Postelection Collection Draws Out Thoughtful Discussion
On the Friday evening after the election, alumni and students flocked to Science Center 199 for a Postelection Collection presented by the Swarthmore Alumni Council and organized by David Ko ’92. Moderator Sen. Josh Green ’92 opened the event with humorous stories about running for the Hawaiian legislature before yielding the floor to professors Mark Kuperberg, an economist, and Ben Berger, a political scientist.
Kuperberg began with a clear analysis of the country’s recent recession, comparing it to historical recessions, and discussed changes in tax rates, government employment, and patterns of spending that make this recovery unprecedented. He examined the necessary trade-offs between deficit and recession and explained the nature of the fiscal cliff the federal budget faces in January. He closed with a discussion of what is needed to make the federal budget sustainable.
Berger then dissected the election and the mistakes the Republicans made, breaking down voter demographics and discussing partisan punditry. He touched on the complex statistical work of The New York Times’ Nate Silver and the effective strategies of the Obama campaign, which are detailed by Sasha Issenberg ’02 in his book The Victory Lab. Berger’s final suggestion was for field offices used by the campaigns to be retained so people can interact with their government.
Surprise guest speakers included Barbara Stubbs Cochran ’67 and her husband, prominent newscaster John Cochran. Barbara Cochran, executive producer of Meet the Press and creator of NPR’s Morning Edition, discussed her views of the election and media. John Cochran concluded the program with his personal reminiscences of interactions with several American presidents.
Ko commented afterwards, “Both Mark and Ben provided informative presentations that cut through all the partisan rancor prevalent in the general media during the past year and provided a wonderful basis to have a thoughtful discussion on how things may move going forward.”
The audience and panelists enjoyed staying late into the evening to discuss the topics raised. Kuperberg reflected on the events, “As I have gotten older, events with former students have come to mean more and more to me. I said in that talk that one maxim of politics seems to be ‘Don’t ever try to teach anyone anything.’ Swarthmore students, and former students, are exactly the opposite—they want to learn, and that is what makes teaching here so rewarding.”