Ann Arbor is a lonely place to be right now. Though Ann Arbor is usually full of the big names and faces in politics around election time, it has been ignored this year. Sure, we’ve managed a few visits from celebrities like Kal Penn and Adam Brody — but unfortunately Kumar and an “O.C.” has-been aren’t what this campus needs or wants. For a politically active student body, the cold shoulder from politicians is discouraging. It is fast becoming a missed opportunity, too.
In past elections, politicians have courted Ann Arbor like the politically important city it is. Al Gore came here in 2000. As John Kerry’s running mate, John Edwards was here in 2004. But this election has yielded only a few major insults. Starting with the primaries, no major candidate visited Ann Arbor — no Hillary Clinton, no Barack Obama, no John McCain. Instead, we got a lackluster speech from rewind-the-clock-back-to-1880 candidate Ron Paul on the Diag, an ignored visit from Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich and a bar crawl from Mitt Romney’s son. Meanwhile, Obama secretly overnighted in the city and got a quick morning workout in at Bally Total Fitness, but was in and out without a word.
To add insult to injury, candidates are cozying up to other campuses. Last week, Obama held a rally at Michigan State of all places, as if Ann Arbor’s ego wasn’t already wounded enough. The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, skipped Ann Arbor, too, to hold a pro-Obama concert next door at Eastern Michigan University. And now that he has abandoned the whole state, there isn’t even hope left for Republican candidate John McCain to pop in for a visit.
Perhaps the candidates in this year’s election think a visit to Ann Arbor is a lost cause. Ann Arbor’s reputation for being a politically active “liberal bubble” makes this city seemingly one-sided and makes a visit here pointless. Maybe Obama thinks he has this city’s vote in the bag, and perhaps McCain doesn’t want stones thrown at him while he walks around campus. And in all honesty both of these perceptions probably reflect the reality here.
In any case, the politicians need to understand that ignoring this active crowd could come with a consequence. There is a benefit to increasing enthusiasm on an already lively campus. A quick visit from any of the candidates could add the small push students need to take their voices elsewhere. Plenty of students on campus seem willing to take a bullet for their cult leader Barack Obama, and would probably be willing to take a road trip or donate a few extra dollars for him, too.
Michigan is close to places like Ohio and Indiana, two major swing states this year. Recent polls show Obama leading in Michigan by 13 points but only leading by 3 points in Ohio and trailing by 5 points in Indiana. There’s no harm in taking some of the enthusiasm here and bringing in to other states.
Maybe somewhere down the line Obama will stop in for more than just a quick jog. Or Joe Biden. Or Sarah Palin even (we’re that desperate). Until then, Kumar will have to suffice.