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November 1, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Uncertainty runs through Lauren Kearns’ head as Election Day approaches. She giggles nervously, trying to articulate why it’s such a difficult decision. The 18-year-old admits being unsure whether to vote in line with her parents, who raised her on Christian values and who traditionally vote Republican, or to side with many peers who are outspoken Obama advocates. She worries about her vulnerability to others’ opinions because of her indecisiveness.
Kearns watched the debates and stayed keen on political news but still struggles with whom she thinks can rescue America’s unstable economy. She hesitates to name her pros for each candidate and concludes that her decision teeters between Obama’s ability to relate to the public and Romney’s business knowledge.
The Columbia native says her ideal president has both attributes — great communication skills to help Americans understand policies and superior business sense. She understands this candidate does not exist in this election, and she will never agree with everything a candidate says. Right now, her views parallel Romney’s more than Obama’s, but she’s still formulating her opinions.
Because it’s the first year her political views translate into a vote, Kearns admits it is nerve-racking. “I’m still learning,” she says. “It’s going to take a while for me to fully understand. But I know for a fact that within the next four years, I will definitely know the qualities I will be looking for.”
Anthony Lupo describes himself as a die-hard Republican.
However, he agrees with Obama on one thing: Climate change is not a hoax. Mitt Romney has denied threats of climate change; whereas, Obama has attempted to pass legislation that will mitigate it. Lupo, head of MU’s Department of Atmospheric Science, acknowledges that global warming has increased in the past 60 years, but he goes with his gut and says that mankind has played a small part in it.
Both candidates have been criticized for seldom mentioning climate change in the debates. Lupo, 46, says the issue does not get the attention it deserves because it is low on the public’s list of priorities. He considers himself a stronger proponent of clean energy — a climate change mitigation strategy — than most Republicans.
Romney’s dedication to using domestic fossil fuels is Lupo’s favored approach. If all domestic fossil fuel production were to be halted, which Lupo thinks is the direction Obama is headed, then he believes the public would revolt as gas prices would soar. He thinks allowing the market rather than the government to regulate sources of energy would turn the tide.
Although Lupo would not change his lifestyle if the president gets re-elected, he thinks that if America continues on the path laid out by Obama’s policy, financial disaster might be imminent, even if gas prices stay below $5 a gallon.
Ken Midkiff supports Obama with less enthusiasm than four years ago.
Known for his environmental activism in Columbia, Midkiff, 71, is disappointed in Obama’s equivocal stance on environmental issues such as the protection of wilderness areas, the threats of global warming and construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“I hate to quote Sarah Palin,” Midkiff says with a laugh, “but she said, ‘How’s that hopey changey stuff working out for you?’ Well, its not.”
Still, Midkiff thinks it’s unlikely that Romney will win. Romney’s stance on energy policy won’t beat the incumbent president, Midkiff says.
He repudiates Romney’s insistence on clean coal. He says it is equivalent to a healthy cigarette and that it won’t address global warming, which Midkiff believes is the most important issue. He is concerned that business interests will keep overriding environmental interests and result in mass devastation.
Midkiff’s environmental fears were realized during a 2002 Sierra Club conference in Texas when he visited a town across the Mexican border. American companies used the area for cheap labor and left behind raw sewage in the water supply. Midkiff described the sight as apocalyptic, and it left him thinking about the world that his grandchildren would inherit.
Cynical about the ability of individuals to change the political system, Midkiff says he doesn’t debate liberal versus conservative politics often.
“I’ve made up my mind; they’ve made up their mind,” he says. “There’s nothing I can do to change that.”
Anne Williams has her mind made up. The confident small-business owner and president of JobFinders Employment Services supports Mitt Romney’s stance on job creation and employment, and she is proud to vote Republican in the upcoming election. “I just don’t see any changes happening if Obama is re-elected,” Williams, 58, says. “Things have been pretty stagnant, and he has put much more time and money into different programs rather than job growth.”
Williams opened the doors of JobFinders in 1986. It began as a recruitment company but now offers temporary employment and jobs in health care services, as well. Williams also won this year’s Business Woman of the Year award, given by The Columbia Daily Tribune.
She was not always conservative, however. Throughout college in the mid ’70s, Williams says almost everyone around her was liberal. Williams was swayed toward conservative political views once she started her business. “I started looking for a system that did not want to continue to enable the takers and felt that Americans should be held accountable for their own lives,” she says.