By D’Asha Davis
Panelists examined the role political parties are playing in modern America during the event “Beyond the Base? Are the Political Parties Keeping their Pledges to the American Public?”
Juan Gonzalez, an award-winning investigative journalist, and two senior presidential fellows from the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University, Howard Dean and Edward Rollins, were the featured panelists this past Thursday, Nov. 30.
Moderators Meena Bose, the executive dean for Public Policy and Mario Murillo, a professor of Radio, Television and Film, led the event which was hosted in the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center Theater. They asked many hard-hitting questions, including about how the white working class is alienated in the rust belt. The conversation varied and ranged from what young people are willing to support to how the Donald Trump administration is working in the United States right now.
Howard got the conversation going when he explained that the Democratic Party is in a state of unsteadiness. The younger generation is not necessarily a Democratic generation horde. They do not like or need institutions, but vote democratic because their values align with the party platform. Millennials highly value climate change, diversity, immigration and gay rights – as does the Democratic Party – which Howard Dean calls “the civil rights issue of their generation.”
“Washington is middle school on steroids,” Dean said. He explained that generally many people do not base their vote on the party platform, excluding a few big stances like abortion and civil rights. But usually the vote is going to who they think is going to represent them more and which candidate will do what they feel is the right thing.
Rollins believes that the country will survive the Trump era, but that the Republican Party might not. He said that “personalities make parties” and that Trump is the new personality of the Republican Party, against the desire of many within it. With this personality takeover, there is a change happening within the country and young people are taking advantage of it.
Gonzalez discussed the public’s feelings of frustration about the dividing politics and how it negatively affects the society that we all live in today. He described the system as being deeply flawed in terms of being able to accurately express the will of the majority. He says the fact that there have now been two Republican presidents that have been elected without the majority is an example of this. On top of this, he says there is still a large problem with gerrymandering, voter suppression and the money in politics.
There were students that really appreciated the event, including junior radio production major Benjamin Abrams. “I was really intrigued by the conversation because I think it’s a really necessary conversation that we need to have – conversing about bridging political gaps that have come only within the past couple years, maybe within the past decade or so.”
Other students connected on a more personal level with the conversation. Tiyanna Forrest, a sophomore history major, said, “They discussed racial barriers as well as gender barriers, which I feel is very important especially the conversation about stop and frisk. This affects me because I am African-American and I am also Hispanic, but that could be my brother on the street.”
Toward the end of the event, after being asked a question about where the voter focus needs to be, Dean said, “Do I think we need to focus on the white working class voter? No, I do not.” In response to that, Abrams said, “Part of what he meant, if I can interpret it a little bit, might have just been that the base for the Trump/Pence candidacy was largely based around [the] white male working class and feeding off of fears and I think that in particular is a really good point, because I think that we shouldn’t just be focusing on the white male working class. That is something that should be taken into account but there are so many different voices across the country that need to be heard that normally don’t get a voice during an election season.”
Kiara Francis, a sophomore majoring in rhetorical studies, said, “Overall, I think that they need to get over this whole thing with Trump and move forward.”