“There is value in trying to reflect, and this is what Gettysburg College is about,” Prof. Michael Birkner '72 P'10 said to students, faculty, and administrators gathered in the College’s Joseph Theater during a panel hosted by the Eisenhower Institute on Thursday, November 17, as part of the EI Discussions series.
Associate Provost Robert Bohrer facilitated the conversation with Gettysburg College Profs. Michael Birkner, Chipo Dendere, Bruce Larson, Shirley Anne Warshaw, and Charles Weise. The aim of the 90-minute panel was to investigate the election outcome, foster positive discussion, and bring together members of the campus community after what many have viewed as a divisive political season.
The panelists largely agreed that the economy was a focal point in the election—and an issue on which political scientists and forecasters alike did not focus enough attention when making predictions.
“If there’s one [main result] that comes out of the election in economic terms, it’s a visceral awareness that there is real pain within the middle class,” offered Weise, an economics professor.
Warshaw, a political science professor, pointed out the ways in which President-elect Donald Trump was able to address this issue: “The bottom line is that the Republican candidate may have said some [contentious remarks], the Republican candidate may have done some [controversial actions], but the bottom line is that he won the economic argument.”
Another central feature of the discussion was partisanship. Political Science Prof. Larson highlighted the continued division of Congress and the ideological split over the past 40 years, to which substantial gridlock and unexecuted policy agendas can be attributed.
“We see polarized districts, polarized states, and what that does is completely polarizes the whole system,” Larson said.
“That’s a problem when you surround yourself with people who only think like you,” Africana Studies Prof. Dendere offered. “I think a lot of us are in a bubble we self-select.”
Offering hope for the future, Dendere said there are greater opportunities post-election for Americans to engage in conversation with one another.
Birkner advised members of the audience to engage with differing political views and to read news far outside their ideology to cross-reference beliefs.
“This is the challenge. I don’t care how you access the information: get out of the bubble,” he said. “If your side has the facts wrong, Democrat or Republican, accept that they have the facts wrong. Go where the facts are. You will gravitate, not to perfect agreement, but to points of agreement.”
Article by Maja Thomas ’17, The Eisenhower Institute Campus Communications Team
Photos by Charlotte Scheper '17, communications & marketing photo intern
Contact: Carina Sitkus, senior assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803
Posted: Fri, 18 Nov 2016