Professor answers questions regarding The US political race


Interview conducted by Jaime Ortega.


Michael Smith

Michael Smith Ph.D.

He is a professor of political science at Emporia State Univeristy.  Teaches local politics, campaigns and elections, political philosophy, legislative politics, and nonprofit management.

1) Today’s generation seems a lot less conservative than other past generations. It looks like liberal dogmas over the years have replaced several conservative values sacred to the pillar of true republicanism.  Has the Republican Party significantly weakened over these past 8 years? Are republicans today closer to the left than they are to the right?

The two parties are more polarized.  Conservative Democrats—who mostly came from the South—have been replaced by Republicans.  Liberal Republicans—who mostly came from the Northeast—have been replaced by Democrats.  It appears that the Millennials are generally pretty liberal, particularly on social issues.  Most notably, there has been an absolute sea change in support for LGBT rights since the 1990s.  Young people, in particular, are strongly in support.  The Republican Party is becoming the party of older, white people.  Most younger people self-identify as nonpartisan but those who vote are trending heavily Democratic.  Of course, voter turnout among the young remains low.

2) Homosexuals, minorities and immigrants loath the Republican Party viewing it as religiously intolerant comprised of elites that sponsor foreign wars to spread capitalism globally.  Many inside these groups would vote for Republicans if they were more accepting in terms of civil rights and immigration. Has the Republican Party done a good job trying to become more accepting to homosexuals, minorities and immigrants? If not, would it be a good idea that the Republican candidates win the hearts and minds of these groups without giving away conservative values? Is that even remotely possible?

The GOP is a mess right now.  Party insiders know that the Donald Trump candidacy is a disaster for the party, for many reasons, not the least of which is that he is alienating Latino and younger voters.  Ben Carson may not be much better.  However, the party base wants an outsider candidate and has no interest in the kind of party-building that the insiders seek.  The base also wants strong anti-illegal-immigration legislation.  Some GOP insiders want Marco Rubio to be the nominee and he may emerge as the “mainstream” alternative to Carson and Trump, but it isn’t clear if symbolism alone (Rubio is Cuban-American) would overcome the party’s negative image.

3) Traditionally Latinos are conservative. Why do they swing to Democrats?

The GOP base is strongly anti-illegal immigration and culturally, that can spill over easily into being anti-all-immigration and anti-Latino, despite party leaders’ continuing insistence that they are only against illegal, as opposed to legal immigration.  I don’t think the illegal/legal distinction plays well among Latino voters.  First of all, among the base, it can often play out as discrimination, not adherence to the law.  Second, many Latino families are mixed:  they include U.S. citizens, legal immigrants, and undocumented immigrants all in the same family, so the legal/illegal distinction just doesn’t wash with them.  Also for those who are working-class, the Democrats still remain the party of choice—there is still a strong socioeconomic dimension to voting, despite the heavy emphasis on social issues these days.

4) Considering Donald Trump’s past… Is Donald Trump a true Republican or an opportunist?

I’d say opportunist.  Trump’s agenda appears to be himself.  His political views are completely incoherent.  He advocates national health insurance—very expensive—but also wants voters to return their tax forms with the words “I win” handwritten across them.  Where would he get the revenue for his national health insurance?  He also wants to deport American citizens—those whose parents are immigrants but the children were born here.  This is wildly unconstitutional.  There’s just no coherent political agenda there to label.

5) Donald Trump thus far has had a large impact in the GOP primaries beating almost all of his fellow competitors. But despite his sudden rise, skeptics, analyst and politicians hold deep concerns worried about his candidacy.  Looking at his foreign and national policy, it is not clear how exactly he plans to implement most of his reforms. He said that “Mexico will pay for the wall he plans to construct in the border”. He also said “Putin would get along with him to solve the Syrian crisis.”  Is Donald Trump the man for the job in DC?  Would he really outsmart Mexico, China, and Putin?

Because of the incoherence of Trump’s agenda, it’s hard to predict how he’d perform as President.  Mathematically, it seems impossible for him to win the presidency because he would get so few Latino voters—and so many would turn out to vote against him.  If he did somehow become President, my best guess as that we should look at who he’d be likely to appoint to key policymaking and advising positions, such as his cabinet, because he would likely rubber-stamp a lot of their decisions since he seems to have little knowledge of or interest in policymaking himself.

6) Dr. Ben Carson has also done fairly well in the GOP, now leading key states like Iowa and Arkansas. Could he beat Donald Trump? Could he take on Hillary and win?

Carson’s policy views aren’t much more in-depth than those of Trump, though they are a bit more coherent.  African-American voters have shown little interest in supporting a candidate unless that candidate shares their views, not just their race.  In fact, if Carson begins lecturing African-Americans about conservative values there could even be a backlash, with more African-American voters turning out to oppose him.

Overall, the electoral map these days seems to favor Democrats for President and Republicans for Congress, so I’d give the Democratic nominee the edge.  However, it’s too soon to make specific predictions about a Carson-Clinton race.  Carson hasn’t “branded” anti-illegal immigration stands as part of his campaign, so he doesn’t have the automatic negatives that Trump does.  On the other hand, Carson is politically untested so a Hillary Clinton campaign, in particular, could really challenge Carson by putting him up against a political pro.

7) If Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump, will Trump focus on continuing his race but on independent grounds? What would be the consequences for the Republican Party if so?  

There is no way for the Republicans to win if Trump runs an independent candidacy and gets anything more than a few percent of the votes.  Mathematically, it just won’t work.  If Trump does make good on his threat, look for GOP insiders to make overtures to Trump privately and offer him something in exchange for his withdrawing from the race.

8) Before the primaries everyone thought Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were going to be the present frontrunners of the GOP. What has happened to the political class in the GOP and DC?  Why the sudden demise? Are people tire of politicians?

I think it’s the Tea Party movement.  It a movement against pluralism itself, not just a push for more conservative values.  The GOP base is ready to shut down the government instead of compromise.  Our system of government requires compromise to function.  GOP insiders know this but they don’t know how to handle their own base.  It cost Speaker Boehner his job.

9) They are concerns with new strands of liberalism creeping inside the Democratic Party coming from nonreligious groups.  Many young radical reformers view Capitol Hill as corrupted, and not only have started to adopt principles of anarchy, but also of communism, Marxism and minarchism into the system to end capitalism. Christianity is under fire more than ever before under the scientific based state influenced by these groups.  Are many new liberals not really democrats, but instead Neo-Liberal that adopt far- more radical leftist dogmas leeching moderate liberal progressives to establish a scientific state free of religion, military, capitalism and conservatism?

That’s quote a loaded question!  I don’t agree with the premise.  I assume you’re referring to the Bernie Sanders candidacy.  Sanders does self-identify as a socialist, but he also clarifies that socialism as he defines it is, essentially, to the left side of the modern-day Democratic Party.  What he advocates wouldn’t even be considered particularly controversial in Europe or Canada—not everyone would vote for him but he would fit into the mainstream there.

As far as faith issues, young people in general are turning away from churchgoing.  I think that churches have a similar “branding” problem to the Republican Party—older and intolerant.  Liberal and mainline churches are trying to fill the breech but it remains a struggle.  The whole idea of going to church—and also being active in secular, community-based organizations like the Optimists club, League of Women Voters, etc., just seems foreign to this generation.  Some charities have been more effective at getting the young involved, partly by extensive use of social media.

10) A lot of people, especially in social media believe that the high rise of ignorance and crime in the African-American community is the failed social experiment of liberals. They believe liberal activist support groups like “Black Lives Matter” that instigate violence victimizing race over crime, but ignore incidents of African Americans murdering other African-Americans, Caucasians and police enforcement. Is this view farfetched?  Are the struggles of the African American community the byproduct of the social experiments from the left?

Not quite sure how to handle this question—Black Lives Matter is a grassroots leadership movement that has up-ended the traditional African-American establishment with their organizing skills, which rely heavily on social media, particularly Twitter.  As far as the media publicizing crime, all one needs to do is watch the local television news in any city in America to see that instances of violent crime are frequently and heavily publicized, often featuring photos of alleged assailants.  All of the cases publicized by BLM involve the police killing unarmed assailants.

11) Does the liberal establishment control most of the Media compared to Conservatives? Would you name a few television networks they control?  

I don’t think there is any such thing as “the liberal establishment.”  I do think that much of the “mainstream” news media has a certain pro-establishment bias—for example, they don’t give equal time to opponents of trade deals like the bipartisan Trans Pacific Partnership: they publicize protests but not the actual views of the protestors.  The news media is, with just a few exceptions, for-profit in this country and their coverage is ultimately driven by what will sell airtime, website hits, newspapers, and so forth.  This often means favoring sensationalism over substance.

12) The Benghazi scandal temporarily hit Hillary’s campaign with ardor from the right, ravaged by republican interest groups trying to demonize her image to discourage her nomination, but despite all the negativity Hillary seems to have survived the storm. Should she be blamed for Benghazi? Why hasn’t the scandal hurt her campaign?

I honestly don’t know what the “scandal” regarding Benghazi is supposed to be.  The GOP’s attacks are so multifaceted that it isn’t clear to me an observer what it is, exactly, that Hillary supposedly did wrong.  It seems to have something to do with her not sending more troops to Libya prior to the tragic deaths of the Ambassador and others in his convoy, but this would appear to me to be a policy decision, not a scandal.  I suspect that many voters are just as confused as I am.

At any rate, polling is showing that the Benghazi hearings actually boosted Clinton’s popularity and hurt the Republicans.

13) On the other hand, Bernie Sanders has revolutionized the DOP.  He promised to bring down the elites, and transform the US with socialism. Does Bernie appeal to people more than Hillary? Is Bernie better equipped to run the nation than Hillary? Would socialism work?

As I mentioned above, Sanders’ “socialism” is really just the left side of the Democratic Party.  He has announced no plans to nationalize industries, except for health insurance.  One of his biggest issues is breaking up large banks, another is a $15/hour minimum wage.

The big question with a Sanders presidency is how he would get anything passed.  The Republicans look set to retain the House and probably both houses of Congress through 2020.

14) A lot of people claim that the nation is greatly divided thanks to liberals. It seems like the notion of Nationalism presented during the Reagan Administration hardly remains the same today. With decline in nationalism, many youths no longer believe in patriotism and demonize the military. Could it be said that many of the youths have lost the sense of national pride? If so, Is that good for the country?

I don’t agree with the premise of the question.

We are experiencing both the advantages and the disadvantages of an all-volunteer military.  The strongest opponents of returning to a draft are the military leaders themselves, who never want a return of the low morale of the Vietnam era.

The USA has soldiers fighting overseas but many families do not have any close relatives in the military.  Many younger Americans do not so much disrespect the military as simply remain unaware of it—the wars in the Middle East are out of sight, out of mind for many Americans these days.

15) Would the rise of a third political party eventually save nation from greater schisms or should we always rely on bipartisanship? 

Third parties are enormously difficult to field in a winner-take-all electoral system.  They tend to fare much better under proportional representation.  Here in the USA, 3rd parties sometimes play the role of spoilers—most recently, the Ralph Nader Green Party candidacy appears to have cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000.

16) Will Donald Trump take the GOP? Which out of the Republicans has a real chance against Hillary and why?

I don’t know what kind of advisors and campaign staff Trump has.  I don’t know if he’s equipped to take over the GOP with “his people.”  Right now he’s mostly giving them fits.

Among the more mainstream GOP candidates, I would guess Rubio would be their most competitive.

17) Who wins the 2016 elections?  Are any of the candidates good for the US?

As per the above, right now the U.S. map favors Democrats in Presidential elections and Republicans in Congressional ones.  As to which candidates are best, that’s largely a matter of one’s political ideology and party preference, but I would opine that I can’t fathom how a Trump or Carson Presidency could be good for the country.

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