Examining the 2012 U.S. Election

November 08, 2012

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Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder co-teaches Political Philosophy, Sex, Gender, and the 2012 U.S. Elections with Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion Ryan Musgrave. (Photo by Scott Cook)


“Happy days are here again,” said Pat Schroeder, as she kicked off the post-election discussion in the course she co-teaches with Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion Ryan Musgrave. Just a few hours after President Obama formally accepted his role for second term, the former democratic congresswoman could barely hide her excitement as a dozen students took their seats in Reeves Lodge for Schroeder and Musgrave’s Political Philosophy, Sex, Gender, and the 2012 U.S. Elections course. 

Since August, this group has studied, analyzed, and scrutinized U.S. politics both today and historically. And while the required reading has furthered this intellectual exploration, no text could have rivaled the wealth of knowledge that Schroeder has brought to the dialogue, especially on November 7, as the class dissected the election results and what they will mean for the country going forward.

“It’s been phenomenal having Pat here; and the timing was amazing,” said Musgrave, who met Schroeder during the Feminist Forum held on campus last year. During the weekend-long event that celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Modern Women’s Movement and the founding of the National Organization of Women (NOW), Musgrave discovered that Schroeder lives in nearby Celebration, Fla. She asked if she would be interested in co-teaching a class and the rest was history. “The historic perspective and personal involvement and investment she has brought to this class have been immensely valuable.”

Alex De Gunzburg ’14, an international relations major, agreed wholeheartedly.

“It’s been great having such an expert opinion here. We have our own opinions and most of what we say is what we hear from family and friends. But to have someone here with such experience has been a huge advantage.” Like his classmates, De Gunzburg voted for the first time in presidential election.

“We’ve brought up some issues here that I wouldn’t have thought about if not for this class,” he said. “I took everything into consideration when I voted.”

As the weeks of her class passed and marched slowly forward to election day, Schroeder couldn’t help but be pleased by the passion and interest in politics she saw in her students. But she’s disheartened by what she sees outside of Rollins. “I honestly think this entire country has failed in civic education,” she said. “We certainly have dropped it in the high schools because kids just don’t know what government does, what happens at different levels, and they grow up mocking it. If I could have my wish I would have every college and university, even high schools, lay it out on the table with the kids. This would make all the difference.”

On this day, Schroeder and Musgrave’s class laid as much of it out on the table as one can in a 75-minute class. The group talked about how race factored into voting, and the success of women senators who were elected in historically high numbers on November 6. They discussed redistricting and how that impacted election results. A few students even debated the future of the Republican party. “They will have to start re-evaluating,” said Mitch Verboncoeur ’14, a physics and philosophy major. “On social issues, they’re going to have to move left. People just won’t vote for inequality anymore.”

Isaac Carpenter ’13, an environmental studies major, shared his satisfaction with the results of Maine and Maryland’s same sex marriage vote, the first balloted vote of its kind in the United States. “I’m really happy with the turnout for the election in regards to LGBT rights and very happy to see Maine and Maryland went the way they did.”

There were a few laughs during the discussion of Colorado and Washington’s move to legalize marijuana, mostly from Schroeder who wondered how the states will eventually tax it, as proposed. But regardless of the issue, Schroeder continued to bring a deeper layer of historical reference and real-world experience that had the students somewhat mesmerized at times.

Even Chandler Armistead ’15, a philosophy major who voted for Romney and readily admits that her stance on issues can sometimes be very different from Schroeder’s, still seemed a little star struck at times. “I think it’s a major advantage being able to go to a liberal arts school and have the experience of having someone like Pat Schroeder in your class,” Armistead said.  “To come in every other day and be able to talk about what’s actually going on, not just what’s in the media, has helped us see it all more clearly. If you just watch the TV every day, even if you watch different channels, you’re not getting the full picture.”

Schroeder hopes that, at the very least, the experience has demystified access to policy makers. “I think there’s this attitude that you can’t talk to them unless you have millions of dollars to contribute,” said Schroeder, who exuded warmth and approachability in her class. “Think about Washington DC; it’s built to make you feel inferior.” And while she didn’t admit it, there was this sense that she harbored another hope— that perhaps some of those future policy makers were being born in this class.

By Kristen Manieri

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