Drake politics professor brings science to passionate subject

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Drake University Political Science Professor Dennis Goldford of the Humanities Iowa Speakers Bureau delivered a lecture, "The Election of 2020: Looking Backward, Looking Forward," Thursday, Nov. 14 at the Perry Public Library.


About 30 people attended Dr. Dennis Goldford’s lecture at the Perry Public Library Thursday evening. It was a non-partisan event, but it seemed as if most of the audience were Democrats. Either that or they were decidedly subdued Republicans.

For the most part, no one had any particular ax to grind, least of all the speaker. The lecture was more of a history lesson about American politics from Lincoln onward to and including the election of 2016. Some mention of the upcoming general election was made, but the speaker didn’t spend much time talking about it and certainly didn’t go out on a limb making predictions.

Goldford, a professor of political science at Drake University, started by observing that the polarities of the two major parties have certainly reversed since the 1860s. He reminded us the GOP held the White House most of the time from Lincoln to Herbert Hoover, and the Democrats had a lock on the presidency from 1932 until 1968 except for the two terms of the Eisenhower administration.

The score is now 20 to 28 in favor of the Republicans since Nixon. Of course, only the very ignorant don’t know how vastly the electorate has preferred Republican presidents since the time of the Civil War. Frankly, all that wasn’t new information for most of us.

Even so, Goldford didn’t make much mention of the great population shift from rural to urban areas. No allusion was made to the impact of women’s suffrage either. In all fairness, perhaps he thought there wasn’t enough time for all that.

Goldford spoke at great length and displayed graphs showing how the demographics of the nation have changed and how those changes influenced the preferences of the electorate over several generations. From before the age of the Baby Boomers to just beyond the age of the Millenials, he went on at length about the various social subgroups’ political and presidential preferences.

Yes, we already knew that most educated females are Democrats. Yes, we knew most ethnic minorities are Democrats. Yes, we already knew the evangelicals are mostly Republicans, and they punch quite a bit above their weight. Yes, we were quite aware already that most white males without college vote Republican.

Concerning the election of 2016, most of us already knew Trump won because fewer than 80,000 disenfranchised white men in three Rust Belt states voted for him out of angst and revenge. We already knew quite well that most of the older and under-educated white men are scared to death of the demographic changes and changing social norms and mores.  Yes, we knew most of those age 60 and older as well as the evangelicals fill many of those red MAGA hats.

Frankly, the good doctor didn’t say much more than what we already knew.

Another thing we already knew is the GOP is terrified about the older generation dying off because most younger people want nothing to do with the Republican Party. Goldford said a significant part of the GOP elites are not happy with Trump and with what he’s doing, but those same Republicans are at a loss as to what to do about it.

I noticed the grimace on Goldford’s face when he spoke of the great and grand wisdom of the DNC when it selected the most despised and reviled woman in modern politics as its 2016 candidate for president, Hillary Clinton. He didn’t say so in so many words, but his thinking is evidently the same as mine.

Hillary Clinton lost for one very important reason: she was Hillary Clinton. The professor also described how the efforts of the Democratic Party to reach out to older, under-educated white men have been nil to abysmal. I made a point of reminding him there was one Democratic candidate this millennium who made an honest effort to reach out to working white men: Howard Dean.

Goldford didn’t have anything good to say about the man. He made reference to the scream on caucus night and said he thought Dean made several other gaffs during that campaign season. Having been an unapologetic Deaniac in the day, I took exception to his attitude and remarks about the governor, but I chose not to argue or make a scene about it.

After the lecture, I did make a point of telling him politely but in no uncertain terms that most of us Deaniacs liked him because he was a hell-raising, we-ain’t-gonna-take-it-anymore, fist-pounding screamer. Perhaps it’s not appropriate here to say just why and how, but most Deaniacs will tell you someone likely exerted some manner of nuclear option to pull the plug on Dean the last week before the caucus. His campaign was shot down by someone long before the infamous scream.

While the Democrats seem not to want to craft their message to anyone not already part of their core, Goldford said Trump seems to be doing the same thing but in spades. Trump is doubling and tripling down on the core supporters he already has. This is another reason why many more moderate Republicans are displeased with Trump.

There was pretty much a consensus between the speaker and ourselves on just how badly social media has effectively poured gasoline on the fire of American political polarization. Most people, most of the time do not get out of their little bubble. Most of one’s online friends are like minded. Most people listen to few other voices in the media or online who are not in agreement with themselves.

Accordingly, ignorance, lack of understanding and paranoia run rampant. People at either extreme side of the political spectrum willingly believe just about any malarkey they hear, never fact checking.

Goldford decried the animosity between many Americans these days. He spoke of the instance when a supporter of John McCain spoke disparagingly of Obama during a televised Q-and-A session. She spoke very derisively of Obama, dehumanizing him and referring to him as an enemy. McCain gently chided her, telling her Obama was an honorable man who was his opponent but not his enemy. Goldford’s account of this played well to most of us at the event.

Sad to say, there wasn’t that much time spent speaking about the present impeachment as well as the social issues and different candidate’s talking points in the lead up to next year’s Iowa Caucuses and general election. There was a brief discussion about the Iowa Caucuses, whether they were good for the nation or not. I wish we could have spoken more of that, too.

I want to thank the Perry Public Library and the Iowa Humanities for having the event. I’d also like to thank Dr. Goldford for his time, travel and trouble as well. Still, I’m of the opinion most of the attendees were already quite familiar with the history and statistics he presented. No offense to Goldford, but I think the time could have been better spent if he had broken down the first 30 minutes of the lecture into a concise, 10-minute synopsis. Honestly, I was expecting more.

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