November 2, 2020
EC Experts Talk Policy and the Pandemic Ahead of 2020 Presidential Election

The Emmanuel College Office of Development and Alumni Relations hosted a virtual roundtable discussion on October 28th featuring four faculty members from the Department of Political Science & International Studies who analyzed issues affecting the upcoming presidential election.

Professors of Political Science Lenore Martin, Ph.D., and Marie Natoli, Ph.D., along with Associate Professors of Political Science Adam Silver, Ph.D., and Petros Vamvakas, Ph.D. joined forces in an hour-long dialogue focusing on some of the topics that political scientists are paying close attention to leading up to Election Day on November 3 rd.

More than 100 people took part in the virtual discussion forum, which was open to the Emmanuel College community through pre-registration.  Registrants were able to submit questions to the panel prior to the event, while attendees were also able to submit queries to the panel through the chat feature.

Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Ellen Still G’11 served as the event’s moderator and kicked off the night by saying, “We know the political climate in the U.S. is very tense, and our goal tonight is not to add to this tension, but to contribute expert opinions with relevant information from the Emmanuel experts.”

All four panelists took turns speaking, starting the discussion by answering a pre-submitted question asking, “What characteristics do voters want in a presidential candidate?”

“Trust is important,” said Dr. Natoli. “Only 17 percent of Americans currently trust the government.”

Dr. Silver noted that, “We [the American people] are conflicted at home about how we assess individuals and are a little inconsistent in what we look for. I think many want someone that is approachable, but has exemplary characteristics. Someone with principals and goals that sticks to a plan.”

Dr. Vamvakas added, “Accountability, or simply, officially delivering on things that people want.”

Dr. Martin closed out the question saying, “Someone with compassion and who is thoughtful. A deliberative person, who takes the issues seriously, has respect for other leaders, respect for other people and respect for the issues and the seriousness of those issues.”

The panel agreed the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, climate change and health care are among the most important issues during this year’s election cycle, prompting the question, “Why do you think issues such as COVID-19 and climate change have become political and not something we work collectively against?”

“Climate change speaks to the failure of both political parties to address some fundamental issues,” said Dr. Silver. “It’s a conflict of issues, and the thinking that ‘whatever my political leader says, I will probably follow,’ is dangerous. The idea of political tribalism is all too prevalent.”

The experts were asked about foreign policy and how unexpected events and issues impact the course of an election.

“Regarding foreign policy, we need to strengthen our relationship with NATO,” said Dr. Martin. “It’s about being able to work with our allies, and for that to happen, showing mutual respect is key.”

“Unexpected events during election years are always going to be politicized,” said Dr. Vamvakas. “Though important, they sometimes take away from bigger issues that campaigns had planned to focus on and strategize around.”

Dr. Natoli agreed that, “George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement were critical [this year]. Both campaigns had to develop some sort of response to these topics, and that response is critical to public opinion on how it is handled.”

Over the hour, additional topics that were covered included how the United States should handle its approach going forward with China, poverty rates across America and their impact on politics, and if there are any concerns about a potential transfer of power following the election.

Watch the full discussion below.

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