As a follow-up to last week's "Polar Bears head for the polls," the Orient asked Ken Akiha '08, Tim Dooley '06, Sarah Burns '06, Bari Robinson '07, Kiersa Benson '06, Lauren Johnson '07, and Eddie Kim '07 how they felt about Tuesday's election.
Some watched it in Macmillan. Others tuned in at Morrell Lounge. But Ken Akiha '08 watched most of Tuesday's election returns in the "CNN room."
"It was a little ridiculous," said the California native of the curious T.V. setup in Hyde, his first-year dorm. Fellow first years thought it would be fun to see what news network called the state results first. But rather than click back and forth between channels, they assigned each room to a different network: CBS, CNN, NBC, FOX.
Even though 17-year-old Akiha was ineligible to vote, he was still as personally invested in the results as his eligible dorm mates.
"They're really into politics," Akiha said, "and they were trying to soak it up."
For Akiha, who was rooting for John Kerry, watching the tight race unfold was kind of like watching the Super Bowl?but not really.
"It was depressing?there was nothing you could do. I felt helpless after Bush hooked Ohio," he said. "It's not like watching a sports game, where you think you can affect what's going on by cheering."
Cheers did erupt, though, in the Chamberlain double of Tim Dooley '06 and Zach Gittens '06.
"We're total opposites," said Dooley, a Nevada native who cast his absentee ballot for Bush. As the night wore on, Dooley said, his roommate "just kept yelling, 'Obama in '08! Obama in '08!'" referring to Barack Obama, the Democratic senator-elect from Illinois.
"A lot of my friends are pretty strong Republicans, so we all had a pretty good morning," said Dooley, who was pleasantly surprised at the results. "To be honest, I expected Kerry to win," he said. He also expected the election to be more drawn out than it was, contested by a string of legal battles. "I can respect Kerry for [conceding]," he said. "It was a noble gesture to admit defeat."
Dooley said he made an effort not to gloat about Bush's win as he went about his day Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Sarah Burns '06 found herself the target of some bitterness from Kerry supporters at Bowdoin, thanks in no small part to the critical position of the state in which she voted absentee.
"I'm the person everybody hates. I voted in Ohio and I voted for Bush," she said.
Despite the exit polls, Burns said she had always been confident of a Bush victory. "I think it's different?that the country is probably more conservative than it seems," she said.
Since most of her friends are Democratic, Burns said in the weeks leading up to the election, she often found it difficult to have political discussions with them. "It was funny. We'll be in a kind of deadlock or stalemate," she said.
Bari Robinson '07, a moderate Kerry supporter from the senator's home state of Massachusetts, said he can sympathize with the difficulties more conservative students face on an overwhelmingly liberal campus. "There's just so much pressure to vote Democrat, and if you even portray any kind of conservatism, you're automatically looked down upon here," he said.
Robinson said he is disappointed at the negative comments he has heard among some Kerry supporters at Bowdoin.
"You see all these away messages on [AOL Instant Messenger] that say 'I hate my life' and 'I'm moving to Canada' and I think, 'Are you stupid? Do you realize that this is exactly how the democratic process is supposed to work? You have nothing to complain about. Would you rather go to a country that didn't have this process...I got three people who hung up on me on the phone because I told them that," he said.
Kiersa Benson '06, a Kerry supporter from Colorado, is looking on the bright side of the Democratic defeat. "The world's not going to come to an end. It's still a process," she said. "Bush has some good ideas too."
For Benson, the election revealed the nationwide prevalence of attitudes not proportionately represented at Bowdoin. "It got me a bigger awareness of where the country stands outside of our little [Bowdoin] world," she said.
Lauren Johnson '06, a Kerry supporter from Washington D.C. looked to the small victories. "[The Democratic leaders at Bowdoin] think this is a complete letdown, but it's totally not?if you look at Maine, the second district, everything we worked for, we got," she said, referring to the defeat of the tax cap as well as Kerry's win in the state.
Johnson was one of a number of students from both ends of the political spectrum working to get out the vote in Maine Tuesday.
"I'm exhausted," she said. "Half of me just wants to go to bed for the next four years, the other half of me just really wants to do something."
"In a strange way, I'm kind of glad Bush is sticking around. I want to see what he's going to do to get us out of this," she said.
By "this," Johnson meant the problems she perceives in current U.S. foreign policy. Eddie Kim '07, who has lived in Korea, Kuwait, and Turkey and fought in the first Iraq Gulf War, supported John Kerry, though his lack of U.S. citizenship kept him from voting.
"There are more people [outside the U.S.] who don't like Bush than who like him. The world is clearly unhappy," Kim said. "Iraq is a mess right now, and [Bush] doesn't have a plan."
"This is going to make me sound like a nerd, but I started watching at 3:00p.m. for the exit polls. I was so anxious to find out what was going on," he said. Despite his election fervor, he does not plan on becoming a citizen anytime soon. "I don't think it's going to happen in the next four years," he said.
Bush supporters Burns and Dooley both said they believe Bush should finish what he started in the Middle East. "I know this is something where many people disagree with me, but I feel like it's important to finish what we're doing in Iraq...I think it's important that we do a good job," Burns said.
Dooley concurs. "I feel strongly that [Bush] is in the position to have an understanding of what's going on," he said. "Switching an attack in the middle of a conflict would not be the best thing to do."
The war is a concern for Akiha. "I was eating in the dining hall and I was thinking, 'What if in three, four or five years I'm in another country with a gun?'" he said.
Despite his support of Bush, Dooley has his own worries about the next four years?he's afraid the country might go too far to the Right. "I like check and balances. I would've liked to see the Democrats pick up the House," he said.
Robinson said he believes the next step for students of both parties is to find a common ground and work with the situation, while also continuing to fight for issues that matter to them.
"We need to try to lift [Bush] up and help him, instead of being destructive?because that doesn't help anybody," he said.
Kim said he's energized by the intensity of activism on campus. "I haven't seen this [involvement] in any other countries I've lived in. I admire how students have mobilized. Especially the Republicans, given that Bowdoin is a liberal campus. It enriched me a lot, and made me see aspects of the candidates that I had not seen before," he said.
Lauren Johnson has no intention of letting one defeat hold her back. "My dad was saying 'Get ready for Italy next year' because I want to study abroad for the entire year, and I said, 'Dad, no, I'm not going to do that, I'm not going to give up on this. You have to stay here and work with it. That's just not being a good citizen.'"