Forum held to discuss current U.S. political atmosphere
Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.
Email This Story
During his lecture “The Election and the Future,” Jeffrey Broxmeyer, assistant professor in the UT department of political science and administration, said the 2016 election came down to four distinct areas of interest: unequal economic gains, declining trust in institutions, polarization and the gridlock in the national government.
Broxmeyer’s lecture focused on the election, the future of the United States and the changing American political landscape. It was hosted by the Golden Alumni Society on Feb. 3.
The purpose of the lecture is to ensure students and alumni are involved and well informed, said retired judge George Glasser, a member of the Golden Alumni Society and coordinator of the event.
Those four distinct areas of interest highlight concerns among the American people and concerns regarding the future of the U.S., Broxmeyer said.
“It’s safe to say that we are entering a period of historic uncertainty. This is important because this is the world our new president inherits,” said Broxmeyer.
Much of the international infrastructure, the system of security and economic alliances that was constructed by the US and her allies are in a moment of free fall, according to Broxmeyer.
There are a number of significant changes occurring around the world, from Brexit to the rise of what political scientists call “BRIC countries” – Brazil, Russia, India and China – where a lot of the global economic growth and an increase in military resources has been concentrated, and an increase in authoritarian governments.
“A number of political scientists a few years ago noted that, when countries move from authoritarian forms of government to democracies, that’s a process we refer to as democratization,” Broxmeyer said. “It’s clear now that this period [of democratization] is now over, and the wave is going in the other direction. We have a wave of de-democratization that is taking place, and there are a fresh number of dictatorships consolidating all over the world.”
Broxmeyer also suggested in his lecture that the U.S. is now in an era of “bad feelings,” which is characterized by growing political polarization.
“We used to have some common ground in the center of the political spectrum and the political system. Republicans have become more conservative and Democrats have become more liberal, and the middle has pretty much fallen out,” said Broxmeyer. “A poll by Keith Pool suggests that Congress today is more polarized than after the Civil War.”
The distance between the parties has been growing since the 1970s, and, according to a poll by Pew Research, 27 percent of Democrats viewed the Republicans as a threat to the nation’s well-being, whereas 36 percent of Republicans saw the Democrats as a threat.
Polarization has altered and even halted the democratic process on Capitol Hill, said Broxmeyer.
“One example is the minority party in the House of Representatives who is completely shut out of input of running the House. What we refer to in political science as the “textbook Congress” is dead and has been for a long time now,” said Broxmeyer.
What has replaced this traditional system of governing, according to Broxmeyer, is a centralized system that places power into the hands of party leaders in Congress who effectively suspend the “textbook” rules of policy-making. Instead, Broxmeyer explained, policy is crafted by a small group, leaving the minority party to filibuster or delay legislation in response creating a deadlock.
Broxmeyer believes that an increasing polarization and a never-ending gridlock has contributed to a collapse of trust in Congress and other major institutions, including the media and banks.
“[Institutions are] a major indicator of the vitals of our democracy, because in a system of popular sovereignty when the government moves in some direction, it must be able to claim legitimacy from the people,” Broxmeyer explained. “Weak legitimacy can lead to some elements of mistrust and anger.”
According to exit polls in the presentation, 67 percent of the white working class without a college degree voted for Trump, many of whom, Broxmeyer said, are frustrated with stagnated wages and a steep increase in work productivity since the 1970s. This trend remains true among other disaffected workers as well.
“According to exit polls from Ohio, Republicans turned out more in Ohio than Democrats,” said Broxmeyer. “Donald Trump over-performed in rural areas, with white workers with a high school education or less and [with] late deciders.”
Donald Trump ran as an anti-establishment dealmaker who could break through the gridlock and dysfunction in Washington. Broxmeyer believes that polarization helped retain Republican support even with his unorthodox promises regarding foreign policy and immigration.
“What I told my political science students on the first day of class was that Trump will do what he promised,” said Broxmeyer.
As for the Democrats who are effectively out of power, Broxmeyer believes public protests and demonstrations will continue well into Trump’s presidency depending on the turnout of the mid-term elections.
“This is the first time the Golden Alumni Society is hosting a program about an election,” Glasser said in a press release from UT News. “The subject is on everybody’s mind and [is] stirring up a great deal of controversy and opinions. We want to serve the community by utilizing some of the fine resources we have at the University to provide information, discussion and answers to questions.”
Broxmeyer is currently researching American political development focuses on the wealth accumulated by party leaders during the 19th century and also teaches courses about political parties and the presidency.