Letter to the editor: Sidewalks chalked by Obama campaign show student interest in politics

Jonathan Upchurch

The editorials published a week ago attacking the Obama campaign for chalking and bringing in celebrities were, quite frankly, misguided and showed a severe lack of knowledge about the mechanisms of campaigns. I recognize that it is the prerogative of our newspaper’s editorial board to publish how it feels about the goings-on at Iowa State; however, I also expect a certain degree of professionalism (e.g. research) in lieu of knee-jerk reactions, especially when attempting to make sweeping criticisms about the character of such a renowned and effective campaign as the president’s.

According to the board, the chalk “directed — nay, commanded” students to vote for Obama, “bludgeoning” them with the campaign’s presence. It was, the board asserted, an “egregious” abuse of chalking privilege that threatened to blur the political and private realms into “an amorphous blob.” Setting aside the pompous rhetoric, the board made some critical errors in their analysis. First and foremost is the idea that the campaign was trying to force people to vote for President Barack Obama and that it thinks students are not able to make their own decisions. The sheer number of fallacies in that argument is astounding, but I’ll only address the most severe. Anybody who knows the first thing about campaign politics would know the purpose behind chalking, bringing in celebrities and generally increasing visibility: to get a campaign’s supporters to the polls. The campaign was not perpetrating some nefarious scheme of condescending voter intimidation as the editorial board suggested; it was doing everything in its power to get out the vote by being constantly visible.

And, that brings me to the second of the board’s unsound arguments: that the omnipresence of politics on a college campus is something malignant. How many times have members of our age group been publicly derided for our apathy? Almost all of the groundwork being done by Democratic campaigns around campus is being done by students, and that is a fact that should be celebrated. We should be proud of how many politically aware Cyclones understand the immense importance of politics. There will be much more of this visible enthusiasm around campus in the coming week; I hope this board will recognize its value rather than mock it as “annoying.”