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Fordham Professors Sound Off on Presidential Priorities

Contact: Patrick Verel
(212) 636-7790
verel@fordham.edu


Fordham's "Shadow Cabinet"
Photo by Chris Taggart
With less than a week before the next president is chosen, six Fordham professors lent their voices to the conversation about what the winning candidate’s priorities should be.

“All the President’s Faculty: Shadow Cabinet and Political Briefing,” took place on Tuesday, Oct. 28 in the Lowenstein Center’s 12th Floor Lounge on the Lincoln Center campus. The event featured Fordham faculty with expertise in politics, communications, urban affairs and business.

Costas Panagopoulos, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science and the director of the Center for Electoral Politics and the graduate program in Elections and Campaign Management opened the evening with “What People Want,” a breakdown of polling trends.

Panagopoulos said that while issues such as gun control and abortion rights have changed little over the years, December 2007 marked the tipping point when voters’ concerns about the war in Iraq were eclipsed by their worries about the economy and taxes.

The “shadow cabinet” featured John P. Entelis, Ph.D., professor of political science and director of the Middle East studies program; Mark Naison, Ph.D., professor of African-American studies and history and director of the urban studies program; Falguni Sen, Ph.D., professor of management systems; Tom DeLuca, Ph.D., professor of political science and director of the international studies program; and Beth Knobel, Ph.D., Emmy Award-winning former Moscow bureau chief for CBS News and assistant professor of communication and media studies.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the major themes in an election that could create some historic firsts—namely, the first black president or the first woman vice president—was sameness.

Entelis noted that polls show most people in the Middle East expect the United States’ behavior in that region to change little no matter who is elected.

Sen, taking the position of a lobbyist, said that as a general rule, the business community isn’t particularly concerned with who is elected.

Sen did say that winner should have a transition team ready as soon as possible, because the current economic crisis requires immediate attention. He supported Naison’s touting of a 21st century New Deal to rebuild the county’s bridges, highways and schools and create jobs for developers who are being stymied by dried-up bank loans.

“We are living in a globalized world, and the New Deal has to be reformulated within this globalized, 21st century world,” he said. “We may need new things that have similar impact, but are not necessarily the same policies.”

DeLuca decided to talk about how, as president, he would reform the democratic process to make it more inclusive. Noting that he was once able to vote in Wisconsin on the day of an election with nothing more than a gas bill, he suggested that voter registration be universal.

It is time, he said, to transfer control of voting-rights laws from states—where they reside and are wildly inconsistent—to the federal government.

“There is actually no right to vote in the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “When I learned that, it was a shock to me, but it’s actually a fact.”

DeLuca also called for large-scale changes, such as abolishing the Electoral College, as a way for third parties to gain power, as well as small ones, such as holding Election Day during a weekend.

“Try to imagine this: you’re an advisor for say, President McBama, and your job is to go to Afghanistan or Iraq and train people for elections,” he said.

“So the first thing you do is you get off the plane and you meet your counterpart and you say, ‘I’ve got a great idea. You want to know about voting? Here’s what you’ve got to do: Go to the middle of your work week, and hold Election Day on that day.’ Could you imagine anybody giving that kind of advice?”

Knobel, who lived in Russia for 14 years, explained how, from afar, the United States seems so divided, it appears to be two different countries inhabiting the same space. For anything to be accomplished, she said, communication between conservatives and liberals must improve.

“Moving heaven and earth” to convince former secretary of state Colin Powell to join a future administration would be one of her first bits of advice to either candidate. She also noted that whichever candidate wins will really need to show the American public how he is working hard to solve the myriad problems facing the country.

“The president needs to give frequent press conferences,” she said. “If the stats I’ve seen are correct, George W. Bush this year has only given four solo press conferences.”

Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to approximately 14,700 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in Westchester, and the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y.
10/08

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