Ron Paul Wins JMU Straw Poll

Helen Shibut

Ron Paul – 45 votes (46.3%)
Barack Obama – 39 votes (40.2%)
Mitt Romney – 5 votes (5.2%)
Rick Santorum – 4 votes (4.1%)
Others – 1 vote (Newt Gingrich, Gary Johnson, Stephen Colbert, Michelle Bachmann) (1 % each)

Thursday’s 2012 presidential straw poll, narrowly won by Republican Ron Paul, indicates a small surge in students’ interest in national politics.  Paul’s supporters have often complained that the media ignores him, but he has nonetheless retained widespread support, especially amongst younger voters who see him as an alternative to extreme social conservatives like Rick Santorum.

As we face an unprecedented level of national debt, younger voters are starting to realize the implications of the government’s problems on their own lives.  Students tend to overwhelmingly oppose the wars in the Middle East and support legalization of marijuana, as does Ron Paul.  The government spends enormous amounts of money fighting ambiguous wars abroad and tracking down drug users, exacerbating the debt problem.

Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum all did very poorly in the poll, indicating that young conservative-leaning voters are frustrated with establishment Republicans and their divisive politics. 

In light of the tremendous support Obama generated at JMU during his visit in 2008, his loss points to a sense of disillusionment amongst his supporters.  The close polling of Paul and Obama demonstrates both frustration and optimism amongst JMU students at the beginning of what will surely be an exciting and polarizing election year.  

Explaining The Poll

Luke Wachob

Madison Liberty was on JMU’s Commons from 10 AM to 2 PM on Thursday, January 26th, conducting an open poll of JMU students on their preferred candidate for U.S. President. The winner was Texas Congressman Ron Paul. With a sample size of 97 students, there’s a significant margin of error that suggests President Obama could be the actual preference of JMU students. However, we can conclusively say that among JMU students, Ron Paul is the overwhelming preference for the Republican nomination, and is the only candidate who could displace the incumbent President. That result represent a radical departure from national polling of all registered voters in the Republican race, where Gallup reports Newt Gingrich (31%) and Mitt Romney (25%) as the frontrunners for the nomination, with Ron Paul (13%) and Rick Santorum (13%) battling for third.

 Our poll was carefully constructed to limit biases, but some are inevitable in a time and resource-constrained poll: as mentioned, the margin of error permits the possibility of Obama winning an actual election on JMU’s campus. Also our poll was voluntary and its participants self-selective, likely resulting in an overrepresentation of especially partisan and politically active students. However, considering the low voting rates for young Americans (just 51% in 2008 for 18-29 year olds, and that was an historic high) this bias actually makes our poll more representative of likely voters, an arguably superior measure than Gallup’s polling of simply registered voters.  We advertised in The Breeze, in table tents, and with fliers around campus, reaching a broad audience of JMU students and successfully limiting our advertising bias. Haven taken these sources of sampling bias into account, we feel confidently that our poll was sufficiently representative to accurately reflect the political leanings of JMU’s student community. JMU is torn between Congressman Paul and President Obama, and today, Paul won.


Privacy in our Technologically Advanced Society

by Luke Wachob

In an unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court decided that police must acquire a search warrant prior to placing a tracking device on a drug suspect’s car. This decision is a victory for anyone interested in preserving the Constitution or protecting us from police powers, which have grown tremendously since George W. Bush’s presidency. An unwarranted tracking of a suspect’s car is essentially an unwarranted search of the individual, and threatens to infringe on our right to a reasonable expectation of privacy. The justices were split on their reasons for how 4th Amendment rights were violated by this process, indicating that there is still ample uncertainty surrounding modern tracking methods.
 I still want to know what degree of electronic tracking is considered permissible, and the Court didn’t really answer that. I’m glad they said this was an overreach, but what if the tracking was done without a physical device being attached to the car? What are the parameters for tracking a person by their cell phone? The technological possibilities of the age raise new questions that likely neither Congress nor the Court is capable of resolving, but as Congress has plunged ahead anyway with things like the PATRIOT Act, the Court has to serve its role to check the powers that violate our Constitutional rights as best it can. This unanimous ruling affirms our 4th Amendment rights, but they’re being violated in many other places. Hopefully the Court will continue to take on 4th Amendment cases to clarify the role of electronic surveillance and tracking in our country.

Why Government Funding Shouldn't Be The Answer To Everything, Or Even Most Things

by Joe Rudmin, advisor to Madison Liberty

Government funding of any enterprise, whether radio broadcasting, or transportation, or education interrupts the feedback mechanisms of free exchange in our economy, ultimately destroying that enterprise.  An economy is people doing things for each other, and money is a tool whereby those who receive goods and services let the providers know whether they are satisfied.  If the government funds an enterprise, then the government provides at least part of that feedback.  So, the enterprise then starts responding to the desires of those running the government.  Those making the funding decisions almost always encompass a very few individuals.  In no way can those few individuals know the needs and wants of all those receiving the service, nor should they.  We celebrate diversity of opinion and taste.  That is why letters to the editor so often complain of bias in some particular brand of media, whether the complaint of left bias in NPR, or right bias in Fox News.  This bias is reflected not only in opinions that are aired, but in priorities of what type of programming is offered.  In general, if you don't like the bias of a station, you will change stations.  There are many stations which serve a particular niche, thus serving a diversity of opinions and tastes.  If a station serves too narrow a clientele, it usually disappears.  At least it is not likely to outlive its biggest benefactors.  However, government funding has no such limits in extent or time.  Government survival depends on force and threat of force, not on serving anyone.  Even with democracy, the feedback mechanism is very blunt.  An issue such as broadcast quality is overwhelmed in concerns about more pressing issues.  So, government funding impedes good service in an enterprise.  Examples of corruption and failure to provide good service NEVER inspire government to withdraw from interfering in an enterprise.  Rather, they inspire government to impose regulations and requirements on the entire enterprise, further strangling those who provide service to those NOT served by the government.  Eventually, the school system turns out idiots who have wasted years of their lives, or the highway system ends in total gridlock, or the internet ends up as pure propaganda.  Those in government find that situation attractive, because no longer does the failure of government have a success in free enterprise for comparison.  Those running the government prefer to tightly grasp power than to allow people to enjoy prosperity, peace, and diversity of taste.


A Step in the Wrong Direction

by Helen Shibut

President Obama recently signed the National Defense Authorization Act which gives the president the power to detain American citizens indefinitely without a trial if they are accused of terrorism.  Clearly, this is in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment right to “a speedy and public trial.” But as we know, this is hardly the first time our government has passed laws that undermine our freedom.  Jonathan Turley’s recent article “10 reasons the U.S. is longer the land of the free” describes other legislation and compares it to that of other countries (you can find it at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/is-the-united-states-still-the-land-of-the-free/2012/01/04/gIQAvcD1wP_story.html)

Politicians justify laws like the National Defense Authorization Act by saying that they are in place to protect Americans.  It is likely that these laws do indeed make some citizens feel marginally safer—for a time.  But ultimately these laws just make it more difficult for Americans to defend themselves against government overreach.  Benjamin Franklin wrote “they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” I believe we do deserve liberty and safety, so I hope that our politicians soon repeal this law and others that present such clear threats to American liberty.