Panelists and audience members discussed the 2012 Republican primary season and the state of American politics at the final Speak Up, Speak Out event of the year Tuesday night.
Topics ranging from campaign finance to media coverage of the primaries to education were debated among the panelists and the audience.
The panel consisted of College Republicans President Nathan Inks, College Democrats Vice President of Communications Alex Middlewood, Political Science Professor J. Cherie Strachan and Central Michigan Life Staff Reporter Theresa Clift. The event was facilitated by Communications Professor Jeff Drury.
The discussion began with a roughly 20-minute video that highlighted the various issues in the national spotlight this election cycle, including the polarization of American politics.
Inks said the perceived rightward lurch made by the Republican Party during the primary season is simply primary season politics, and once the general election comes around, the party will move back to the center.
“The way that the American political system is set up, especially with primaries and caucuses, you see the party core come out and see who they want to win,” Inks said. “Normally, you don’t see independents come out to primaries.”
“We have two parties where the bases of the parties are more ideologically distinct than at any time since the 1930s,” Strachan said. “You’re seeing the Republican candidates right now seeking to attract a conservative base.”
A theme of polarization and its negative effects on American politics kept coming up throughout the night. Whether discussing the role of government in education or debating contraception, the panelists seemed to keep pointing back to increasing polarization on both sides and politicians pandering to the growing extremes as the driving force behind the country’s issues and the country’s collective discussions of them. Inks saw it as detrimental to voter turnout.
“We have to get over the immense partisanship to get more people to vote in primaries,” Inks said.
Middlewood said increasing partisanship on the right has distracted voters from what she said is the core issue in 2012; the economy and its recovery.
“We all want the same thing,” Middlewood said. “We just want to get there in different ways.”
Drury said Tuesday’s event was a precursor to bi-weekly events Speak Up, Speak Out will hold in the fall semester.