While discussions about politics can easily take a turn for the heated, civility took center stage on Oct. 13 at the City Club of Cleveland. There, three prominent Hiram College professors discussed how changing demographics, certain insecurities surrounding these trends, and also America’s foreign policy will impact the Nov. 8 presidential election. Douglas Brattebo, Ph.D., J.D., associate professor of political science; Vivien Sandlund, Ph.D., professor of history; and James Thompson, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, presented a panel discussion titled “Views from the Hill,” sponsored by the Hiram Alumni Association.
Dr. Brattebo began the discussion by describing how the emerging Republican electoral majority of the late 1960s later became the emerging Democratic majority by 2002. He described a coalition of racial minorities, women (usually single), voters with graduate degrees, members of the millennial generation, and LGBTQ groups as the emerging Democratic majority. The United States, Dr. Brattebo added, will be a majority-minority country by 2043. Individuals and groups currently viewed as minorities, he pointed out, have increasingly tended to vote Democratic.
Reflecting on the challenges the Republican Party faces as the election approaches, Dr. Brattebo said, “I want the Republican Party to do well. I want the Republican Party to again be the party of Lincoln, of Theodore Roosevelt, of Dwight Eisenhower, of Ronald Reagan.” Brattebo noted that American democracy requires two fully-functioning political parties to succeed.
Dr. Sandlund turned the topic of demographics toward race, gender, and economic insecurity. She used a historical approach to remind the audience that political divides over race and gender are nothing new. Dr. Sandlund went on to address stereotypes that surround mainly Donald Trump supporters. She explained that while most Trump supporters are white and tend to live in rural or isolated areas, there is a misconception that they primarily are uneducated and poor. Research shows only 8 percent more Clinton supporters than those who support Trump hold bachelor’s degrees. Trump supporters have an average household income about $10,000 higher than those of Clinton, Sandlund noted.
“The Trump movement is not an economic movement, but a cultural backlash against the other,” Dr. Sandlund said. “There is hope if we can extend the education offered at Hiram; it needs to be focused on civility and understanding people that are different from you.”
Dr. Thompson weighed in on foreign policy and the global security of the United States. He explained that while there is a great deal of violence in the world, it has not had as drastic an impact on the U.S. as the presidential candidates and media tend to imply. For example, Dr. Thompson observed that Brexit destroyed the possibility of London taking over from New York City as the world’s new financial capital. In the Middle East, violence among so many factions makes it difficult for one large group to rise up and truly threaten the U.S. China, he added, has recently destroyed many of its diplomatic gains of previous years, and this has helped the U.S. strengthen its interests in the region. While he pointed out that China does not possess the military power to challenge the U.S., Dr. Thompson left the audience with a warning.
“Never has a country been in this ideal of a power situation for so long, and we can ruin it just like Ancient Athens,” Dr. Thompson said. “What I hope comes out of this election is to pick candidates earlier on in the nominating process that can lead like Pericles.”
Hiram alumni and members of both Garfield Scholars groups on campus presented the panelists with questions pertaining to a range of issues, from the role of political parties in non-parliamentary democracies, to the Supreme Court, to the international tensions.
Watch the entire panel discussion at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=900Xfj18RDs .