Three days after Election Day, a teach-in was held in Anderson Hall to discuss the events following the results of the re-election of President Barack Obama.
Robin Kolodny, an associate professor of political science at the College of Liberal Arts, led the forum and was amazed by the turnout. Kolodny has appeared in numerous media reports during the election season for her expertise.
“In terms of polarization, maybe we’re the 30/30/40 nation,” Kolodny began, directing attention to a graphic that demonstrated the way voters voted on Nov. 6. “Which means about 30 percent of the electorate chose Obama, about 30 percent either chose Romney or other candidates all together, and about 40 percent didn’t choose anyone.”
Though both candidates were extremely close in the popular vote, the president powered to a strong victory, winning key battleground states including Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia. Gov. Mitt Romney had closed the gap in recent weeks in Pennsylvania, but was unable to pull out a victory in the state.
Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate, but Kolodny said it was impressive that they increased their numbers. They had 53 seats going into the election, but their caucusing members now stand at 55.
“Let me tell you if you asked me a year ago if the Democrats were going to hold on to the Senate I would have said probably not.” Kolodny said. “This is really an interesting and puzzling outcome because the House changed not at all, hardly.”
Kolodny added that she expects major changes in the president’s cabinet, a standard way that presidential administrations tend to develop.
“People don’t want to leave before the election because that looks like they don’t support the president,” she said. “But being a cabinet member is tough stuff, it is very draining, it is not well compensated, but there comes a time when either they have some differences with the president or they are just extremely drained.”
With Hillary Clinton’s departure, Obama’s second term could be filled with people who are not really well-known to voters.
A shorter honeymoon period should also be expected, Kolodny said, which are the first two to four months after the president has been inaugurated.
“Congress is more likely to give him what he wants or at least give him some leeway.” Kolodny said.
Even though Obama had a very decisive Electoral College victory, he did it with fewer states than in 2008.
Kolodny added that while the Electoral College is problematic, the reason for not getting rid of it is that it preserves states as a political unit.
Students in attendance said they felt the teach-in was useful in that it turned attentions away from cable news to political science experts.
“I believe the teach-in was important to hear the views of an actual political scientist on the elections,” Gabriel Stangl-Riehle, a political science and history double major, said.
Dominique Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.