When journalists surfaced at a major political science gathering in Chicago, a few things were abundantly clear, including the pointy heads’ desire for more media attention and respect.
There was, too, the matter of how the Democrats are in a very bad way.
Several thousand attended the weekend confab of the Midwest Political Science Association, with political scientists from around the globe and hundreds of papers and early research findings delivered.
It’s an eclectic academic feast (and, occasionally, famine). The many hundreds of presentations included “Cicero and the Origins of the Liberal Commonwealth,” “What Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Identity Teaches Us about Political Identity and Vice-Versa,” “Can Congress Be Productive?” and “How Political Professionals Perceive the Youth Vote.”
Some sessions are pretty deep in the weeds, with modest audiences and many young academics presenting initial findings and getting diplomatically phrased critiques from established academics who serve as “discussants” once the young aspirants are done (such as the Texas academic who’s studying every presidential press conference question asked from Ronald Reagan onward).
But there was also the easy to understand, such as “The Media and the 2016 Election: A View from the Campaign Trail.”
A session chaired by Jennifer Lawless of American University and Danny Hayes of George Washington University included a panel with journalists Molly Ball (The Atlantic), Steve Peoples (The Associated Press) and Nia-Malika Henderson (CNN).
“I think the Democrats are kind of screwed at this point,” said Henderson, underscoring what’s clearly the current consensus. “They thought Hillary Clinton would win and their bench is really, really thin.”
Ball was especially interesting in part since she’s among a younger generation of journalists that, as Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan would note to me at another session, takes academic research seriously. That’s as opposed to many more senior counterparts who’d often scoff at academics as removed from the nitty-gritty reality the journalists prided themselves on covering.
“It will be fun to cover the Democratic civil war for a change,” she said. “It’s hard to underestimate how screwed the Democrats are.”
There are the Republicans’ giant congressional majorities, holding the The White House, ruling most state legislatures and having a majority of governors. “There’s no pipeline” of obvious Democratic talent.
But it was smart for her to note, especially sitting in Chicago, that, at this same time before the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama was a little-known state senator. “It only takes one person.”
Peoples was vivid on both how wrong the press was last year but also how so many others were, too. “If you wanted a playbook on how to lose an election, Trump executed that to perfection.” Internal Republican polling and Reince Priebus thought Trump would lose, he noted.
“We have to question every assumption we had,” he said. “I think as a journalist I walk away asking myself some tough questions. But it is unclear how we do it better next time.” If you can’t trust polling, what do you do, he wondered.
The demacrats have been screwed up for years and she is just finding that out?
Looks like the Dems “thin bench” is only thin IF they keep looking at only pols.
So, who will they put forward?
How about billionaires, pop stars, movie stars, TV stars?