Since the 2016 presedential election, politics have arguably changed forever. In an effort to understand these changes, Hofstra alumnus and Rep. Tom MacArthur, former Vermont State Gov. Howard Dean and political strategist Edward Rollins joined together to discuss how the White House works in the panel “How Is Washington Working in 2018?” in the Guthart Cultural Center Theater on April 20th.
Rollins and Dean are both senior presidential fellows for the Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency. The combined knowledge of the three panelists – as well as moderator and political science Professor Meena Bose – generated an important discussion about the direction of politics. “There are a lot of concerns about the direction of American politics and the future for students,” Bose said. “To hear about them from someone who is a policy maker and a Hofstra alum with our senior presidential fellows I think is a special experience.”
The panel focused largely on the importance of cross-party communication and how politics are inevitably changing within the next and future generations. MacArthur emphasized the importance of forming relationships with others outside of your political party as well as those who hold different beliefs than yourself. “If you want to know how Washington works, you have to understand people – just like a college campus.”
Rollins agreed, stressing the point that politicians in general “need to talk to each other, not at each other.” All three panelists made the point that the next generation was going to more accurately reflect what Americans want and stand for, and as new people move into congress, there will be a more positive and integrated political culture.
“Everybody’s coming from different perspectives, so it’s tough,” said senior political science major Aleena Pasha. “I think everyone needs to be more open-minded; if we’re all working towards a common goal, people are more likely to be open-minded.”
Dean, who has experience as a presidential candidate in the 2004 election, recognized that this lack of connection between groups was one of the major problems. He said this generation “listens to one another and work[s] with one another.” He also mentioned that he felt that “the institution has always been behind where the American people [are], and that the Internet makes this even more so.”
There was also discussion surrounding the role of social media in politics. MacArthur said that politicians have the responsibility to use social media and tools alike constructively. “I don’t think you can do anything except listen to people and tell them what you really think about issues.”
This kind of honesty and responsibility is somewhat absent in politics today. Both Pasha and Alex Hayes, a senior public policy and public service major, agreed that most citizens use sites like Facebook to talk only to one another and it creates an “echo chamber” that gets little accomplished.
For this reason, politics can be negatively affected by social media. “There are so many holes [in information],” said Conor Rowland, a sophomore journalism major. “It damages a person’s credibility and it discourages their movement.”
While the political climate is changing along with new advances in technology and separations of power, today’s policy-makers are confident in the abilities of the next generations and the changes that will occur in politics in the future. Dean emphasized, “the way we solve this partisanship is when your generation goes into Congress.”