After the 2012 Election: An Election Like No Other-More Democracy or Less?

30 Nov

Rejena Carmichael, a junior at Hofstra University working towards a double major in English and Political Science,  reports on a panel our fellows sat on this month.

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Michael D’Innocenzo, one of the project leaders and History professor at Hofstra University, was joined by four of our Democracy Fellows, Etana Jacobi, Ariel Flajnik, Jesse Crosson, and Mishiana Joseph, to speak on a post election panel at the Unitarian Universalist Church at Shelter Rock this month.  The talk was titled, After the 2012 Election: An Election Like No Other-More Democracy or Less?, and the various panelists spoke to their individual experiences with the election and conducted an overall analysis of what this election means for the future.  The panel concluded with in an active Q&A session with the audience, followed by a reception.

D’Innocenzo started the discussion with an evaluation of how politics has become more of a “moneyball” type game, where the winner can be predicted by statistics rather than events. He referenced blog-writer, Nate Silver, who predicted the correct outcome of every state in the past election. D’Innocenzo argued that because this campaigning strategy has been adopted, the candidates must now shape their campaigns around its principles. President Obama was able to mobilize young voters and (surprisingly) slightly increased their turnout from the 2008 election, despite expectations of voter turnout decline among young people in the 2012 election. He further argued that Obama rallied his base together, while Romney was not as effective in getting his party out to vote. In order to increase the voter turnout for both parties, the media and news outlets need to find a way to better inform the public. D’Innocenzo persuasively outlined the problem with reliable knowledge-with a combination of facts and a distortion of facts disseminated by media outlets and the public’s newfound responsibility to discern what knowledge is and what it really means.

He also spoke to the dynamic and changing voter demographics in this election, suggesting the Republican party’s potential need to realign its core ideology to encompass more people and garner wider support from a broader base. In the current Congress, there is only one African-American Republican and one Jewish Republican. D’Innocenzo argued that for this party to prosper in future years, they must find a way to represent the diverse population and expand their ideals to more groups. In the deliberation project, the forums outline options that represent several groups’ opinions on a single issue, and try to reach common ground on various views. This type of nonpartisan deliberation could be utilized in Congress to eliminate the downsides of a lame duck session. D’Innocenzo concluded with a belief that Obama has the opportunity to be a transformational president with his reelection, but he must shift his focus from anticipation for the future and a vision, to a real plan of action.

Jacobi highlighted how the deliberation project engages community members to participate in politics and feel ownership over the issues they discuss. This civically engaged attitude is imperative for mobilizing voters and making people feel that their vote matters. She also spoke to the climate silence that occurred in this election cycle, with the first set of debates making no mention of climate change since 1988. In a multitude of forums, the issue of money and politics was raised, and Jacobi commented on the importance of intersectionality in issues arising from delberative discussion.  She argued that if the public continues to discuss these problems in the deliberative format and demand they are more productively discussed on a national level, candidates would then be forced to make necessary public policy changes to move the country forward.

Crosson elaborated on D’Innocenzo’s point about the Republican party’s need to broaden its base, arguing this flaw in the party was Romney’s major weakness in his 2012 campaign. He further explained how the drastic difference between Obama and Romney’s ability to connect with voters was what lost Romney the election. Crosson aptly pointed out that exit polls indicated that by and large, voters believed Romney would be more effective at fixing the current state of the economy and they ranked the economy as the most pressing issue in this election.  Unfortunately for Romney, by a landslide, voters felt Obama better understood and could relate to “people like them,” winning him the election. Crosson wrapped up with an explanation of how the Republican party needs to appear less elitist and angry to appeal to a wider conservative base in an analysis of the future of the party.

Joseph discussed the influential nature of the deliberation project on her peers and family members. When members of the community engage in and talk about politics, they feel personally responsible for the future of issues and candidates. Joseph fully supported the project’s attempt to facilitate intergenerational discussions, not only to hear as many opinions and voices as possible, but to mobilize them to action together.  She also highlighted her own experiences on various campaigns and how this experience has affected her as a citizen.  

Flajnik spoke to the faults of the two-party system by disempowering those who do not align with major political platforms, and credited the deliberation project for reengaging those citizens in a non-partisan fashion.  She explained how she herself felt empowered while working as a fellow, arguing that the discussions force people to stop thinking in a binary way, and instead enable participants to work through a plethora of options in the hopes of creating a comprehensive solution. The project strengthens democracy by hearing the voices of the people and motivating them to speak out in a civil manner.  It is not about partisan politics, but policy solutions.

A question and answer session followed the panel discussion and then everyone had an opportunity to chat at the reception.  Several audience members approached our deliberation fellows afterward, sharing their inspiration after hearing young people in the community who are active, articulate, and engaged.  The panelists did an excellent job of explaining how the group’s nonpartisan discussions encourage a deepening of our democracy!

 

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