I held a mock election in my classes on Friday; all my 7th and 8th graders were given a list of most of the major candidates for president, including third party candidates from the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution parties.
After a quick review of some of the major views and positions of the candidates and their parties, the secret ballot was underway. I was not surprised with the results.
Among the 152 students who voted that day, 115 (76%) voted for Barack Obama. The runner-up was John McCain with 21 votes (14%). The rest of the votes were a smattering for Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party, Ralph Nader, one for Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, and one for "Gummie Bears." When I announced the results, the students began cheering and gloating and they were rather surprised to learn that the rest of the country isn't quite so skewed in Obama's direction, what with the 3 to 5 point spread in some polls.
That Obama would win my classroom election was a foregone conclusion; for weeks, my students have been singing the praises of Obama while wearing oodles of pins, buttons, and t-shirts. The entertaining part is when we debriefed near the end of each period by asking for volunteers to explain why they voted for a particular candidate. Since 3 out of 4 students voted for Obama, the candidate for the Democrat party took up most of the conversation. It quickly became apparent that
a) Most had no real clue why they preferred Obama other than the color of his skin.
b) Most believed the most vile misinformation about John McCain and Sarah Palin, and the number one reason they didn't like him is because he is "too old" to be president.
You name a lie, rumor, or innuendo about McCain, and I heard them all on Friday: He's racist, he wants to kill everyone, his running mate is "retarded." Meanwhile, reasons for wanting Obama included the oft-repeated mantra that he wants to "change things," because he wants to pull our troops out of Iraq (which is at least a legitimate reason, even if you disagree with it), and of course, because he would be our first "African-American" president.
If you are wondering why I am not mentioning what any McCain-supporting students had to say, it is because I couldn't get any of the 21 who voted for him to say anything. The peer pressure to support Obama was overwhelming all day. That is why I made sure I had a secret ballot instead of a show of hands.
So, my middle school students overwhelmingly voted in favor of Obama, which didn't surprise me, due to their youth, ignorance, and inexperience. On the other hand, tomorrow, roughly half the electorate will vote for Barack Obama. What's their excuse?
Good Day to You, Sir