On May 5, Professor and Government Department Chair John McGlennon and John Marshall Professor Ron Rapoport spoke to 70 alumni, students, professors and Board of Visitors members at the Washington D.C. offices of DLA Piper about their research concerning what’s in store for the 2012 elections.
This event was similar to a presentation the two professors had given during Homecoming 2010, but as Board of Visitors Member and host Laura Flippin ’92 noted, “The event allowed those who were unable to attend Homecoming a chance to hear about research carried out by William & Mary professors with the assistance of undergraduates.” Board member Jeff Trammell ‘73, who will become the College’s Rector in July, also gave opening remarks, praising William & Mary alums and their commitment to the College. The event was also attended by William & Mary Alumni Association Executive Vice President Karen Cottrell.
McGlennon followed by discussing the upcoming 2012 presidential elections, and highlighting what can be learned from past elections and what makes this particular election unique. McGlennon compared presidential polling numbers for a similar time before elections, and concluded that “polling doesn’t tell us very much,” because of so much change between then and the elections. What has made this election different from past elections, however, was an increased political polarization, which McGlennon described as a “filtering and sharpening of opinions."
Rapoport shared research he had conducted about the Tea Party and attempted to define the group as either a movement, party or a faction of the Republican party. He drew parallels between the Tea Party and Ross Perot’s campaign for presidents in 1992, stating that they both displayed elements of populism, but concluded that the Tea Party was more of a conservative phenomenon. Rapoport also highlighted the division between Tea Party supporters and moderates within the Republic on domestic issues, but stated that when it came down to the presidential election, they would support the Republican nominee. Rapoport’s research and polling ultimately lead him to conclude that the Tea Party could be most accurately described as a faction within the Republican Party, and perhaps even the dominant faction within the party. Rapoport stated that when it comes time to vote, “these are the people that’ll show up.”