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Symposia Recap: Politics and Policy Making

November 7, 2014 08:00 AM

By Belinda Archibong, Columbia University

Some extremely interesting and pertinent topics regarding racial demographics and the two political parties were discussed in the symposium on Politics and Policy Making in the United States. The panel consisted of moderator Ron Haskins from the Brookings Institution, Douglas McAdam from Stanford University, Gabriel Sanchez from the University of New Mexico, and Michele Swers from Georgetown University.

Douglas McAdam began with a discussion on ‘Race, Region and Origins of Today’s Political Divisions.’ In it, he discussed the roots of the current political ‘dysfunction,’ addressing the racial geography of American politics and the very interesting tale of the switch that happened regarding racial politics between the Democrats and the Republicans in the United States during the 1960s. Essentially, the GOP and the Democrats appear to have switched political stances, particularly regarding the civil rights acts during the mid ‘60s, with the Democratic party taking on its current incarnation as the party of African Americans in the United States.

Michele Swers discussed the role of women in the polarization of U.S. politics. She made the observation that women come into government when Congress is polarized, which affects the types of women that come into politics--and affects the policies they focus on. She also addressed the fact that there appeared to be more Democratic than Republican women elected to office in the United States, which might have something to do with the fact that the issues these women often support, such as pro-choice and contraceptive rights, are also viewed as Democratic issues. This makes it difficult for Republican women to run on similar platforms.

Gabriel Sanchez ended with a discussion on the changing face of the American electorate. He introduced some very surprising demographics regarding the shift in the American electorate from white, non Hispanic to non-white, primarily Hispanic populations. He also addressed the role of the Obama administration’s lagging immigration policy and how it has decreased support for Democrats in the recent elections--leading to the electoral wins that were recently witnessed by the Republicans in Congress. He described the racially polarized voting trends of the last few years and the growing role of the Latino electorate in driving policy trends in American politics.

Three very interesting presentations, followed by a lively back and forth with the audience, made for a very substantial session on the politics of policy making in the United States. The most striking statements were that of Sanchez, who said that with some work and movement by the Republicans to the more center of the political scale, they could move much of the growing Hispanic population into the party.

View the symposia's slideshow.


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