’m going to say it anyway: I’m going to put democracy as a winner in this primary.”
Democracy seems to have also won with the HWS community, as events like this continue to encourage students to remain involved with issues locally and across the country.