Political analyst gives talk
Noted political analyst Bill Schneider spoke in Ostrove Auditorium on Thursday, October 28.
On Thursday, October 28, just five days before national elections, the College community welcomed esteemed political analyst Bill Schneider in Ostrove Auditorium. Schneider lectured on covering the current political climate in the United States.
A veteran of both American and international politics, Schneider was a professor at Harvard University for many years before joining CNN as a leading political analyst. He is also a Distinguished Senior Fellow and Resident Scholar at Third Way and the Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor Public Policy at George Mason University in Washington, D.C. Schneider addressed the crowd, which consisted mainly of students, with anecdotes before candidly assessing the upcoming elections.
Meeting expectations in the elections is “not enough to win,” Schneider said. On the other hand, he added that defying them is the best way to assert political power. He stated that these midterm elections were full of close and bitter races: Republicans are expected to gain a majority in the House and the Democrats are expected to hold theirs in the Senate.
The Republicans expected success is, of course, a striking departure from the last midterm elections in 2006, in which the Democrats gained the majority in both branches of Congress. Schneider attributed this party reversal to stubbornly high unemployment rates during the recovery from the recession, and he continued by assessing President Barack Obama’s specific shortcomings.
Obama’s agenda was his first major deficiency, according to Schneider, because it is “bigger than the public’s.” Most voters still believe that the economy is in a recession; with less than one fourth of voters believe that the stimulus was effective. The fact that voters are concerned first and foremost with jobs was a recurring theme throughout the lecture.
The second major problem with the President, according to Schneider, was what he called a “leadership problem.” Schneider bluntly stated. The critique continued, when Schneider said that President Obama is “without a populist bone in his body” in the most populist country in the world. Obama’s soaring rhetoric, brilliant presentation and his irrepressible “cool” factor can only go so far in leading a country when he is also out-of-touch, Schneider said.
“Politics is not about rationality,” Schneider said. He stressed that emotive politicians connect more with people, using former President Bill Clinton as his primary example. Obama is a “NPR democrat,” whereas Clinton is “sports-talk;” his rhetorical style is more relatable and empathetic and embodies the Democratic Party’s populist tradition.
Although the Democratic Party’s leadership is devoid of the sort of public rapport that Clinton established during his presidency, the rival party’s leadership specializes in that rapport. The Tea Partiers embody everything that Obama is not: they capitalize on emotion and are unwavering in their convictions. Schneider noted that this sort of “political fundamentalism” is similar to religious fundamentalism in that it roots out heretics and interprets the Constitution literally. These “new Republicans,” as Schneider said, are trying to reverse Obama’s policies, causing a “great negative election.” Like in the Presidential election in 2008, people are voting against people and policies rather than for causes. Schneider explained that this attitude toward voting leads to moderates “getting hit first,” since people will now vote for extremes.
In his concluding remarks, Schneider noted that Europe’s new period of austerity may be repeated here, and that the federal government will not boost private demand. He reiterated that the entire political situation depends on jobs and that no one should feel secure about re-election before the job situation improves.
During the question and answer session after the speech, Schneider expressed somewhat gloomy views on the political party polarization that is taking place in America today. He labeled the movement a “great tragedy” and explained that reunification would only happen if a tragedy on the scale of 9/11 occurs, a great leader comes to power or a generation passes.