American politicians debate mid-term election at U of C

By Kim Nursall

High-profile American politicians descended on campus last night to debate the Nov. 2 mid-term election results and speculate on what a divided Congress will mean for the future of American politics.

Hosted by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy, the debate pitted Gov. Howard Dean Sen. Fred Thompson as they dissected Tuesday’s mid-term election results, which saw the GOP regain the House of Representatives and the Democratic Party narrowly maintain the Senate.

Howard Dean served six terms as governor of Vermont, four years as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and launched a highly publicized presidential bid in 2004. Republican Sen. Fred Thompson served nine years as senator for Tennessee and in 2008 embarked on his own high-profile pursuit for the presidency. The event was moderated by international columnist and contributing editor to Maclean’s magazine Mark Steyn.

According to School of Public Policy operations director Barry McNamar, the event was organized in order for the school to give back to the community.

“The community has been very generous to the school on our promise that we would establish a flagship program of public policy research and education and this really is one way we can deliver on that promise.”

McNamar stressed the event was an attempt to enhance the political experience for students while also encouraging everyday Canadians to become more familiar with public policy.

“This event, as with all the other events we do, is about providing an enriching environment for students — exposing young people to a broad range of ideas. It is also about engaging Canadians . . . who deserve to be more informed about the issues that impact their lives.”

During the debate, Gov. Dean argued the mid-term election results reflected “the last gasp” of an aging population against the inevitable demographic change whose beginnings swept Barack Obama to power. However Sen. Thompson saw the results as “a step in the right direction” for a population dissatisfied with the policies of Obama’s administration.

Both speakers reflected on the dire state of the U.S. economy, arguing that pragmatism will be necessary for progress in a Congress that may be plagued by deadlock for the next few years. Whether or not that pragmatism will be possible is a different story, as Gov. Dean and Sen. Thompson described the political considerations of candidates on either side of party lines.

Director and Palmer Chair of the School of Public Policy Jack Mintz drew the night to a close by stressing the importance of political engagement for individuals and specifically youth. Both Gov. Dean and Sen. Thompson agreed that youth involvement was minimal in Tuesday’s election and young people “played a role by not coming out.”

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