Addressing the upcoming presidential election from two different standpoints—that of race and of the contest’s global impact—two speakers at the Harvard College Democrats meeting agreed on one conclusion: Voter turnout matters.
African and African American studies and sociology professor Lawrence D. Bobo first talked about the role of race in the election, saying that incumbent President Barack Obama uses extreme caution when calling attention to problems of race. He cited Obama’s comments about his former minister, the controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and his response to the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in 2009 as examples of the political maneuvering Obama, the first black president, has employed to maintain an image of even-handedness when it comes to race.
“Often the elephant in the room is the problem of race,” he said. Yet even as Bobo named moments when Obama minimized race, he said that race should not be overlooked at the polls. In the 2008 election, he said, Obama received overwhelming majorities of African-American, Asian, and Latino votes.
Hailing from the English Parliament, the Right Honourable Douglas G. Alexander, Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, offered an outside perspective on the 2012 election. He cited the rise of China, the precarious governments of the Middle East, and climate change as issues that make the election not only important in the United States, but also crucial to global politics.
Both speakers stressed the importance of voting. “This is going to be a turnout election,” Alexander said. “Politics is a contact sport and participation sport, not a spectator sport. If ever there was a time that the phrase ‘fierce urgency of now’ was written, it is now. Millions of people in the world are urging you on in the work you are doing.”
As the election draws near, the Harvard College Democrats have amped up their meetings, phone banks, canvassing trips, and awareness events all geared toward campaigning for Obama and for U.S. Senate candidate and Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren.
The speaker event on Tuesday, Harvard College Democrats president Adan Acevedo ’13 said, was an effort to help members understand the issues that they discuss on the campaign trail. “It’s easier to campaign for someone when you know what they’re fighting for,” he said.