Talking Politics at HWS President’s Forum – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Talking Politics at HWS President’s Forum

With the midterm elections just around corner, a special HWS President’s Forum Series program of the “Political Junkie Road Show” presented by “Talk of the Nation” host Neal Conan and “Political Junkie” Ken Rudin was recently held during Homecoming and Family Weekend.

The forum, which covered everything from current events to political history, featured a series of engaging conversations with the Road Show panelists: President Mark D. Gearan; political strategist James Carville P’17, LL.D ’13; Mayor of Ithaca and HWS Presidential Fellow for Civic Engagement Svante Myrick; Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of Faculty DeWayne Lucas; and Professor of Political Science Iva Deutchman.

“We warmly welcome you back to campus for a chance to see your children, or for alums, to get a better sense of today’s Hobart and William Smith,” said Gearan during his opening remarks in Albright Auditorium, where students, their families and alums gathered for the show. “I am happy to include a President’s Forum here to talk a little politics. We are thrilled to have Talk of the Nation’s Neal Conan and Political Junkie Ken Rudin.”

Hosted by veteran political journalist Rudin, “Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie” is a weekly show covering the personalities, issues and elections in national, state and local politics. It was a weekly segment of “Talk of the Nation” from 2006 until the show’s conclusion. In October 2013, “Political Junkie” launched as an independent production. More information about “Political Junkie” is available online.

Conan has covered many local, statewide and national elections, among them Mario Cuomo’s first bid for Governor of New York and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s challenge to President Jimmy Carter in 1980. He also served four years as NPR’s correspondent in London, covering European politics. As a reporter, editor or producer, he’s been involved in NPR’s coverage of every U.S. election for more than two decades. He is the author of “Play by Play: Baseball, Radio and Life in the Last Chance League.”

The President’s Forum kicked off with a dialogue featuring Lucas and Deutchman, who were asked by the Road Show hosts about their expectations for the midterm elections. “We’re on the eve of critical elections – and we’re looking ahead to 2016,” Conan said, noting that they’d also be discussing foreign policy and the youth vote during the program.

Rudin said it will be interesting to see how things play out. “We’re always talking about the Tea Party versus the establishment on the Republican side; now let’s see if there is any kind of conflict like that on the Democrat side,” he said.

Lucas was asked if the upcoming election will lead to a less partisan Congress. “If I can guarantee you anything about politics – no it’s not,” he answered. “Part of that is the nature of the political system today – what my research says and what I see in politics – is that we don’t like to talk across aisles anymore. We’re more likely to talk to Republicans, if we’re Republicans and we’re more likely to talk Democrats, if we’re a Democrat.”

Deutchman, who also taught the Homecoming and Family Weekend mini-college session, “Who’s In and Who’s Out – The 2014 Midterm Elections,” said she foresees little change as a result of the November vote. Deutchman was asked what kind of impact the upcoming elections will have on partisanship. “In answer to the question, ‘what difference does it make?’ – none,” Deutchman said. “In other words, nothing is going to change as a result.”

Following the dialogue with faculty, Gearan and Carville joined the hosts on stage to discuss political issues that are making headlines at home and internationally. The exchange continued with focus on the impact of the midterm elections.

Reflecting on the outcome of major elections over the course of the past few decades, Carville forecast his expectations for 2016 and the presidential election. Carville said presidential years are much more favorable to Democrats than non-presidential years.

“I want to make a point about something we’re talking about that is the number of Democrat incumbents who are up,” Carville said. “It’s what I call the ‘six-year echo.’ If you have a good year, six years from that good year, you’re going to be exposed. And remember that the Democrats had a good year in 2008. Now, who had a monster year in 2010? So, who’s going to have the vulnerable seats in 2016? We may be looking at a situation that the Republicans win the Senate back in 2014 and loose it again in 2016.”

In reference to the election ahead, Gearan said much can change in politics during a five-week period and influences such as the 24-hour news cycle can really make an impact.

“So many of the toss-up races are Democrat seats, so I think it has enormous potential depending on events,” Gearan said. “There are still five weeks, which is a very long time in politics; anything can happen in that sense.”

While discussing foreign affairs and conflicts overseas, Carville said that from his experience, one of the most challenging efforts is working with countries that are trying to develop a democratic system of governance.

“We’ve got to get out of this mentality that we can just throw a switch and have an army, or throw a switch and have a police force, or throw a switch and have a Democracy,” Carville said. “It doesn’t work like that.”

As the program’s final guest, Myrick was asked about the youth vote and how young people are engaging in politics. Conan asked Myrick how many fewer young people he thought were going to turn out to vote in 2014 than did two years ago.

Myrick said that even though he was 24 when running for Mayor of Ithaca, there was still lower engagement from young voters. Myrick also discussed aspects of his own election as mayor, and the challenge of engaging young people.

“If you don’t vote, politics won’t improve,” Myrick said of the perceived lack of engagement.

About the President’s Forum Series:

Established in the winter of 2000 by President Mark D. Gearan, the President’s Forum Series is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty and staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members. The most recent guest of the President’s Forum was Victor Simpson ’63, former Rome Bureau Chief for the Associated Press.

Other recent speakers have included Dr. Kathy Platoni ’74, clinical psychologist, author and retired U.S. Army Colonel; Todd S. Purdum, senior writer at POLITICO and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair; Gus Schumacher, executive vice president of policy and co-founder of Wholesome Wave; and Former Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, the first woman in American history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress.