U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, visited Ohio State on Tuesday for an event held jointly by the John Glenn College of Public Affairs and Moritz College of Law.
The visit, part of the colleges’ Congressional Conversations series, was meant to promote the discussion of improving legislative processes, public policies and public service rather than promoting partisanship, according to the news release from Moritz. However, with the presidential election 21 days away, there was significant talk of the parties and the state of past and current politics.
“Don’t romanticize the past, don’t glorify the past,” Brown said. “African Americans in many places couldn’t vote until the 1960s. And we are seeing those same attacks on voting rights today by far-right Southern politicians.”
Brown also discussed the evolution of popular opinion on hot-button social and environmental issues during the event, which was moderated by Alan Michaels, dean of Moritz.
“There are very few in this room who don’t think you should be able to marry who you love. Almost nobody in this room thinks that, because of your age, and because you’re educated and you’re smart,” Brown said. “And there is almost nobody in this room who doesn’t believe in the science of climate change.”
On education, Brown touted the Democratic platform in both the moderated discussion and in an interview with The Lantern after the event.
Brown said universities need to do a better job of keeping tuition affordable, that students need to be able to refinance their education-related loans and that federal grants need to be adjusted to match the current economy.
“(These are) the first things we should do,” he said.
Mikayla Bodey, a fourth-year in public affairs, held a similar position.
“There are students in small, rural communities in Ohio that Ohio State is the only opportunity they have to look at higher education. So I think institutions have a responsibility of reaching those students. Institutions have the responsibility of offering affordability,” she said. “I think in the next (presidential administration), we will see huge changes in higher education policy, because we as a country are starting to set the expectation that you get some sort of higher education.”
Brown also spoke about the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court bench.
Senate GOP members have not held a hearing for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee of federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland following the death of former justice Antonin Scalia, in a move to delay the pick until the next president takes office.
Until this year, there had not been a yearlong vacancy on the Supreme Court bench since the Civil War.
“This level of destructionism has just never been reached on the Supreme Court. And frankly, it hasn’t been reached on the district and circuit courts either,” Brown told the audience.
Brown also told The Lantern that the GOP must change to maintain its viability.
“They are losing young voters, they are losing people of color, they are losing lots of women, they are losing gay people,” Brown said. “If they don’t change, this generation — the readers of The Lantern — are going to overwhelmingly see the Republicans as hostile in their worldview and their values.”
Luke Graeter, a third-year studying public affairs and political science, agreed with Brown on this stance, and added he believed the GOP would not win this election, despite he himself identifying as a Republican.
“As a young person, I am not opposed to same-sex marriage,” Graeter said. “When you’re losing elections, then you need to evolve.”
Though the conversation centered mainly around perceived flaws of legislative and policy processes, Brown was not entirely pessimistic.
“I am proud of this country’s success, of its growth, of its continued open-mindedness, despite the idiocy, at times, of this presidential race,” he said.
Editor’s note: Campus Editor Nick Roll, introduced Sen. Sherrod Brown on behalf of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs.