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Famous Commentators Discuss Midterm Elections At RC

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The Center for Religion and Society and the Henry H. Fowler Program hosted “The Next America: The Meaning of the 2010 Elections” on Tuesday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in Bast.  The speakers were Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard for a Republican interpretation and Paul Glastris of the Washington Monthly for a Democratic interpretation.  The event was a post-game analysis of the elections and how both parties should read the results.  

 “Listen to the American people.  It’s a pretty good way to maintain power,” Continetti said as the advice both parties should take way from the elections results. 

 The format of the event was that both speakers would talk for about 30 minutes, then there would be time for rebuttles, and finally there would be a question and answer session from the audience.  Glastris went first by talking about how the Democrats took some risks, such as the healthcare bill and financial reform that would not be popular with the American people right away. As a result they lost the election. 

He argued that President Obama had two different wars, using the common phrase Obama used in his campaign about Iraq and Afghanistan.  The first war was one of necessity with the economy and the stimulus. The second was a war of choice with healthcare reform.  Glastris also raised the point that the rise of the Tea Party movement was not just anger towards the Obama administration, but it had built up over the course of the Bush administration for ignoring the small government needs of conservatives. In that sense, both parties were targeted by the movement.  At the end of his speech, Glastris mentioned how Obama must start to compromise with the Republican Party to get reforms passed.

“The challenge for Obama is to step out of LBJ mode and into Clinton mode,” Glastris said, using the analogy to emphasize how Obama must change course in his legislative strategy.

For the most part, Glastris and Continetti agreed on numerous points.  Continetti’s speech primarily focused on how Washington, D.C. should listen to the American people.  He gave examples of how both Bush and Obama ignored public outcries against their programs that cost them elections. With Bush, it was the privatization of social security, immigration reform, and the Iraq war’s ugly turn before 2006.  For Obama, it was healthcare reform, financial reform, and the mortgage plan that was passed at the beginning of 2009.  Both believed they had mandates from the American people that both parties misread. 

There was a bit of a back and forth between both speakers about the interpretation of the Democrats going for healthcare reform after Scott Brown won in Massachusetts in 2009.  Continetti contended Democrats had no choice but to pass healthcare according to their strategists.  Glastris agreed, he but also mentioned how the Democrats would have been in a catch-22 if they did not pass the bill.

The lecture was attended by students, faculty, and members of the Roanoke College Elder Scholars program.  Reaction to the lecture varied from topic to topic. Some students were disappointed in how the speakers did not talk about the actual election itself. 

“They didn’t really focus on the elections as much as I thought they would,” said Dan Zimmerman ’14.

The lecture concluded around 9:00 p.m.  The speakers were introduced by Heath Brown of the Public Affairs Department at RC and Dean Richard Smith.

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