Wake Forest University experts are available to comment on Election 2016. Representing a wide range of academic areas, including politics, economics, religion, communication and law, professors can share their expertise on a variety of election-related topics including:
Research on young people and civic engagement demonstrates that they are very turned off by the extreme partisan polarization that characterizes American politics, says Harriger. She studies political participation and voting among young people and is the co-author of a new multi-year study showing that college students who participate in public deliberation and learn to talk with those with differing viewpoints, are more politically involved later. She can also comment on women in politics and the changing composition of the Supreme Court. Harriger is the co-author of Speaking of Politics: Preparing College Students for Democratic Citizenship through Deliberative Dialogue and three other books. Inspired by the Watergate hearings of her college years, Harriger has also studied the use of federal special prosecutors in American government and is the author of The Special Prosecutor in American Politics.
Will young voters turn out this year? “Studies show that young people have trouble finding their way into political discussions, partially because of the polarized debate. The noise on the Internet, the screaming on the television, and the ability to pick and choose news outlets contribute to people seeing things in black or white. There’s a hunger among young people for opportunities to have authentic dialogues about issues without it being a battle.”
Can a woman be elected President? “We’ve definitely made a cultural shift. The most serious candidate on one side is a woman, and she has all the experience people say they want in a president, including foreign policy. But, people talking about what you look like and what you wear is still more common with women candidates.”
North Carolina Politics
North Carolina as a Battleground State (see also Allan Louden)
North Carolina Primaries
Democratic/Republican National Conventions (see also David Coates)
Affordable Care Act
Dinan closely follows U.S. and North Carolina political races and can comment on North Carolina’s status as a battleground state in the presidential election, the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and gubernatorial and congressional races. He is also prepared to comment on federal and state policies in areas ranging from the Affordable Care Act to legislative redistricting to voter-registration rules. He teaches courses on campaigns and elections, state politics and congress and policymaking. Dinan frequently provides commentary for the Associated Press, the Economist, the Charlotte Observer and other news outlets across the country. He is the author of The American State Constitutional Tradition and an annual review of state constitutional developments in the 50 states, as well as numerous articles on state and federal politics.
North Carolina as a battleground state? “It was unclear after the 2012 election whether presidential candidates would continue to target North Carolina as a battleground state or whether things would return to where they stood prior to 2008 when North Carolina did not attract much attention. But with the almost-certain selection of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, North Carolina could once again be positioned as one of the 10-12 battleground states – not in the top tier of states such as Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and Virginia, but in the next tier. Democratic strategists are likely to view the state as a potential target of opportunity in 2016, given the unpredictability of Trump as a candidate and the uncertainty about his electoral strength.”
Will NC candidates’ ride Trump’s coattails or go their own way? “Candidates for state and congressional office always have to make calculations about how much they want to associate themselves with their party’s presidential nominee or how much independence to maintain. For a number of decades, this was a particular challenge for North Carolina Democratic candidates. But this year the challenge is likely to be faced to a greater degree by NC Republican candidates, whether for governor or congress or the state legislature. Some candidates will choose to campaign alongside of and align themselves with the nominee. A number of other candidates will finesse this relationship in some way or another – offering an endorsement but without necessarily campaigning with or appearing on stage with the nominee. A few candidates may go so far as to emphasize their independence from the nominee.”
Latino/Latina Political Behavior
Immigration Policy (see also Alessandra Von Burg)
Wilkinson can offer insights and commentary on Latino voters for the 2016 elections. She is an expert on Latino/Latina political behavior in the U.S., studies Latinos in U.S. politics, national and local immigration policy, and racial attitudes among Latinos and other ethnic groups. She can discuss the demographics and election-related priorities of Latinos. Wilkinson authored a chapter “North Carolina Latinos: And Emerging Influential Electorate in the South” in the 2015 book The Pivotal Role of the Latino Electorate in the 2012 Election. She is also the author of the 2015 book, Partners or Rivals? Power and Latino, Black and White Relations in the 21st Century. Wilkinson has also written about whites’ perceptions of Latinos. For the class she teaches on Latino political behavior, her students do service-learning work with community organizations and local schools.
What do Latino voters care about? “On a national level and in North Carolina, the top two issues for Latinos are immigration and jobs. Immigration issues trump positions on social issues based on religion for Latino voters. So, even though abortion and gay marriage are important issues for many Latinos, they are not the driving force at the polls. They really care about jobs and immigration.”
Which political party will Latino/Latinas support? “In the last few elections, more emphasis has been placed on the Latino vote since Latinos are turning out in record numbers and their allegiance to one political party is not as fixed as that of African Americans. Nationally, in the 2012 presidential election, 75 percent of Latinos voted for Obama, while 25 percent voted for Romney. Factors that influence Latinos’ increased political participation include the growing citizen adult population (among Latino immigrants), the mobilization of Latino voters and the anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation presented by several Republican leaders.”
What impact will Latino voters have in North Carolina? “Because North Carolina is a battleground state (Obama won by only 1 percent in 2012), the Latino vote is growing in importance even though North Carolina does not have a large Latino electorate – slightly less than 2 percent in 2012. With an increasing number of Latino citizens reaching voting age, Latino voters could play a pivotal role in North Carolina. Other states to watch: Arizona and Texas.”
Leonard, an expert on contemporary American religious life, says religion issues will be important in election 2016, but candidates face some challenges. “The ‘Trump phenomenon’ has impacted efforts by many religion-oriented candidates to get the attention of the Republican base in any focused way,” Leonard says. He can comment on the role evangelical voters will play in the election. “Overall, the evangelical vote is still important to the Republican base, but the politicians are confronted with a society in which one in five adults, and one in three millennials is a ‘none’ without religious affiliation or connection. That reality will impact this next election cycle dramatically where religion and voting blocs are concerned.”Widely known for his work in American, Southern and Baptist religious studies, Leonard is the author or editor of 24 books. He has provided commentary for major news outlets including the Associated Press, NBC News, the Religion News Service and Salon.com.
Smith has written in the areas of executive politics and political communication. She has co-authored The White House Speaks: Presidential Leadership as Persuasion and The President and the Public: Rhetoric and National Leadership. Her book chapters and publications focus on presidential topics including: transitions, pardons, debates and First Ladies. She teaches courses on Political Communication and the American Presidency and will teach Media and Politics in the spring of 2016. Smith researches presidents and what they do after they leave the White House. She has studied post-presidential activities and can discuss what has been publicly acceptable and publicly criticized in the past.
What will Obama do when he leaves office? “When President Obama leaves office, I don’t see him disappearing from the public scene and taking up painting. He’s a community activist by nature, so he’ll have to be very careful in the organizations he chooses to support.”
What if President Bill Clinton becomes first spouse? “A great deal of finesse will be required. The ex-President is widely known and carries a high public approval rating so would need to take great care in not differing with the President on public policies. Betty Ford differed publicly with President Ford on the passage of the Equal Right Amendment but this would not be acceptable with an ex-president as spouse. When sent as a representative of the President, the ex-President would have an advantage in being already well known but especially in more patriarchal societies would need to stress the secondary and spokesperson role being filled.”
Coates can comment on the Democratic presidential candidates (Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders) and the Democratic Party platform for the election. He is the author of the 2014 book, America in the Shadow of Empires, which calls for a renewed national conversation about the nature of U.S. foreign policy and its domestic consequences. As in those imperial and global powers before ours, he says, the pursuit of foreign dominance ultimately erodes the strength of the domestic economy. Coates is the author of numerous books, articles and blog posts on politics, history and economics. His books include Answering Back: Liberal Responses to Conservative Arguments and Making the Progressive Case: Towards a Stronger U.S. Economy. His political and historical expertise encompasses the American economy, foreign policy, trade agreements, military spending and deployment, healthcare, education, the emerging presidential candidates, and relationships with our allies, particularly the U.K. More about Coates and a complete list of recent blogs and publications can be found at www.davidcoates.net.
Llewellyn focuses on political speeches and rhetoric. He is a scholar of rhetoric whose work includes analyzing persuasive language from the nation’s most prominent politicians, coaches and civil rights leaders. A former speechwriter and public information officer, Llewellyn also specializes in crisis communication, having studied the intersection of politics and public relations for nearly 30 years. He can also comment on political scandals and public apologies.
From presidential debates to political advertising, Louden has provided expert commentary and analysis for USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, Newsweek and a wide range of other media outlets. He analyzes political debates and wrote presidential debate commentaries for the Charlotte Observer during the 2012 election. He follows political advertising and candidates’ debates in presidential, Senate, gubernatorial and high profile House races. Is North Carolina truly a battleground state? Louden says, “This idea of a purple state is wishful thinking.” Under Louden’s leadership, Wake Forest University’s debate team won the national debate tournament. He frequently comments on political advertising strategies and how social media, including viral videos, impact races.
Fire the Fed? Not so fast. This election season candidates have suggested everything from auditing the Fed to returning to the gold standard to abolishing the Federal Reserve altogether. Monetary expert and professor of economics Sandeep Mazumder says these comments are baseless appeals for votes to an electorate still recovering from the recent recession. “These suggestions spell disaster,” Mazumder says. “Returning to the gold standard, even if it were possible, severely limits a country’s ability to fight a recession. As for abolishing the Federal Reserve, a political leader with the ability to affect monetary policy can artificially ‘improve’ an economy long enough to be voted back into office, causing instability when policies are changed again after the election. Politicians should focus on government spending and budgeting and be kept far away from decisions that correctly fall under the Fed Chair’s jurisdiction.”
Curtis is one of the nation’s foremost experts on changes in voter ID laws and gerrymandering. Some form of voter-ID law is in effect in 32 states. Curtis can comment on these laws, particularly the North Carolina laws and the legal challenges to them. He is also closely following redistricting in North Carolina. In an interview with The New Yorker, Curtis said, “At some point, I think there’s a danger that you could reach a tipping point where things are so anti-democratic that, while you have the form of a democratic government, you no longer have the substance. It’s become sort of an oligarchy.” Curtis’ amicus curiae or friend of the court brief in the case of Dickson v. Rucho, No. 14-829, argues that North Carolina’s redistricting maps are unconstitutional and racially discriminatory. Curtis, one of the country’s foremost constitutional historians, is the author of the award-wining book Free Speech: The People’s Darling Privilege: Struggles for Freedom of Expression in American History. Professor Akhil Amar of Yale Law School described his book, No State Shall Abridge: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights, as “one of the most important and most impressive works of constitutional scholarship of the late twentieth century.” He has also received the Frank Porter Graham Award from the North Carolina Civil Liberties Union for achievement in defending and advancing civil liberties in North Carolina.
How will changes in the environment and natural resources affect the economy? Economists and policy makers have a spotty track record and should back off their pretensions of certainty. Wake Forest economics professor Robert Whaples says when it comes to predicting future costs associated with changes in the environment and natural resources, economic models are “built on quicksand.” Whaples, who is co-editor and managing editor for The Independent Review says, “The economic projections are shaky” not because of whether or not the science is correct but “because estimates cannot account for future unknown factors.” He says the historical record shows the unreliability of connecting an environmental change with an economic outcome. “Many pundits said $100 a barrel oil was here to stay, but globalized, integrated markets and new technologies blindsided these experts. These same forces make it nearly impossible to put a number – or even a ballpark range – to how much rising seas or climate change will cost our country.”
Alessandra Von Burg’s recent research focuses on the mobility and freedom of movement related to the European refugee crisis. She can discuss the issue of immigration related to both political parties in the U.S.
Why it’s an election issue: Von Burg says, “The recent events in Europe have demonstrated the ideological divide between Republicans and Democrats. Immigration is an issue that both party candidates must address because the call for legislative reform is urgent. Immigrants, be they descendants, naturalized citizens, or undocumented, as well as their allies, have been loudly asking for reform and are using the elections to demand permanent legislative changes. For Democrats, their messages are based on inclusion and acceptance of all newcomers, even if with restrictions. This is not just ideological: Democrats need voters from immigrant and minority communities, who tend to feel the Democrats address some, but not all, of their demands. For Republicans, their message remains about border security and stopping all threats, from terrorism but also from what they present as competition for labor and resources. The message has worked for candidates (such as Trump) who pride themselves for pushing back against demands from immigrants. Candidates (such as Bush and Rubio) who present themselves as open to reform have to walk a fine line not to come across as too lenient on immigration.”
John Senior, a Christian ethicist and expert on Christian participation in public and political life, is concerned about the tenor and meaning of public discourse. “The 2016 election isn’t just about who will occupy the Oval Office,” Senior says. He can comment on how election cycles powerfully condition the way ordinary Americans think and talk about matters of public concern – and ultimately how Americans understand themselves and their common life together. “Americans have so far in this election cycle learned a lot about what they should fear – but are there other, more generative conversations that we should aspire to have in public space?”
Senior is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Ethics and Society at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity. He is also the author of A Theology of Political Vocation: Christian Life and Public Office, published this year with Baylor University Press. He teaches courses in Christian ethics, focusing on political and economic life.
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