Wright State professors discuss significance of midterm election in public forum

Photograph: Lucas Gonzalez/The Guardian.
Photograph: Lucas Gonzalez/The Guardian.

Last Tuesday, Wright State professors spoke in a forum on campus to address the importance of this upcoming midterm election. The forum was hosted by the School of Public and International Affairs.

Speakers included Lee Hannah and Edward Fitzgerald, professors of political science; Jonathan Winkler, a professor of history; and Mandy Shannon, head of Instruction and Research Services.

Lee Hannah started the presentation by providing an overview of the upcoming midterm. This election cycle, all members of the House of Representatives are up for re-election, Hannah said. Half of the Senate chamber is up for reelection as well, according to Hannah.

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Currently, Republicans have a majority in both chambers of Congress and the presidency. Democrats would have to win 23 seats in the House to shift the balance of power in their favor, according to Hannah. “That would radically alter the dynamic between the president and Congress,” Hannah said. “This has happened three times in the last 25 years.”

Fairborn, the home of Wright State University, belongs to Ohio’s 10th congressional district. Mike Turner (R), the current representative of district 10, is running against Theresa Gasper (D) for a seat in the House. Additionally, Mike Dewine (R) will be running against Richard Cordray (D) for the office of Ohio Governor.

Winkler spoke to the historical context of elections. He discussed political violence, which has been an area of concern recently. Last week, a Florida man was arrested for allegedly mailing active pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and outspoken critics of President Donald Trump.

“While it is generally rare, political violence is not uncommon and is something that we must all be very worried about, lest it escalate and get beyond the ability of our society to control,” Winkler said.

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Following Winkler, Shannon talked about the role of social media in elections and contemporary politics. In particular, she spoke about bots, which are automated social media accounts that disseminate misinformation. Over 50,000 accounts have been confirmed to have had involvement with the Russian government, Shannon said.

Shannon also discussed the roles of fake news, information overload and confirmation bias. She encouraged everyone to fact-check information and to read articles online before sharing them on social media. “Think before you share information,” Shannon said. “I also encourage you to be intentional about seeking out multiple perspectives.” She recommended that people go to allsides.com.

The forum came to a close with a presentation from Fitzgerald, whose area of expertise is law. He spoke about court decisions that have impacted elections and how they may affect this year’s midterm. His presentation also included voter suppression and redistricting, otherwise known as Gerrymandering.

“It is important for you to vote in this next election. It’s your only chance to have any of your policy preferences come into play,” Fitzgerald said. “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”