After both the victory and the concession speeches have been delivered and the confetti has been swept off of the floor, there comes a moment when the American people ask themselves, “Now what?” This past Tuesday, Saint Mary’s College of California held a post-election discussion panel for students, faculty, and community members, and had panelists chewing at the tough questions. 

The panel, moderated by Father Mike Russo, contained a host of faculty who followed the election very closely, from politics professors Steve Woolpert and Steve Sloane, to Liberal & Civic Studies professor Monica Fitzgerald, to Tim Farley, the Director of Community and Government Relations. Father Russo kicked off the event by providing background into the election, as well as introducing the commonly perceived images of “no drama Obama” and the very wealthy Governor Romney. With these images, the panel attempted to dissect the media narrative of the presidential race.
“If you looked at the forecast of the election… it was never close,” politics professor Steve Woolpert said. “If you just look at the quantitative methods, you can call the election months in advance.” Woolpert then went on to attribute the “close race” narrative to the media’s love of drama.

Monica Fitzgerald agreed that there was a discrepancy between the numbers and the story that was being reported. She said that it was a “narrative that really didn’t fit.”

Tim Farley also suggested that the tactics in the election used to gather poll data were outdated. “The polling world did not catch up to the world today,” he said. With more and more people abandoning land lines for cell phones, the poll data does not capture much of the youth vote, who are less likely to respond to a conventional phone call.

While on the subject of the media, Professor Steve Sloane referred to news networks such as Fox and MSNBC as “epistomolgical cocoons.” That is, these networks limit the points of views that we have access to, which then shapes our opinions. “You believe what you have because that’s what you hear,” Sloane said.

As far as the actual policies of the politicans, Professor Sloane was quick to acknowledge that the political party and the campaign is different than the party and the government. Additionally, he noted that the public’s aversion to tax makes it difficult for the country to function, as “we want what we want, but we don’t want to pay for it.

After this, speculation about the President Obama’s second term started up. Sloane felt that Obama would be taking more risks and taking more of  a firm stance. However, Woolpert disagreed and said, “We’ll continue to see a lot of stalemate. 

As is the case with many post-election panels, a good portion of the event was dedicated to the “what went wrong”s of the Republican party’s candidate for president, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Monica Fitzgerald highlighted the fact that women played a key role in this election, but also pointed out the very unique nature of the group. “Women are not a monolith vote,” she said.

In regards to the youth vote, Sloane felt that the tactics of each campaign were different, as the Obama campaign focused a lot on grassroots organizing and targeting individual people – which appealed a lot to younger voters. Additionally, Fitzgerald felt that the Romney campaign was counting on the youth vote not to turn out; instead, more youth showed up during this election than they did during the last time President Obama was elected.

The panel’s expertise and love of the election cycle took the event up to the very last minute. For now, the panel eagerly awaits Obama’s next four years.