On Tuesday, September 27th, 2016, UW Political Science Professor Christopher S. Parker and Mark A. Smith joined author Rick Shenkman and UW History Professor Margaret O’Mara at the Seattle Town Hall to discuss the “2016 Election: How Did We Get Here?”
The panelists identified anger, ignorance, and isolation as some of the causes for the current state of politics and specifically the spectacle that is this year’s presidential election campaign. Shenkman, who authored several books about politics including Just How Stupid Are We?, noted the importance of ignorance as “most American voters know more about TV characters than about their own government.” Professor Parker discussed the impact that the “perceived rapid social change” has had on the growth of reactionary movements like the Tea Party. Furthermore, the panelists agreed that the increasing “isolation [of voters] from opposing information [which] increases political polarization” has been a critical factor in getting us to where we are today.
In addition to discussing the causes of the current state of politics and reflecting upon the first presidential debate, which took place on Monday night, religion in politics expert Mark Smith addressed the question of whether Mormons will vote for Trump in November and historian Margaret O’Mara compared Trump to other historical figures noting that Trump is “like a crazy mashup of Huey Long, Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy, George Wallace.”
The event was sponsored by the University of Washington Alumni Association. Read the Seattle Times’ review of the event “Our political divide makes dialogue crucial, but difficult” by columnist Jerry Large.