LectureHop: The Post-Partisan World of Alan Brinkley
Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog correspondent Liz Naiden attended last night’s panel on the possibility of a “post-partisan world.”
The truth comes out; Provost Alan Brinkley is so desperate to return to academic life that he has announced the �death of partisan politics,� in the middle of the great election cycle of 2008�or so we thought. Brinkley first published on his new theory in the Wall Street Journal in September, and most recently headlined the panel lecture entitled �A Post-Partisan World?� sponsored by the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy last night.
Robert Shapiro, the moderator and the most enthusiastic note-taker in the room, introduced the two faculty members who had volunteered to try to tear Brinkley�s idea apart�or so Bwog assumed�Robert Erikson, of the Political Science Department, and Esther Fuchs, of SIPA. As a few more stragglers spread out among many empty seats jammed into a small room in IAB, Bwog wondered how these opponents would challenge Brinkley other than by telling him to get out of Low every once in a while or turn on a television set.
Of course Brinkley did not make the ridiculous display we secretly hoped for; his theory is actually quite reasoned and doesn�t clash with the current political situation. Brinkley explained that in the phrase �post-partisan,� partisan doesn�t mean passionate, or indeed obsessed, it means party oriented and party loyal. Given this measured response to her challenges, Fuchs replied �If we are moving beyond party politics, someone should tell that to the media, and someone should certainly tell that to Barack Obama.�
Clearly the star of the night, Brinkley took this in stride and explained that people�s passion for Barack Obama often had little to do with his affiliation with the Democratic party. The panel agreed that parties had lost many of their pre-1960�s functions, and though such decline brings with it the end of the blatant corruption that characterized the early 20th century, the loss of partisanism might, says Brinkley, in some way be a �danger to our democracy.�
The panelists took questions with poise, often engaging in dialogue with one another about the topics posed by audience members. They even humored with short but polite answers an enthusiastic but combative young man who asked �don�t candidates need a major party to get elected?��a major point question posed and to some degree answered by both Fuchs and Erikson.
Close to the end of the lecture, however, a Hungarian young man commented that US presidential campaigns waste an outrageous amount of time and money and that our voting system is the most complicated in the world. He had barely begun to ask whether�in the light of the post-party theory, Bwog assumes�any of these things was likely to change soon, when Fuchs let out a guffaw and chuckled �No� no.� The other panelists smiled into their water glasses and Shapiro took the final question.