THE YOUTH VOTE
MARCH 5, 1996
On "Junior Tuesday," a group of college newspaper editors talk to Margaret Warner about how they view the Republican primaries.
MARGARET WARNER: We're joined now by six college newspaper editors: Patrick Strawbridge, a junior at the University of Missouri; Bill Lara, senior at Dade Community College in Miami; Jeanette Bennett, a senior at Brigham Young University In Utah; Ronald Eyester, a senior at the Citadel Military College of South Carolina; Jeremy Hendrickson, a freshman at California's Community College of the Sequoias; and Monica Lewis, a senior at Howard University here in Washington. Welcome, all of you. Jeanette, how does this Republican primary race look to you and your fellow students at BYU?
JEANETTE BENNETT, Brigham Young University: Well, I think there's a lot of interest in it but maybe not a lot of excitement. Most students at BYU would say that they're Republicans, but there really isn't a favorite. There's no one that they really want to throw their trust and their support behind at this point.
MARGARET WARNER: And why is that?
JEANETTE BENNETT: Well, I don't know. I think that there just, there really isn't a good candidate. I think Dole isn't what students want to represent them. Buchanan is perhaps too extreme, and Forbes and Alexander aren't viable candidates at this point either; they're too far behind. So I think many students, although they'd say they're Republicans, are giving unenthusiastic support for Clinton.
MARGARET WARNER: Pat, are you seeing the same thing at the University of Missouri?
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE, University of Missouri: I definitely. They may be a little bit more liberal than the BYU campus, and I'd say the people are less excited about the Republican primaries at Missouri, or everyone who likes Bill Clinton, because they see the Republicans failing to put forth a leader who's really bringing a strong mandate or gathering a lot of support, and they really just think the Clintons almost got it wrapped up at this point.
MARGARET WARNER: Ron Eyester, you just had the South Carolina primary right in your backyard. Was there the same lack of excitement on campus that your colleagues here think?
RONALD EYESTER, The Citadel: I think the primary which just occurred last Saturday sparked a lot of excitement, and the Citadel's a pretty conservative campus, and with the election coming up, they recognize the need for a pretty drastic change in office, I think, and there is a lot of excitement with Buchanan, but I think Dole has made his presence felt. He was backed by, you know, some pretty strong powerful people in South Carolina like Carroll Campbell and David Beasley and so I think that most of the people in South Carolina are, you know, looking towards Dole, and I can, I think, safely speak for a lot of cadets who are, you know, going towards that pretty much conservative side with Dole.
MARGARET WARNER: Jeremy, how about you out at the Community College of the Sequoias, how does, are you seeing this sort of feeling that there aren't any good candidates out there, or are you sensing what Ron senses at the Citadel?
JEREMY HENDRICKSON, College of the Sequoias: Well, I think right no we're seeing four candidates who are lacking a lot of passion as far as what we can view. I think our, our feeling is that we're passionate only about being elected President, and, I mean, we want someone to come in there and just, and just, you know, a revolutionary, someone that's a reformer, wants to just do an overhaul on America, you know, and our area's mostly conservative, but we desire to see someone in there that would like to completely overturn, you know, things and income and do a lot of reform.
MARGARET WARNER: Monica, what do you sense on your campus, what students are looking for?
MONICA LEWIS, Howard University: Mostly I think we're looking for people or a candidate who has our best interest at heart. Howard is a liberal university as opposed to the Citadel and the other conservative institutions, and, umm, you know, with the way that Congress and the appropriations that we're trying to get are the ones that are possibly on the verge of being cut, I think that we want a candidate who has--who is thinking more along our lines and looking for our university and for our, our race, our, you know, sex, whatever, to prosper in the coming century.
MARGARET WARNER: And Bill Lara, what about you, what do you sense on your campus? Is this Republican primary speaking to you and your fellow students?
BILL LARA, Miami Dade Community College: In a limited way. I think most of my fellow students would ask where is the "none of the above" button when they get to the ballot, but, again, I agree with what's been said at the table, that most of these candidates don't have the ability to empathize with this market, with this particular strand, college students, they just don't, don't sound perfect. There's a little bit off in every candidate.
MARGARET WARNER: But what would you like--describe the ideal candidate to me. What would he or she be saying and doing and acting?
BILL LARA: Dynamic, pro-education, looking to save as much of the budget for that purpose as possible, downsizing government, looking for term, shorter terms in Congress, perhaps in government as a whole, umm, and basically looking not just as the easy stuff to cut out.
MARGARET WARNER: Pat, what do you--what do you think students are looking for in an ideal candidate, someone who would galvanize campuses?
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: Umm, if you're talking about the Republican side, I think, what would have played a lot better at least with the college crowd would have been a moderate candidate, I mean, a younger, moderate candidate who's kind of a Republican Bill Clinton, if you will. When Bill Clinton went through in '92, he was a young candidate. He spoke very clearly to the heart of a lot of issues of benefit to college students, college loans, umm, I mean, he was, he was a very, very--he was a candidate that a lot of college students could look up to, and, umm, there's just nothing like that. You've got three guys who all worked in the Nixon White House, which, you know, most of the kids in college these days weren't even alive when Nixon was in the White House. Umm, and you got Steve Forbes, who's a millionaire. I'm pretty sure almost everyone I know doesn't relate to him very well, so--
MARGARET WARNER: But, Jeanette, you said your campus is very Republican at BYU. What do you think it would take to galvanize, electrify young Republicans and independents on your campus?
JEANETTE BENNETT: Well, I think Dole's views on things are on target, but his personality isn't really engaging. He doesn't have the leadership skills that students our age look for. He's not exciting to listen to, and unfortunately, that's what's needed in a President. You know, that may seem shallow, but we need a leader who can be optimistic and exciting and get us excited about the future as young Americans.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree with that, Ron?
RONALD EYESTER: Yeah. I agree totally with that, and I think that Bob Dole represents a lot of great issues, and history gives him a cornerstone to getting back to the values of America are great, but, umm, when you look at Pat Buchanan, I think that he has a great charisma. I mean, he knows how to speak to a crowd and reach out to them. But unfortunately, I think some of his issues and his ideals are so extreme that we don't feel secure with him, but, again, I mean, I'll re-emphasize the fact when he speaks, I mean, he does have a passion, I think, and although he does want to make a change, I think that--I think Dole offers a good building block to the future of America. He might not be the person to have great reform, but I think he's going to offer a good building block to future reform, maybe with our generation being involved with politics.
MARGARET WARNER: What's your sense of Dole and--do you agree with this critique, right issues, wrong persona?
JEREMY HENDRICKSON: Well--
MARGARET WARNER: From the Republican perspective.
JEREMY HENDRICKSON: --right--for the most part, the issues are, are pretty well sound. I don't know, I think personally I agree more with Buchanan on a few issues than I do with Dole, but overall, I do agree that we need somewhere to start from, and Dole is a good starting stone, maybe a building block like he was saying, umm. I don't know. I think people are looking right now to the character of the person and really to--we need a dynamic leader.
MARGARET WARNER: Are you all talking more about style than substance?
BILL LARA: We see what we can see and that is whatever brief time we get on television from this candidate or whatever exposition we get to him is not really in depth, so we have to go with what we have. In most cases, unfortunately as it may be, it has to do with how the, the candidate relates or how we relate to the person on the screen.
MARGARET WARNER: Monica, where do you think that most students, if we can generalize, where do you think their views come from? I mean, are they rebelling against their parents, or are they very close to their parents' views?
MONICA LEWIS: Well, I think it depends on--you have to break it down to parties, and just the generation we grew up in where it was kind of like the "me" generation, where you were out to get what you could get and what was best for you, and your parents felt that the Democratic Party was best for you, and you kind of went along with that, and, you know, the same goes for Republicans. Personally speaking, I think that I'm just looking at what has been done during my lifetime. I grew up with like, we all grew up in a Republican era, and it wasn't until most us hit college where the Democrats took off, took over, basically, so whatever the Democratic Party has done in the four years that they have been in control I've kind of been in favor of that, and I really didn't like the way things were in the early '80s.
MARGARET WARNER: Ron, compare your own views with those of your parents briefly. I mean, how much are yours separate from them?
RONALD EYESTER: Well, I think, maybe in terms of my parents and maybe all our parents, I mean, I can't speak for everybody's, but I think my parents seem to emphasize on economic issues. You know, it's kind of like the struggle to survive, or the struggle to succeed, and, umm, when I--when I'm looking towards a President now, I think I'm trying to emphasize on the social issues. I mean, to be honest, personally I feel like the economy is so complex I feel like I can't understand it half the time, but the social issues are more at home with me, and I think, you know, I can comprehend certain things, and, you know, I feel like it affects humanity more than--
MARGARET WARNER: Name a couple of social issues, meaning what?
RONALD EYESTER: Well, just like abortion. I mean, that's a really important issue that this election can't overlook, and just, umm, treatment of the middle class, umm, Medicaid, Medicare, I mean, these are all important issues that I think we need to really listen to, because, you know, they're going to affect our generation now and in years to come.
MARGARET WARNER: Umm, Pat, talk to that point about, uh, college students and their views and how they compare to their parents.
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: Umm, I, I think--I mean, most students I know fall somewhere in the middle in the political spectrum, they don't identify very clearly with one side or the other. So I think this would have been a great year for a moderate Republican candidate to have had a shot at Clinton, you know, personally I support Bill Clinton, so, I, I'm thanking my lucky stars every day that Jack Kemp or Colin Powell or one of those conservative Republicans decided to stay out of the race. I don't think it's unusual that you're seeing, umm, more people looking at social issues and why Pat Buchanan, who speaks a lot to social issues, umm, is getting a lot of attention early on, because to be honest, the economy is doing pretty well right now. It's on the road to the recovery. It's not the focus of the election anymore. There's a new drum to bang on.
MARGARET WARNER: Jeanette, where do you stand on what issues are being raised in this Republican primary? Do you feel that issues that are important to you, either in the short, medium, or long-term, are really--are being addressed?
JEANETTE BENNETT: One issue that is getting a little bit of attention but I think we should get more of, family values. I think that that's the core of a lot of problems, social and economic in our country, and I don't think that there's been a candidate who's really hit that on the head and used that as a platform. And I think a lot of people, especially where I come from, are interested in family values. That's one topic I'd like to hear more about.
RONALD EYESTER: Oh, I just wanted to add that I know watching the debate in South Carolina the other day. I mean, they counted on it to do anything but addressing the issues. I mean, it was just a mud-slinging festival and I mean, how can we be asked to address some of the issues when these candidates really can't even address the issues and speak to us about 'em, umm. That's what we really need to look towards is them taking a little more mature approach and, I mean, seeing all these negative ads run. I mean, we talk about financial problems. Well, if Steve Forbes was one to be so generous, he could donate half the money he's put into these negative ads and rectify some of the problems we're having as a society.
JEANETTE BENNETT: I think the media in general is a little bit at fault for not getting us involved in the issues. Most of the coverage is very horse race. It's more like a sports race. You find out who's ahead, who's behind, who gained how many points, and instead of really addressing the issues and looking into the candidates, and so the coverage that we're getting, that's all we know, is just who is ahead, who is behind, instead of really getting in there.
MARGARET WARNER: And are you all covering the national race in your newspapers?
MARGARET WARNER: For what, the wires?
RONALD EYESTER: I think Jeanette's right about that. I mean, you know, talking about, we're seeing all the percentages, how Dole's winning over Buchanan, but we're not seeing why he's winning. You know, we're not getting a clear indication of why he's winning and what, you know, these voters and citizens of our country are thinking towards the election, and I think that's something the media should address on is why they're winning, not just why, how many percentages, and who's, you know, because they're getting blasted out of the water, umm, you know, they're going to have to pull out of the race. I mean, if someone's going to pull out of the race, then let's not emphasize that anymore. Let's go towards, you know, why Dole's pulling ahead, and, you know, what's the cause of that.
MARGARET WARNER: What the issues are.
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: I think that's a typical criticism of the media during any election, is that they only cover the horse race, but it's also, I think some fault lies with the candidates. I mean, the candidates--this isn't the time for issues in an election, this is the time for politics; this is the time to put themselves on top, and then they can start addressing the issues once the convention has been deciding there's a clear candidate. That's when it's time to start debating Bill Clinton, but I mean, it's a horse race, and there's really no way of looking around that. Maybe it shouldn't be; maybe that's not perfect, but that's the way it is.
MARGARET WARNER: But, I mean, if you really wanted to know about the issues these candidates believe them, that information is available, and how much do you think the students and voters share the responsibility?
JEREMY HENDRICKSON: I think, I think you share a lot. If you're going to take yourself to the polls and vote, which I think everyone should, you need to be informed, and it's, you know, it's only in this era now that we've had, you know, the advantage of having the media, and, umm, you know, in the past, people had to find out their own information, and we need to be students really of the election and what's going on.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you all sense that in your readership there's an active interest, or is it more apathetic? Jeanette.
JEANETTE BENNETT: There's an interest and not an excitement, like I said earlier. I don't think it's apathy. People are interested, and we cover it almost every day if we have a story about it, but I don't think there's this great excitement about this being an election year.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, thank you all very much. We'll have to leave it there, see you again.