In October of 2008, I was just beginning my first full year of ministry as Campus Chaplain at UC Davis. And we were in the home stretch of the election. It seemed as if politics were everywhere on campus. The various campaigns were represented on campus each day, political signs, t-shirts, bumper stickers were pervasive. We even had a “No on Prop 8” sign in front of the Belfry (which was stolen, and brought at least one angry person inside questioning how a Christian ministry could be in favor of same sex marriage). Students gathered in the Belfry living room to watch the debates together, which turned out to be a natural community builder. The twists and turns of the election were common post-worship dinner fodder, and I was impressed at how the students could discuss these serious issues in a serious but meaningful way, without alienating each other.
Now, in October of 2012, the fact that it is an election year is mostly strangely absent from campus. Certainly there are pockets of interest, especially in certain statewide propositions. But the general interest level in things like the presidential debates is relatively low. Bill Clinton spoke at a rally on campus last week, and that was one of the few big signs of this being an election year I’ve seen thus far. Thousands of people gathered on the quad to hear Clinton, but it’s hard to know if they were there for the political rally or to hear a former president speak in person.
It’s really strange. When asked, students express interest in the election, but it doesn’t seem to be on their minds, bodies, backpacks, etc., the way it was in 2008. Which makes me wonder, what is it like this year on your campus? Are students engaged in the election the way they were in 2008 or is this year different? And why is that?