If History Repeats Itself – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

If History Repeats Itself

On Tuesday, Oct. 19, Elaine Kamarck, a lecturer of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University, discussed the possibility of the 2004 Presidential election being as close a race as it was in 2000.

In the talk titled “Will History Repeat Itself?–The Election of 2004,” Kamarck detailed several reasons for a close race and why voters in the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida are critical to this election's outcome. The talk was the first President's Forum lecture hosted this fall.

“Are we going to have the same kind of election as we did in 2000?” asked Kamarck in her opening remarks to the crowd of students and community members in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library. “Teams of lawyers on both sides are ready to litigate (if that happens).”

One of the biggest reasons that this election is hard to call is due to the inability to predict how different sects of the population will vote. In the past, solid voting coalitions existed that could fairly accurately predict voting outcomes based on voter demographics. The old line Democratic group consisted of Jewish and Catholic populations who typically voted along the Democratic line while the other party was composed of Protestant upperclass individuals who aligned as loyal Republican voters.

“Today it is impossible to tell who will vote and how,” Kamarck says. “All the lines are broken down.”

If we have another election year where the majority popular vote fails to elect a president, the system will likely be examined for an augmentation.

“If history repeats itself we will be discussing 'how we will pick a president,” she said.

Karmack has an extensive political background. Prior to joining Harvard, Kamarck served for nearly five years as senior policy adviser to former Vice President Al Gore. She worked directly with Gore to create the National Performance Review (NPR), a White House policy council that oversaw a downsizing of the civilian work force and passing of the first government-wide buy-out bill and two major procurement reform bills. In addition, the NPR conducted two major performance audits of the federal government and proposed a major reform initiative aimed at improving the government's regulatory agencies.

Prior to joining the White House, Kamarck was a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, the think tank of the Democratic Leadership Council. In that capacity, she and her colleague, Bill Galston, published policy papers that were to become the Democratic platform on which President Bill Clinton ran in 1992.

Kamarck holds a bachelor's degree from Bryn Mawr College. She received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley.