Concordia Profs Weigh In On US Election Results

Professors and students gathered at Concordia to discuss the results of the 2012 American presidential elections. Photo Geoffrey Vendeville

Three professors from Concordia’s political science department and a history professor convened on Thursday to analyze the 2012 American Presidential election.

The election returned Barack Obama to the White House and renewed the Republicans’ and Democrats’ respective majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The panelists–professors Graham Dodds, Michael Lipson, Harold Chorney and Graham Carr–addressed a rapt audience of nearly two-dozen people, mostly students.

“True to form, Canada didn’t loom large in the American debate around the election, with few exceptions,” said Professor Carr, who focused on the election’s repercussions for Canadians.

Apart from the occasional reference to the controversial Keystone Pipeline, and an unsuccessful ballot initiative in Michigan to halt construction on a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Canada was almost completely overlooked in the discourse surrounding the U.S. election.

“When American politicians talk about trade and foreign policy, Canada might as well not exist; it’s simply a given that Canada is there,” Carr added. “This lack of attention could be construed as a good thing.”

Given the United States’ recent record of economic uncertainty and political turmoil, Canada should rely less on trade with the U.S. and pay more attention to the rapidly growing economies of China, India, and Brazil, he argued.

“I think there’s vulnerability in over-dependence on the American economy, which has so many points of weakness embedded within it,” said Carr.

As the U.S. moves closer to the edge of the “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in January barring a compromise between the major parties, the country risks being mired in another recession, Dr. Chorney explained.

“They’re inflamed by the Tea Party, or Tea Baggers, as I call them–young people know what I mean.”
—Harold Chorney

“The American economy is $15 trillion. If you take out $1.3 trillion in cuts such as is contained in the fiscal cliff, it will slow the economy and probably tip it into recession again, if they don’t work out a compromise,” he said. “This is a very serious potential problem.”

Chorney warned that trying to accommodate the Tea Party, the Republicans in Congress may not find it easy to hash out an agreement with the Democrats to avoid the fiscal cliff.

“They’re inflamed by the Tea Party, or Tea Baggers, as I call them–young people know what I mean,” he said.

Professor Graham Dodds, who examined the election’s impact on domestic politics, argued that Mitt Romney’s defeat has forced an identity crisis on the Republican Party.

“People are allowed to think differently than the groups they belong to; but usually they don’t. On the Republican side, they just have to find a way to appeal more to women, to non-whites and people outside the South, the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain west,” he said, adding that 88 per cent of people who voted for Romney were white.

“Despite throwing billions of dollars at this, they came out on the losing end,” said Dodds in an interview with The Link. “Demographically, they’re facing a tough challenge as America becomes more diverse and the people they appeal to becomes a smaller part of the electorate.”

In the wake of the election, the Republican Party will have to decide whether it should adopt a more moderate or more radical strategy to attract voters, Dodds pointed out.

In his opinion, moving to the centre would probably be the better option for Republicans.

In terms of foreign policy, Professor Lipson expects Obama to follow the same “cautious and pragmatic” approach in his second term as he did in his first four years.

To the extent that foreign policy mattered in this election, Lipson said it was generally a plus for Obama, who can take credit for the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, withdrawing from Iraq and phasing out the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

On the other hand, “Romney-Ryan as a ticket had essentially zero foreign policy experience,” said Lipson.