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2012 Election Analyzed By Top Scholars

For The Heights

Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

2012

Alex Gaynor / Heights Staff

Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19 and 20, The Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy held a conference titled “The 2012 Election in Comparative and Historical Perspective.” The event, co-organized by the Boston College History department and co-sponsored by the Carroll School of Management (CSOM), featured a series of speakers discussing topics relevant to the upcoming election.

“We wanted to showcase local talent, but also put them in dialogue with top scholars from the outside,” said James Cronin, a professor in the history department and coordinator of the event.

The speakers all had specialties ranging from economics to history to politics, said Cronin. Thirty-two speakers were featured over the two days, and eight sessions were held, the topics of which included “The Republican Challenge,” “The Democrats and the Problems of Incumbency,” “The Influence of Social Issues: Religion, Race, and Other Divides,” and “The U.S. in the World: Comparisons, Contrasts, Models.”

Some notable speakers were Heather Richardson, BC; Geoffrey Kabaservice, author of Rule and Ruin; Ruy Teixeira, Center for American Progress; Heather Gerkin, Yale Law School; Sean Wilentz, Princeton University; and Jeffry Frieden, Harvard University.

Another speaker was Ellen Fitzpatrick, the Carpenter Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire. She specializes in American political and intellectual history, and spoke during a session titled “The Evolving Process: Money, Media, and the Right to Vote.”

“Our elections today are shaped by a collection of changing forces that have a huge impact on political democracy,” Fitzpatrick said. “The growing power of the media, large campaign contributions, and the overall cost of campaigns deserve our closest scrutiny. These factors have assumed great significance in modern times in ways that are very different from earlier periods in American history. Likewise, we tend to think our modern electoral process is all-inclusive. But is it? Efforts to regulate access to the ballot suggest it is more complicated than that. So, I look forward to having a good discussion at BC about all these issues.”

Fitzpatrick is the author of several books, the latest of which is titled Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation, published in 2011. “JFK was our first ‘television president,’ but the media exposure he received was shaped by a code of behavior governing journalism that doesn’t really exist anymore,” Fitzpatrick said. “I look forward to talking about how these changes have influenced the current political process.”

This is the first such conference at BC, but Cronin hopes that there will be more in the future. “Putting events in context is critical to understanding, and getting a interdisciplinary collection of scholars together allows us to highlight patterns, causes and likely consequences that might otherwise be hard to discern,” Cronin said.

The event was attended by a mixture of students—members of the BC community as well as some members from the local community, according to Cronin. “It’s an enduring interest, even if some political activism ebbs and flows,” Cronin said.

The event was designed to feature a wide array of speakers of varying areas of study in order to provide different perspectives on topics.

“It is hard to predict the impact, but we hope it will leave students more informed. The conference draws on scholars from BC and other institutions and from people in different disciplines,” Cronin said. “One of our aims is to make students aware that there is a vast array of resources, here and elsewhere, that they can tap into.”

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