While this is the first election many University of Wisconsin undergraduates are eligible to vote in, it will likely prove to be one of the most important in their lifetime. The United States faces incredible challenges right now — from the goal of salvaging long-term success in Iraq to ordinary Americans’ struggles to keep their homes. We have reached a pivotal moment in American history, and the choice you make at the polls on Tuesday is one of utmost importance that requires the most careful of consideration.
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona are two qualified and sound individuals. But at a time when government desperately needs a change of tone and direction, we endorse Obama for president.
With the economic crisis at the forefront of this presidential campaign, we are more confident in Obama’s abilities to lead us through the struggles we are facing. Although Republicans have had a field day describing Obama’s tax plan as “socialist,” we support tax cuts for the middle class and tax hikes for the wealthiest Americans. Obama would raise the upper-level income tax rates 3 to 5 percent to similar levels that existed before George W. Bush took office. Furthermore, Obama calls for an additional $25 billion from the federal budget to prevent state property tax increases. And we agree with Obama that the time has come for a type of universal health care program.
While the economy rightfully remains at the forefront of the presidential campaigns right now, both candidates have let education take a backseat in this election, and we are concerned at the minimal level in which it has been discussed. After initially being receptive to the idea, both candidates later declined to participate in a national interview focusing on education with questions submitted from college newspapers across the country, including The Badger Herald. Education should be one of the federal government’s top priorities, and neither candidate has given this issue adequate attention. Despite this, we support Obama’s education agenda, which includes wide reform of the No Child Left Behind Act, increases in Pell Grant funding for college students and wide-ranging benefits for college students who go into the education field.
Obama’s stances on social issues are also much more in line with what the future of this nation needs. He recognizes the need to provide equality and fairness to same-sex couples who deserve the same benefits as a traditional married couple — although he and McCain do not support gay marriage. While McCain was part of a small minority in his party to reject a constitutional ban on gay marriage, Obama remains the candidate who will be a leader in providing equal rights for homosexuals. Obama supports an amendment to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act similar to the one crafted by Wisconsin’s own Rep. Tammy Baldwin that would have extended the law to include gender identity.
On foreign policy, we appreciate Obama’s call for troop withdrawal from Iraq within a year-and-a-half of his presidency. While we don’t find this plan entirely realistic — and feel Obama is proposing such a short time frame to appeal to liberals who wanted troops to be withdrawn long ago — it is time to start thinking about an exit strategy. We must acknowledge that McCain was one of the first supporters of the troop surge in Iraq, and that has proven to be successful up to this point.
However, Obama is the candidate who can bring sound diplomatic efforts to foreign policy in general. We recognize the United States must remain an ally of Israel and endorse a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. The next president must bring diplomacy to the region, and we feel Obama’s openness to meet with Middle Eastern leaders could prove to be a safer solution than premature military operations. In Afghanistan, we appreciate both candidates recognizing the need for greater troop presence there, but it was Obama who earlier recognized our greatest efforts should be focused there, the center of the War on Terror. However, we are disappointed by Obama’s support of immunity for telecoms through the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act.
This country will forever be indebted to John McCain. From his bravery and courage as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War to his decades of service in the United States government, McCain is truly an American hero. However, we question some of his actions during this campaign, particularly the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. While a first-term governor may have the capabilities to serve as president, Palin does not, and she has proven that during recent weeks. Her lack of knowledge and inability to articulate policies in an interview shows she is simply not prepared to lead. To be qualified to be vice president, a candidate must be qualified to be president as well. Palin is not, and has proven she would likely be incapable of serving in either role at this time.
Throughout the course of his campaign, Obama has been able to rally support from young people and those who have never voted before. Much of this can be attributed to Obama’s eloquent oratorical abilities, which we feel Obama has been given too much credit for. His never-ending calls for simple “change” were able to propel him through the primary process, but we hope Obama will take his words and turn them into action if elected.