Friday, February 8, 2008

I stepped down the cement stairs that were slightly damp from the flurries Syracuse had been getting. Twilight hung in the air. I had just missed the sun, but its presence lingered. Snow fell lightly like glitter, illuminated by the headlights of passing cars. My ears were warmed by love and mathematics as I walked down the college neighborhood sidewalk, hopping to avoid puddles and muddy cracks.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

SUper Tuesday

Sen. Barack Obama’s appeal to the younger generation did not appear to be strong enough to beat out Sen. Hillary Clinton in the New York state primary, as she led the Illinois senator by 23 percent an hour after the polls closed Tuesday night, according to

SU Students for Barack Obama, a Syracuse University student group that tried to spread the senator’s message of change to undergrads, concluded their primary season campaign yesterday at 9 p.m., but their advertising was not a success with some students.

"I only saw one rally and didn't know they were groups on campus," said senior David Vassallo. “I'm more an anti-Hillary person and I knew more than the Obama supporters at the rally. It's only effective if they knew what they were talking about."

The Syracuse campus student chapter of the Obama for America campaign was directed by sophomore Marshall Spevak and held events such as the Jan. 31 rally on the quad and promotions at SU men’s basketball games.

Its Facebook group has 60 members, but only 10 students participated in more than one of the group’s events, said Spevak.

“We've been trying to be more visible—holding up signs and cheering,” he said. “I hope a lot of students vote, but I don't even want to speculate numbers. I wouldn’t even dare to guess.”

Despite working alongside the city of Syracuse’s Obama campaign, Spevak said the campus group targeted students and that students were very welcoming to their message.

“Obama really engaged the youth,” said the political science major, who is originally from Cherry Hill, N.J. and voted by absentee ballot for Obama. “I've talked to so many students across campus who are enthusiastic for voting.”

Junior Rita Aidoo, from Bronx, N.Y., did not know about Spevak’s group and decided to vote for Obama without influence from any campus groups.

“I'm only really interested in health care so I don't think anything would have changed that,” she said.

Freshman De'Marcus Woods said that campus groups could potentially swing students who did not have a specific interest in policy or a grasp on politics.

"I think people are stuck in between,” Woods said. “I don't think people really know and if groups can open their eyes and explain how a candidate can affect their lives, you never know.”

The Democratic primary race’s top candidates were whittled down to Obama and Clinton after Sen. John Edwards’ withdrew on Jan. 30. Clinton’s campaign focuses on health care reform, strengthening the middle class and ending the war on Iraq, whereas Obama champions a broader theme of change, according to their websites.

Spevak stayed at the Obama Headquarters, 3000 Erie Blvd. East, all day Tuesday, only leaving to campaign with signs at busy intersections during rush hour. No representatives from the student group were scheduled to visit the polling places in the SU area, he said.

Sandra Frio, of Syracuse, worked at one of the SU polling sites in Goldstein Student Center, 401 Skytop Road, until 9 last night. The poll opened at 11:30 a.m. Polling was also held at the Whitman School of Management, 721 University Ave.

She said she was surprised with the voter turnout within the first hour of operation.

"We're hoping a lot of students come,” said Frio, who has worked in the same ward through out all of her time staffing election sites. “I'm very hopeful to think that the young students are interested in their future."

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Prog rocks politics

Jeremy Vecchi was never intending for his vote to count towards a primary win for Senator John Edwards, had he stayed in the presidential race.

“I'll be honest, I didn't think he'd actually win it,” said Vecchi, who was an Edwards supporter until his Jan. 30 withdraw. He was going to cast his ballot for the senator from North Carolina anyway.

Vecchi is one of the many leftists in Central New York who looked to Edwards to be a vehicle to bring a more progressive edge to primary debates, and not necessarily win the overall nomination.

Progressive Democrat Aynne McAvoy, of North Syracuse, supported Edwards after her first choice—Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio—exited the primary race.

“There is a community of us in the United States that have backed Dennis right along, but unfortunately it just isn't big enough or strong enough or powerful enough right now to make it happen,” McAvoy said. “I was disappointed that he dropped out but I wasn't surprised.”

According to a Gallup poll taken before the Iowa caucus, 2 percent of identified Democrats said they would have voted for Kucinich, and 12 percent supported Edwards. The day after Kucinich’s withdraw same poll was administered reporting that Edwards’ support had rose to 14 percent.

Vecchi said Kucinich may have been the most progressive candidate out of the Democrats, but Edwards shared the political spotlight with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

“His voice in the campaign, as long as he went, was able to continually push the debate leftward, or at any rate to in a more progressive direction,” the graduate student said.

Progressivism focuses on social justice and workers’ rights, as well as regulation of large corporations.

McAvoy ranks the economy and Iraq high on her list of important issues, but particularly liked Edwards’ focus on “the little guy,” she said.

“He was going to go after big business and pharmaceutical and the whole thing, which I really really wanted to see,” McAvoy said.

Vecchi also liked Edwards’ focus on corporate influence and his plan against it.

"With Edwards, he was willing to take on the fact that Washington is bought and paid for by corporate power in this century, and he was the one who brought lobbyists into the Democratic debates,” he said. “Without him there, Hillary and Obama would not be talking about the fact that lobbyists are one of the main problems here. But because he brought it in, all of the sudden everyone is talking about it.

With Edwards gone, progressives have to look to other candidates, both new and old, to represent their interests.

A national exploratory committee was launched since Edwards’ departure to investigate the feasibility for Independent Ralph Nader to run for president. Found at, the committee involves Peter Camejo, Nader’s 2000 vice-presidential running mate, as well as other politicians. Volunteers can offer time or make the suggested $300 donation, in exchange for free DVDs and books.

It is unclear if Nader started the committee himself. Representatives from were unable to be reached.

Nader’s entry to the race could replace the progressive voice now absent from the campaign trail, but it is hard to gauge its affect within the Democratic Party.

“I'm really not sure how Hillary or Obama would respond,” Vecchi said, who is intrigued by the prospect. “At this point I'm voting for Obama, and I will almost certainly vote for the Democrat in the general election. I have to admit, I may be willing to support Nader's entry to the race to push it more in a progressive direction.”

McAvoy has watched all the debates and remains undecided between Clinton and Obama, she said.

“If they want to pick up his voters, but the mere fact that they jump onto his bandwagon a day after he leaves the race isn't really going to make that big of a difference as far as the voters go,” she said. “We're all going to have to wait and see.”

Kucinich has not made an official endorsement of any of the Democrats, but encouraged his supporters to vote for Obama, according to his presidential campaign website.

Central New Yorkers may gravitate toward Clinton because of her work in upstate New York as well as the state’s senator. Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll endorses Clinton.

“She's been a real leader and she's helped us with technical assistance for my city,” Driscoll said. “She has worked on a number of initiatives with me. Broadband is something she has been very involved with and weaved into discussions year round. Her office has been very helpful.”

Vecchi does not think of Clinton, and her husband, in quite the same way.

In the ‘90s, “there was a big shift away from economic populism and [the Clintons] really embraced corporate interest in the Democratic Party,” he said. “I think overall the legacy of Clintons has been a negative to the Democratic Party and then hence to the country. That sort of the ideology I would not want to be as powerful in the Democratic Party.”