Political Science Professor and popular television host Tim Byrnes says results of the 2012 presidential election follow a predictable pattern in American politics, where the most divided political party has little chance for victory.
“President Obama could have lost,” Byrnes said. “but it was extremely unlikely.”
Byrnes explained to Chenango Valley Colgate Club members, and about a dozen current students gathered at the Colgate Inn recently, that elections tend to be determined by issues that divide a political party within itself.
“The key to success is to draw that line so it divides the other side better than yours,” Byrnes said. “If the televised convention is interesting, they’re going to lose.”
Andrew Philipson, ‘14, College Democrats president, said Byrnes’ talk was “incredible.”
“His class is the best I’ve taken at Colgate and his talk was equally, if not more, enjoyable,” Philipson said.
Byrnes likens the edge for Democrats at the moment to a shift in the tectonic plates of politics. Republicans benefited in the 70s and later under President Ronald Reagan in the 80s when the Democratic party was in upheaval, Byrnes said, and now the GOP is in the midst of trying to redefine itself.
According to Byrnes, issues of illegal immigration, gay marriage, women’s reproductive rights, and who should pay more in taxes all cause friction within the Republican party and don’t resonate on national level, mostly because of a shift in demographics.
“The U.S. population is becoming more diverse. That’s not an argument, that’s a fact,” Byrnes said.
Byrnes, who frequently mentioned he does not get into policy, also pointed out what he saw as failings of President Barack Obama, including decisions to hire Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, and appointing Timothy Geithner as secretary of the treasury.
“He’s a lot better at running for president than he is at being president,” Byrnes said.
Retired professor Tom Brackett asked about the influence of money on politics and the election this year.
“I think the influence of money on politics is overrated. I don’t think it determines elections,” Byrnes said. “You can only buy an election if the other side isn’t also trying to do so.”