With about 50 days to the Presidential Election, political strategists Mary Matalin P’17 and James Carville L.H.D. ’13, P’17, Ithaca Mayor and Presidential Fellow Svante L. Myrick and The Echo Group President Dan Fee ’92 talked politics across parties during a special Homecoming and Family Weekend President’s Forum. Moderated by President Mark D. Gearan, the event was held in a standing-room-only Albright Auditorium on Saturday, Sept. 17.
The dialogue centered on this year’s Presidential Election, including what the first 100 days of the next presidency might look like and criticism about the current state of politics. Panelists agreed there’s been a “lack of ideas” within this election cycle and that millennial voters have a read on it. A video of the President’s Forum is available online.
“There’s a two party structure, and one party emanating out of Washington,” Matalin said, adding that younger generations have the ability to approach politics in a new way. Matalin, who recently registered Libertarian, said: “The tools of the information age can take us beyond Republican and Democrat, whatever we may call it, libertarian, and hopefully you can act on ideas that are philosophically and empirically based.”
Myrick said this election season, and going forward, are opportunities for millennials to use their vote to make change. “I actually have hopes that this election will free us – that is the millennial generation – to redraw the ideological boundaries and rewrite the old rules,” Myrick said. The major issue for millennials is climate change, not the economy, Myrick said, since the majority of their working lives have followed the Recession.
“I think people will agree, that when the case is made, that America has always been a work in progress,” Carville explained. “The idea that we can do better is always what it’s really about.” Carville said campaigns are known for fighting over the future, with detailed plans about how they are going to do that.
The conversation also looked at Pennsylvania’s status as a traditionally known swing state and the importance it will play in the 2016 Election. “Pennsylvania today is still somewhat stuck in a perception of what happened in the past,” Fee observed, adding that John Kerry won by a 2.5 percent margin in 2004.
When asked about the first 100 days of either presidency, the panelists shared a range of views:
Carville said in order to ensure something happens, Secretary Clinton – or any president – should “address the obvious stuff that we all know we have to do.” He said that’s making significant investments to rebuild and enhance United States infrastructure, create a new administrator to deal with climate mitigation, and to eliminate the corporate income tax. “Start building the country. It’s obvious we live in a country of deteriorating infrastructure. It’s obvious the temperatures are rising as we throw carbon in the atmosphere.”
Matalin said a Supreme Court justice will be appointed in the first 100 days, but otherwise, there won’t be very much change. “What isn’t working is not the gridlock – because they’re not really gridlocked – it’s the abrogation from the Congress, particularly those who represent the people who no longer do because they are gerrymandering. It doesn’t just make them fight. It strips the system of ideas; there’s no competitive ideas.” Because of this, she said the power has shifted to the Executive Branch and non-elected bureaucrats.
Fee said, generally, nothing will happen. “The thing that I’m always focused on, particularly in the House of Representatives, is that the gerrymandering has gotten so bad, that people have no need to listen to anybody else. They are in these totally secure districts. They can do whatever they want. They are more worried about being challenged in a primary than they are losing in a general election.”
Myrick agreed, with the exception of a Supreme Court justice: “Legislatively, I think nothing happens. But what freaks me out and what I learned being a mayor is that it matters who the President is even if no legislation gets passed. It matters of course because of what they say and the example they set, but also the President administers the government.”