In a moment in which it seems like interest in American politics has increased, certainly buoyed in part by the 2016 presidential election, one thing hasn’t decreased: political polarization.
More people appear to be entering the political arena, but it has yet to narrow or steady the divide between the country’s two largest political parties. In October, the Pew Research Center found Democrats and Republicans in the public are further apart now than ever before in the past two decades.
What we should make of this widening chasm isn’t necessarily straightforward, though.
Why has it happened? Who is responsible for it, i.e. did it start in Washington or did it begin at a community level? Is it good for democracy, for the country? If it’s bad, how can it be fixed? Are there any signs it might slow down?
On Tuesday, two former members of the House of Representatives, Barry Goldwater Jr. and Jason Altmire, will take part in a discussion about political polarization on campus to offer their insight to these questions and more.
The event, which starts at 2:15 p.m. in room 165 of Thompson Library, is part of Congress to Campus, a nationwide initiative to bring former congresspeople to college campuses to increase civic literacy and participation, according to its website.
It’s being hosted by the Ohio State Institute for Democratic Engagement and Accountability, and The Lantern will moderate it. A question-and-answer session will follow.
Goldwater Jr. is a Republican who represented California in the House from 1969 to 1983. As a Democrat, Altmire represented Pennsylvania’s fourth district from 2007 to 2013.
While Congress to Campus always pairs one Democrat and Republican, Goldwater Jr. and Altmire form a particularly interesting duo that should lead to a quality discussion. They served nearly two decades apart, meaning they faced a different range of challenges — Goldwater Jr., for instance, was in the House during the Watergate scandal while Altmire was there amid the financial crisis.
Additionally, their ideologies don’t necessarily fit into the box we might think of for their parties. Goldwater Jr. has more of a libertarian bent — he supported Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential bid — and in recent years he has become a champion of solar power.
When Altmire was in office, he was more of a centrist; for example, he voted against former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. With the Democratic party continuing to move to the left, Altmire’s perspective should be enlightening, as should the entire conversation.
The event begins at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday and will end around 3:30 p.m. in room 165 of Thompson Library.