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Before almost a full house in Davis Hall, Alex Keyssar—a professor of Social Studies and Social Policy at Harvard University’ Kennedy School of Government—gave students and faculty a vivid picture of the post-presidential election landscape, along with predictions of what likely will and will not change.
Keyssar’s appearance on January 29th, during which he frequently traded questions and answers with audience members, represented the keynote address of a three-event series focused on the aftermath of the November election and sponsored by the Nichols Fischer Institute and the departments of History and Political Science.
A subsequent two-event symposium in Davis—on February 5th and another scheduled for next Tuesday—is entitled, The GOP at a Crossroads: The Future of the Republican Party.
“While President Obama, the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the Republican-controlled House were all re-elected,” Keyssar observed, “some things are starting to shift. The landscape of policy issues is different than it was three or four months ago.”
Among those differences, Keyssar pointed out, was the likelihood that both Democrats and Republicans will find their way to meaningful changes in the tax code. “It really does look like there’s going to be significant reform for the first time since 1986,” he predicted. “That’s a big deal.”
“There also exists a very broad bipartisan consensus on foreign policy,” he continued. “There’s agreement on pulling troops out of Afghanistan and broad support for the cautious approach by Obama and America’s allies to Syria and other countries in North Africa. We’re in a post 9/11 period where we’ve learned to live with some of these threats and not overreact.”
On another front, which dates back almost 80 years, Keyssar was less sanguine that the opposing political parties were going to reach an agreement. In a short history lesson, he summed up the Democrat-led “Grand Bargain,” dating to the 1930’s, that included large corporations, strong unions, and a social welfare system stretching over 30 years from Social Security to Medicare.
The past 30 years, he noted, have featured a Republican effort to reduce regulations on business and the clout of unions, which now claim a fraction of the workforce they once enrolled. The current push for entitlement reform, Keysser insisted, targets the final leg of the Brand Bargain, including a Supreme Court challenge this month to provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The unresolved tension in these areas “will dominate over the next 20 to 30 years,” Keyssar told the largely undergraduate audience. “You’ll be living with it.”
The political event in Davis the following week was strictly Republican, as Professor Jerold Duquette of Central Connecticut University delivered his academic perspective on the future of the GOP. On February 19th, Richard Tisei, who lost his 2012 bid for a House seat from Massachusetts, will share has political perspective.