David Edwards

Pofessors David Edwards and Bethany Albertson, with Texas Politics Project director James Henson discuss the 2012 election with UT students at “The Amazing Race” presented by the Liberal Arts Council on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Professors in the College of Liberal Arts discussed the potential impact and historical value of the 2012 presidential elections and other aspects of this election season at a panel Tuesday.

The Liberal Arts Council presented “The Amazing Presidential Race,” an open discussion about the 2012 U.S. presidential elections, as part of Liberal Arts Week. Government professor David Edwards, assistant government professor Bethany Albertson and Texas Politics project director James Henson formed part of the panel discussing the election and answering student questions.

The factors marking the current presidential election as “unique” and “amazing” were one of the first issues addressed by the panel. Albertson said the role religion and race are playing in this election sets it apart from any other in U.S. history.

“We have an African-American and a Mormon running for the presidency and this is huge,” she said. “No way would this have been the case 20 years ago.”

Henson said every election can be considered historic, although in retrospect they seem less so. He said the only thing he considers that makes this election historic is the clear definition between the two candidates.

“There is an interesting contrast between the parties that make us feel like we are making real choices,” Henson said. “We are especially seeing that in [the candidates’] rhetoric and the policy proposals.”

Students in the audience were asked to send in their questions about the election through Twitter using the hashtag #lacvotes2012. One of the issues raised through this medium was the importance of Latino voters in the current presidential election. Edwards said the power of the Latino vote could have a heavy impact on the election but their reluctance to vote poses a big setback.

“Nobody seems to know how to get Latinos to the polls, and that’s the problem,” Edwards said. “If Latinos start turning in at elections, they will transform the elections in many states, not just Texas.”

Among the other issues raised during the discussion were the importance of drug and foreign policies, women’s issues and the role of a candidate’s public image in this year’s presidential campaign.

Sonali Kalvala, Liberal Arts Council co-chair for academic affairs, organized the event. She said the goal of the discussion was to give students the opportunity to actively engage in the election.

“The presidential election happens every four years and as young students it’s something that we should be taking part of,” Kalvala said. “We wanted students to interact with professors and have this discussion that would inevitably help them make a political decision in the future.”

At the end of the event and in honor of National Voter Registration Day, the Liberal Arts Council registered students to vote.

“Politics are important for every citizen but also as young adults,” Kalvala said.” Now that we’re in college, these decisions impact us more than ever. Although we are students, we determine the future.”

Printed on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 as: Panel discusses 2012 election