William Dunbar: World Series, election on our minds

11/06/2010 2:36 AM

11/06/2010 2:43 AM

A tense crowd is huddled around a widescreen television in the UC Merced dining commons, their eyes rapt on the screen.

Their cold food remains largely uneaten, and their now-watery drinks are still left full as they take in the action.

Suddenly, the crowd begins to cheer. Forget midterms: it's the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers.

But baseball wasn't the only thing on their minds.

Another set of players was anxiously awaiting their final at-bat, otherwise known as Election Day. With political commercials popping up incessantly, even the most die-hard Giants fan was attuned to the upcoming elections.

While the school colors seemed to change overnight to orange and black, they weren't the only visible signs on campus of people rooting on their team. There were as many "Go Vote" signs as there were "Go Giants."

Of course, for most of Northern California nothing would stop us from watching the game -- unless it was commercial time. With ads ranging from glowing to growling, we got to know many of our candidates on a first-name basis.

But then the game would come back on, and for most Giants fans, the only slogan on their minds was "Fear the Beard."

Even I kept up with the scores; in fact, I usually brought up the score of the previous night's game while at work. Of course, there were my professors who chose to start their lectures by cheering "Go Giants!" as well as the students and faculty with both clothing and faces colored orange and black.

However, even the mighty Giants seemed to know how important the elections were, winning the World Series the day before Nov. 2 so as not to impair our focus.

Arriving on campus in the early afternoon of Election Day, I was greeted by a group of students offering a ride to a local polling place.

Not only were these students offering to give rides to those students motivated enough to vote, they were even offering registration services for the next election to those who hadn't taken the time to register before.

The walls were plastered with posters extolling the benefits of Meg Whitman and calling for a no vote on Measure C.

Students were huddled together, looking at the posters, reading the newspaper and discussing the propositions or candidates' positions. Professors could hardly keep students quiet during class, while at the same time trying to hold back on pontificating about their own views.

Participation in Tuesday's election had been expected to reach 9.5 million voters, a number I thought might have been affected by the World Series. As of Wednesday evening, polls showed that roughly 7 million votes had been tabulated, a number that's a little over half the participation of Californians in the 2008 election.

While not as positive as the estimate, these numbers do show that, more and more, people are paying attention to the state of affairs at both the federal and local levels.

Certainly, this is a good sign for the health of our democracy, in that, at the very least, the people value the effect politics can have on their lives.

Perhaps even more heartening, are the 1,000 students that on Election Day either voted through the program offered on the UC Merced campus or registered to vote in the next election.

Congratulations to the winners, from orange and black, to red and blue. Now it's time to get back to midterm tests and Golden Bobcat colors.

William Dunbar, from Modesto, is an undeclared major at UC Merced and hopes to be successful someday in his future profession.

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