Recap of Election Night: A Shock to the System

In the early hours of November 9th, the Associated Press officially declared Donald J. Trump the victor of the 2016 Presidential Election. A series of key wins in the battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Wisconsin were sufficient to carve out a victory.   Hillary Clinton picked up wins in Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada, but fell 38 votes short of the 270 electoral votes necessary to secure the presidency.

The result came as a shock, since nearly all polls leading up to Election Day projected a victory for the Democrats with only the L.A. Times predicting Trump would win. Ironically, pundits scoffed at the L.A. Times for being historically unreliable. Even at the St. Mary’s election panel a few days prior to the election, Professor Brogan, Eberly, and Fehrs predicted that Hillary Clinton would emerge the winner. These predictions were in no small part due to the enormous get-out-the-vote machine the Democratic Camp had at their disposal and the clear absence of such an apparatus in the Republican camp.

In the days after the election, it was concluded that Trump’s camp was able to overcome such a massive hurdle due to the copious amounts of airtime major news outlets gave to his increasingly outlandish rhetoric.

While few expected the Presidential Race to end in a Republican victory, the battle for control over the House of Representatives and the Senate was expected to be close. The Republican Party managed to retain control over the Senate despite predictions in the days leading up to November 8th. The Democratic Party was expected to make a final push to capture the Senate.

The GOP saw wins with Senator Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Senator Marco Rubio in Florida, Representative Todd Young in Indiana, Senator Richard Burr in North Carolina and Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Notable victories on the part of Democratic Candidates included Catherine Cortez Masto capturing the seat in the Nevada race to succeed Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Representative Tammy Duckworth beating out incumbent Mark Kirk in Illinois. At the closing of the polls, the Republican Party would maintain a slim majority in the Senate. The fight for control of the House of Representatives followed a similar narrative as the Republican Party would emerge with a sizeable majority.

In the aftermath of election night, many pundits and political analysts had to do a bit of soul-searching. The theme of the 2016 Presidential Election appeared to be a disregard for Republican candidate Donald Trump followed by disbelief at a victory in his favor. There was doubt over Trump running an even semi-professional campaign just as there was doubt over him winning the Republican Primary. It seemed even more unlikely that Trump would win the General Election.

A professor at St. Mary’s, who elected to contribute an anonymous quotation, stated that, “the only certainty is a deep mistrust for predictions by analysts”. The 2016 campaign will no doubt catalyze a serious re-evaluation of predictions in future elections.

Talking Heads: Election Reflections

“Talking Heads” is an ongoing dialogue among campus political groups that serves as an open forum for discussing major national issues. All political groups are welcome to participate in a respectful manner that is representative of their party’s platform. Each edition of The Point News will feature a new topic of discussion. This edition’s topic is election reflections. Responses were provided by Simon Kolbeck and Brendan Benge of the College Democrats (D) as well as Grayson McNew of the College Republicans (R).

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TPN: How did your party’s rhetoric influence their campaign/the outcome of the election?  What changes (if any) will be made to this rhetoric in the future?  

D: In one of the most nasty and divisive election cycles in American history, we as Democrats have been proud to stand on the side advocating for unity, respect, and hope for the future of our country. While it is true that the Democratic Party deserves its fair share of the blame for some of the ugliness surrounding this election, in general, we believe appeals to a higher decency, such as Michelle Obama’s now famous quote, “When they go low we go high,” will tell the story of Democratic rhetoric in 2016. However, while the tone of the Democratic Party this election cycle may have been a model for future candidates, our message to voters fell utterly short. For too many people, it seemed as if the Democratic Party and Secretary Clinton were out of touch with ordinary Americans.

R: There’s no sugarcoating Donald Trump’s rhetoric; it was disgusting, childish, and blatantly insulting to everyone. What I can say about him, is that Trump tapped into a vein of America that has not been struck for some time. He gave hope to millions of Americans—including some longtime Democrats—that they could “Make America Great Again.”

Many people questioned “Has America ever been great?” To those who voted for Trump, the answer is yes. The blue-collar white voters that voted for Trump have fallen from the middle class after offshoring made it cheaper for the companies they work for to outsource labor. They left these workers with nothing; they felt betrayed by their government who sat by and did nothing, even promoted it. Data show that it was these people who carried Trump into the White House, and if the Republican Party wishes to change this divisive rhetoric that is occurring, then we must stop pretending that these people no longer exist. They need to be represented, and it is that feeling of underrepresentation that led them to vote for Trump.

TPN: What challenges did your party encounter in this election, and how will they respond to similar future challenges?

D: In hindsight of this thoroughly disappointing election, we Democrats failed in our appeal to white working class voters in states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. Additionally, it seemed as though the Democrats and especially the DNC were unprepared to harness and channel the energy generated by the Bernie Sanders campaign.

R: The Republican Party faced one of its greatest challenges yet, Donald J. Trump. He was an outsider with moderate to extreme rightist ideas who ran with no political experience and won. Trump beat two parties in this election; firstly, he beat the established Republicans and won their nomination, and secondly, he beat Hillary Clinton and the Democrats to secure the White House. This signifies a greater problem for the Republican Party, but to gain more perspective on this problem, you must also look at the problems facing the Democrats. Bernie Sanders, a Democrat only in name, won 45 percent of the votes cast by Democrats in the primaries, relatively the same percentage of voters that Trump won in the Republican primary. After the General Election, Democrats only managed to hold onto five state house legislatures and lost the House and Senate once again.

While [there are concerns] about the fate of the Republican Party, which is now headed by a man who only calls himself a Republican, [there also concerns] about the fate of the Democrats. [It is probable that] both parties will undergo significant changes over the next couple of elections in order to pick candidates that better represent their constituencies.

TPN: What has your party learned from this most recent election cycle?

D: Democrats need to argue better and listen more. First off, while more arguing may sound like the last thing anyone wants to do after such a bitterly divisive campaign season, the Democratic message of progress, equality, tolerance, and compassion has clearly failed to reach many Americans. As a result, rather than give up on or water down these principles which reside at the very foundation of who we are as a party, we simply need to make more compelling arguments for why other people should also believe in them. For example, as one suggestion, we can start by returning our arguments to the basic belief that when we invest in our people and that when we strive for a society without racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other fear of an individual’s identity, we can build stronger communities. With stronger communities, we can all lead more prosperous lives.

Accordingly, along with arguing better, the Democratic Party has to listen more. The shocking defeat dealt to our party this election cycle exposed a much more alarming structural weakness in the Democratic Party at all levels of government. For instance, taking into account local, state, and federal elected positions, Democrats now control their lowest number of seats since the 1920s. Consequently this historic rejection of the Democratic candidates should wake our party up to the fact many Americans feel our party is out of touch. Therefore, moving forward, Democrats need to recommit ourselves to listening to what people across the country really have to say and what we can do in politics to improve their livelihoods.

R: Republicans everywhere have learned that Americans want change. Whether this administration is capable of carrying out that change, we do not know. What we do know is that Donald Trump is now the President-elect of the United States of America and we cannot continue to let his divisive rhetoric continue to divide us as a nation and prevent us from accomplishing effective work. Democrats and Republicans everywhere need to put wedge issues behind them and work together to achieve a common goal.

TPN: In what direction do you see your party moving?

D: Moving forward under a Donald Trump presidency, the Democratic Party will most likely head in one of two directions. On one hand, the Democrats minority in the House and Senate may actually work with President Trump on some shared policy goals, such as investments in infrastructure and child-care, while opposing the Trump Administration on other policies including immigration and tax cuts for the one-percent. Alternatively, Democrats may decide to uniformly oppose all of President Trump’s policy priorities—similar to what Republicans did in 2010.

Additionally, the Democrats are split into two camps, one being the more moderate and centrist wing and the other being the progressive wing of the party. We will see in the coming months whether the party leadership will continue to favor the centrist status quo or give more voice to the more progressive elements of the party. Given the failure of the centrist message in this election, we believe that the progressive elements in the party will gain traction and push the party further in that direction.

R: In this election we saw the blue wall fall. This is another indicator that a major party shift could occur within our lifetime. The Republicans need to find their new “true base” to move forward in order to unify and prevent another outsider candidate from becoming its nominee. They need to work together to better represent all Americans in the next election, and they must not hold onto the principles of old which have led the party for so long and which have created the situation we are in.

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Stay tuned for the next installment of “Talking Heads” when the topic will be the federal budget.

 

Political Activism in the Era of the Sound Bite

The election season is upon us and this is by no means an ordinary election cycle. Anger and hatred have dominated our political dialogue just two years after hope and change reigned.

As James Carville said, “it’s the economy, stupid.” 10% of the country remains unemployed and that may well be driving the bizarre behavior of the electorate. Yet, despite the irrational and often psychotic movement that calls for religious, racial and ideological purity, a legitimate point arises – our government is broken.

The times when our elected officials would leave session and continue the debate over a beer are over. Instead, they leave session and go to separate war rooms to plot against the opposite party.

Now many point to our system – the 24 hour news cycle, cameras on the floor, primaries seeking idealistic purity… etc.. etc… And there is no question that our system has flaws.
But in an off year election, 50 percent of people show up to the polls.

In a poll conducted by the Economist last April, when asked how best to reduce Federal spending, 71 percent of Americans pointed to the Foreign Aid budget as the best area to cut. Foreign Aid represents less than 1 percent of the Federal budget. I am not a math major but I am certain that cutting 1 percent of a 3.5 trillion dollar budget won’t make a dent in a 14 trillion dollar debt.

My point is that our broken government is not the result of some structural problem or the greed of politicians (though both of those exist). It is broken because we can’t be bothered to pay attention until some moron is shouting “THEY ARE GOING TO KILL YOUR GRANDMOTHER” through a megaphone. And when we do, the only message we buy into is whatever short, alteration filled message scares the crap out of us.

The problems our country faces are massive. A bankrupt health care system, two wars, a growing immigration population, massive debt – but the problem that causes the rest, or at least the one that prevents solutions to the others, is our inability to engage in our political process.

Engaging in our political process means more then just voting. It means understanding the issues, discussing the issues, speaking with your representatives and working on campaigns. Too often people say things like, “well, I am not really political” or “I don’t understand politics” but politics just cannot be the interest of only political science majors.

Fortunately, it’s not too late. We are entering an election cycle, campaigns are looking for volunteers. Go, find a candidate you believe in and knock on some doors or make some phone calls. An hour or two a week and you can have a huge impact on an election.

Gansler Talks Defense Acquisition in the Obama White House

Gansler’s talk, though technical at times, helped the students who attended to better understand matters of defense. (Photo courtesy of smcm.edu)
Gansler’s talk, though technical at times, helped the students who attended to better understand matters of defense. (Photo courtesy of smcm.edu)

On Thursday, Jan. 28, the Honorable Jacques S. Gansler delivered a talk at St. Mary’s Hall entitled “Issues in Defense Acquisition for the Obama Administration.” Dr. Gansler served as Undersecretary for Defense from 1997-2001, and is currently a professor at the University of Maryland as well as Director of the Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise.

After explaining national security challenges in light of the recent global financial crisis, Dr. Gansler detailed four questions for the Obama administration to consider in order to act decisively in a “fiscally-constrained budget environment.”

First, what goods and services should be bought or acquired by the Defense Department? To answer this, Dr. Gansler proposed a more balanced allocation of resources and increasing the “interoperability of joint systems.”

Next he looked at how these goods and services are acquired, noting the importance of cost as a requirement and making maximum use of commercial products and services.

Third, who acquires what is needed? Dr. Gansler distinctly emphasized the need for quality and quantity senior officials in the acquisition of defense information and services.

Finally, he said that the focus must be on the source of goods and services, or from whom we buy. Dr. Gansler advised the utilization of our defense industrial base. Fully realized, this industrial base would boast twenty-first century technologies, proving to be “efficient, responsive, globalized, and inclusive of the commercial world.”

In conclusion, Dr. Gansler reiterated our nation’s need for people with experience in filling vacant positions overseas. Our acquisition workforce is currently undervalued, he said; therefore we must ask quality questions more so than quantity ones.
Because of the complex terminology and detailed explanations, Dr. Gansler’s speech was suited to an audience of Patuxent River Naval Air Station employees and several members of the press; however, student attendees still found value in what he had to say.

Sophomore Marina Carlson said, “I think the most interesting aspect was that we had just heard the State of the Union address, so Dr. Gansler’s talk added an aspect that I’m sure many of us would not have considered after hearing his speech but that was nonetheless extremely relevant.”

Professor Michael Cain, Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, felt that “for our students, the talk was a real eye-opener in terms of what people on base are doing.  Several students approached me and said it was great for them to know about acquisitions and its importance in national defense policy.”

Senator Scott Brown (R-MA)–A Warning Shot

On Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010, the impossible happened. A little-known Republican State Senator, Scott Brown, won the special election for the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts.

Why so impossible? Registered Democrats have a 3-1 majority over Republicans in the Commonwealth. No Republican has won a Senate seat in 40 years. Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate, had considerably more money, name recognition and popularity at the start of the campaign. She also had a 30-point lead in the polls. And well, it Massachusetts, a state that has same sex marriages, decriminalized marijuana by public referendum and produced some of the most famous and well known Democrats in history.

Impossible indeed.

Most pundits blame the Coakley campaign, and the Coakley campaign blames the White House and Democratic National Committee (DNC), and the White House and DNC blame “lockstep republicans.”

Now don’t get me wrong, Coakley ran an awful campaign. We saw a similar 30-point lead blown in the 2008 Democratic primaries by Hillary Clinton in much the same way, but even Clinton won Massachusetts. Having spent my first 18 years in Massachusetts, I can tell you that Coakley’s poor campaign simply was not enough to lose her that election.

Two factors lost this campaign for Coakley. First, the economy. People are out of work and they are taking their frustrations out on the party in charge. The economy may well have decided this campaign.

Along with the economy, the Massachusetts Democratic party is not exactly in good stead with voters. Two recent Speakers of the House have been brought up on corruption charges. The legislature has done some truly outrageous things like raise the sales tax and give local municipalities the ability to add a 2 percent local option to the sales tax. Perhaps most importantly, Governor Deval Patrick’s approval ratings are in the 20s, making him roughly as popular as President Bush was for much of his second term.

The point is that while Coakley ran a horrible campaign, there were other factors that played a larger role. For states like Maryland, making the mistake of blowing off the Massachusetts election as nothing more then a poor campaign may well cost Democrats more seats than expected in November.

Maryland Democrats might not have the recent track record as their counterparts in Massachusetts but the looming $2 billion budget deficit might have a similar effect if they do not handle it well. Although perhaps more important than that will be the unemployment rate in the next 10 months.

The potential run of Former Republican Governor Ehrlich against Governor O’Malley would be a serious challenge in any year, but pile on a poor economy and a struggling state budget, and Ehrlich would appear to have an early advantage. The down ticket assembly and state senate races is where the real upsets will be, but it is too early to know who is running.

For Congressional Races, Rep. Kravolti in the 1st district narrowly gained his seat in 2008 and looks like he will be targeted by the Republican National Congressional Committee in 2010. Still, for the most part, Maryland looks like its Congressional seats will stay solidly blue.

Then again, everyone said the same thing about Massachusetts.

President Obama's Healthcare Mistake: Bipartisanship

After a summer of brutal town halls, lunatic TV/Radio hosts and angry protesters, it’s hard to say that President Obama’s health care reform effort is where he, or the millions of Americans supporting him, hoped it would be. With three bills, two from the Senate and one from the House, floating around, it looks like the final bill will bring little more than further tweaks to the system, not the broad and comprehensive reform that is desired.

With large majorities in the House and Senate, the question of the day seems to be, “Why are the Democrats not getting more of what they want?” The answer is a fundamental misunderstanding, by both the President and the Democratic leadership, of the world of professional partisan politics.

The President’s mistake was letting the far right drive the debate. For months, we heard of socialized medicine, death panels, and a government take over of health care. Perhaps the most emblematic example of the Democrats’ complete failure to drive the debate was when one retiree stood up at a Town Hall meeting and said, “Keep government hands off my medicare!” Educating the public to both the needs and goals of reform should have been the President’s number one priority.

His bigger mistake was pushing for bipartisanship while the Democrats were running the show. The President, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid all assumed that if they produced legislation that incorporated Republican ideas, they would subsequently get Republican votes. Why would a single Republican vote for a bill that they have never been publicly asked to support, contribute ideas to, or even read, before it was publicly announced as the Democratic Healthcare Plan? The Republicans get many of reforms they want (more than they should — given their minority status) and they still get to blast the Democrats.

The President should have pushed for radical and comprehensive reform and then compromised, not just skip ahead to the compromising, without making the other side compromise too. Alexander Hamilton argued for a King so that he could get a strong executive because he understood that in a Democracy, compromise is king.

It will be interesting to see what the final bill will look like, but it is clear that Liberals across the country will not get the kind of reform they want; not because of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh but because the Democratic Leadership forgot, at least for a moment, how to play the game.

College Community Celebrates Inauguration

The view of David Kung, a math professor at St. Mary’s. He attended President Obama’s inauguration ceremony on the National Mall. (Photo Submitted by David Kung)
The view of David Kung, a math professor at St. Mary’s. He attended President Obama’s inauguration ceremony on the National Mall. (Photo Submitted by David Kung)

In Washington, D.C., on January 20, 2009 Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States of America.

Here at the College, students and professors celebrated by partaking in several group events. Students were invited to watch the inauguration unfold on several venues on campus; Cole Cinema and the River Center were open for students to watch the event, and the televisions in the Campus Center and Upper Deck were tuned in to CNN.

Although the College never officially canceled classes, most professors did so to allow their students to participate in the inauguration. “I wanted to give the students the opportunity to celebrate or not celebrate as they wished,” said political science professor Sahar Shafqat, who canceled her classes for the day.

Shafqat added, “I feel that institutionally, there was a desire to mark this historic occasion, saying, ‘Look, this is a big deal.’”

In Cole Cinema, students were able to listen to brief talks before the swearing-in took place. Associate professor of history Charles Holden outlined previous notable inaugural addresses throughout American history, and Assistant Vice President of Academic Services Lenny Howard spoke about Obama’s impact on African-American identity, especially in the contexts of success and education. Bon Appetit provided a patriotic flag cake topped with strawberries and blueberries for the celebration, and afterwards, Michael Cain, the head of the political science department and Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, led discussions.

The event was organized by the Center for the Study of Democracy and the Office of Student Activities. “We all worked on this together to bring faculty, staff, and students together,” said Kelly Schroeder, Assistant Dean of Students.

By 11:30 a.m., Cole Cinema was packed, and latecomers were forced to hover by the cinema doors. The room was mostly silent throughout the ceremony, with applause after each event from the inaugural prayer to the inaugural address. A ripple of laughter shot through the room with Pastor Rick Warren’s pronounced, almost fierce blessing of first daughters “Malia” and “Sasha,” and a similar wave of “Awwww” washed over the crowd whenever the two girls appeared on-screen. Many found the oath of office and its difficulties endearing, especially from such a calm person as Obama.

“It was interesting to see some of his stumbles,” said junior Brad Dodson. “It let us know he’s human, just like us…and realize that we’re in this together.”

Obama’s speech fetched a standing ovation from those not already forced to stand, and the overall mood in the room was electric. “[This is] where civic tradition kicks in,” said Holden. He said that it was amazing to see so many people come together, and not just for a tragic event like an assassination or Sept. 11. He described the feeling as “like the excitement of the campaign, …one last time, or kind of reaching the peak.”

If students thought they were cramped in Cole Cinema, the screen showed that the turnout in D.C. was enormous. “There was something like 2 million people in Washington,” said Cain.

Mathematics professor David Kung was one of the many people present for the inauguration. “ It was fantastic,” he said. “There was a crush of people everywhere.” Kung received the tickets to attend the inauguration through his parents’ congressmen back in Wisconsin.

Professor Jennifer Cognard-Black also received tickets from a senator in another state. “We immediately tried to get tickets from our Maryland representative, but we received an auto reply that thousands had asked already,” she said. She managed to get tickets from her mother in Nebraska. They turned out to be some of the best, placing her “only a football field away” from the action. “It turned out to be the glamorous section; we stood in line with Susan Sarandon and Wesley Snipes,” she said. “We felt very lucky to be there.”

According to Cain, this inauguration was particularly exciting for two reasons. The first was that the nation was seeing the end of an administration that had been on the decline, and the second that Obama was the first African-American to be elected President of the United States. “The first time for anything makes it important,” said Cain. “ Kennedy was the first Catholic and his inauguration was very important for people. [Obama] being first makes it important.”

Cognard-Black thinks that so many people turned out not only for the historical importance of the event, but also because of Obama’s humility and truth. “I think [he’s so popular] because he just projects and presents truthfulness. He actually honors the other side…I don’t think we’ve seen that level of graciousness.”

Due to the significant historical context of this inauguration, many people had their young children watch and understand that history was being made. “We took our 11-year-old son,” said Kung. “Having him see the turnout for this helps him appreciate the historical importance of the moment.”

Cognard-Black and her husband, also took their daughter to the inauguration. In fact, she said that they probably would not have gone if not for their daughter, Kate. “Because of Kate, we’re parents of an only child, and we really think of what experiences are vital for her.”

Like many of his past speeches, President Obama’s inauguration speech was heavily analyzed. Different people saw different things in it. “He definitely placed his inaugural address within the context of inaugural addresses, …hearkening to a sense of unity and purpose,” said Holden.

Holden added that although Obama “said some nice things about the [former] president,” he was “a little bit sharper in marking an Obama administration as being different from the Bush administration.”

“I think that looking at it in terms of Mr. Obama’s speeches, it wasn’t his best speech,” Cain said. “The content of it, not the delivery, was as good as the one given to the Democratic Party, but it was a sobering speech and I think it was an appropriate speech.”

Cognard-Black was touched by Obama’s speech, and like Cain, felt it was appropriate for the country’s situation. She was also very impressed by the way that she felt he addressed issues without pointing fingers, and she reaffirmed that this is why he appeals to so many people. “I don’t think it’s just because he’s a liberal and because he’s young. I think it’s because he has ethos,” she said.

However, not everyone watching the inauguration at the College was an Obama supporter. President of College Republicans Sara Metz was one of the first people to trickle into Cole Cinema. She stayed for the entire event.

“I felt uncomfortable, obviously, being a Republican,” she said. She said that despite the excitement electrifying the  room, “I was trying to be analytical.”

Regarding the speech, Metz said “There were some things I was elated about,” although sometimes she “felt like it was kind of partisan.”

Still, “it was a good experience, even though I felt out of place,” she concluded. “It was a historic event.”
oom, “I was trying to be analytical.”

Regarding the speech, Metz said “There were some things I was elated about,” although sometimes she “felt like it was kind of partisan.”

Still, “it was a good experience, even though I felt out of place,” she concluded. “It was a historic event.”