The results of the national midterm elections this past week have arguably renewed America’s faith in the ability for voters to call for a change in political direction. Preliminary data from Reuters predicts that voter turnout rose above 40 percent, the highest midterm percentage since 1982. Furthermore, the relatively quick resolution of most races, notably the decision by Sen. George Allen to concede in Virginia, prevents a long, drawn-out battle that could further demoralize those who believe in the American democratic process. President Bush has rightfully called for stronger bipartisanship as all U.S. citizens look toward a more productive future government. The elections have provided much-needed change and restored sorely needed governmental checks and balances to Washington. However, the bickering, negative and partisan campaigning that characterized much of this election season feels very close to home. Dartmouth’s recent referendum on the proposed changes to the Alumni Constitution similarly experienced historic voting levels, and partisanship often trumped the issues.
Unfortunately for the College, the months-long election saw an excess of partisan campaigning and block voting. Alumni either voted for the constitution and against the petition amendments or vice versa, which can be seen by the similar voting percentages for each amendment. As opposed to considering each amendment independently, it seems alumni voters decided to vote as a block — whether for or against the constitution. The profusion of biased sources of information from both the supporters and detractors of the document hurt the election process.
In future elections, such as this year’s upcoming trustee election, Dartmouth alumni must avoid this year’s partisan example. Only listening to vocal minorities — on both sides — is detrimental to the College. Alumni need to educate themselves about Dartmouth, which is currently enjoying a period of stability, as seen by many examples from each year’s stronger freshman class to the exceptional new residence halls. There will always be debates and issues that arise at Dartmouth, but alarmist trustee candidates and dire predictions benefit no one. Real change can only result from the rejection of partisan politics in favor of issue-driven decision-making. The results from Tuesday’s national elections show that voting can provide a path for change. Hopefully future Dartmouth elections can refrain from bitter infighting and focus on real issues impacting students today.