By: CARTER DEJONG
Political science professors Elizabeth Bennion and Steven Gerencser recently shared their thoughts on the current state of American politics, including the 2020 Democratic primary.
Many people might agree that our nation has never been as divided as it is today. According to Gerencser, this is because Republicans and Democrats have shifted to be either more liberal or conservative.
“Now, Republicans are a more truly conservative party and Democrats are a more fully liberal party. So at the national level you see this more full sorting and a lot of conflict,” Gerencser said.
Gerencser also mentioned that the current level of divisiveness is nowhere near as bad as compared to other times in the nation’s history.
“It’s not pleasant, I think people are frustrated,” he said. “It’s important to remember that war in which we suffered the most casualties was the civil war.”
According to Bennion, one way to heal this division is by learning to have a more respectful political discussion.
“Try not to take things personally. Focus on policy arguments, not personal attacks. Try to find shared values,” Bennion said.
Bennion also stressed the importance of surrounding yourself with people who might not agree with you.
“Get outside of your bubble. Interact with people who disagree with you so that you aren’t continually putting yourself in environments where every bias you have is reinforced and reaffirmed, while all counter arguments and opinions are dismissed or demonized,” Bennion said.
One of the largest issues facing the nation and the world today is climate change and how to reduce its effects. Gerencser hopes that the recent disasters made worse by climate change such as the wildfires in California or the major flooding in our area last year will cause people to take action before it is too late.
“The immediacy of some of these events might wake people up a little bit to say we need to take more action,” he said.
Gerencser believes one possible explanation for why politicians aren’t taking climate change more seriously could be due to their short attention span.
“They are primarily interested, first and foremost, in the next election cycle,” he said.
Gerencser added that this is why it is so important for young people to not just get out and vote, but to also make themselves heard through organizing events.
Bennion has lead the American Democracy Project at IU South Bend since 2004. She has moderated many debates that South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg has taken part in since he first ran for mayor in 2011.
“If you listen to any of the interviews or debates I moderated during these years you’ll see that he’s always been a policy wonk with a desire to solve everyday problems while bringing people together,” Bennion said.
The 2020 Democratic primary is crowded with over 15 candidates that have formed exploratory committees or officially declared their candidacy. These candidates include many well-known politicians such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. One poll of Iowa caucus voters released in late March by Emerson Polling showed Buttigieg in third place, just behind Joe Biden and Sanders.