A clear decision without 2008’s verve

The first of the three presidential debates was held on Oct. 3. According to Twitter, the debate generated more than 10 million tweets in less than two hours, making it one of the most tweeted-about events ever. For anyone keeping an eye on Twitter trends, it would seem the most important issues of the debate were Jim Lehrer’s unfortunate performance as moderator and Sesame Street’s Big Bird.

More than 67 million people watched the debate, but how effective were the candidates at underscoring the issues that matter to viewers? Issues that directly affect students will be especially important the many seniors voting for the first time next month. For this reason, the staff of tjTODAY has decided to examine which candidate’s plans resonate more with students.

In general, Romney didn’t talk much about education during the debate. Obama emphasized the importance of student assistance and is a supporter of Pell grants. These issues are very important to our voting seniors, but Romney failed to truly address education until his closing statement. Both candidates cite investment in education as a cornerstone of their plans. However, Romney’s failure to make education a priority is concerning, especially given the Republican Party’s historical lack of support for federally supported student aid.

Obama is also interested in investing in is the environment. Romney listed natural gas and the mythical “clean coal” as future energy sources during the debate. He also continually supports the Keystone pipeline and offshore drilling, archaic energy sources. We need to look into more sustainable energy sources. Obama promises to invest in future green technology and energy sources, which are better options for ours and future generations.

The senatorial race here in Virginia seems to resemble the presidential race. In terms of their economic and social policies, George Allen and Tim Kaine mirror Romney and Obama, respectively. Allen supports a flat tax rate, while Kaine supports progressive taxation. Kaine also proposes making college more affordable. In terms of energy, Allen supports exploiting energy sources for oil, coal and natural gas and supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. On the other hand, Kaine supports clean energy and energy conservation. It seems the results of the senatorial election will be closely tied to the presidential election.

Kaine’s spending cuts would have hurt Northern Virginia schools if present Governor Bob McDonnell hadn’t rescinded them and Obama’s TARP funding hadn’t replaced funds unavailable during the economic downturn. Our own school would have lost valuable faculty members under the Kaine plan. FCPS projects a budget deficit for next year, so the consequences of the Romney plan would really hit home.

However, looking beyond the senate and presidential races, the retirements of aging U.S. Supreme Court members looms large. With the court so clearly leaning conservative already, replacing Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a strong liberal, with yet another strong conservative in the mold of Sam Alito, one has to ask if many landmark decisions of the 60s, 70s and 80s will be struck down. We will be the generation who has to live with this change. Are we ready to face the consequences?

Which presidential candidate really has the best interest of students in mind? Despite his lackluster performance during the debate, we found Obama’s plans to be more attractive for students. In terms of the senate race, we reluctantly support Kaine, if only to maintain a potential majority in the U.S. Senate. The day after the debate, the top Twitter trend was #ForwardNotBack. Maybe the U.S. would benefit from such forward thinking for a few more years.

(This editorial originally appeared in the Oct. 12, 2012 print edition.)