The State of Politics in the U.S. is Debated at Congress to Campus Forums

Congress to Campus, an event sponsored by Rhode Island College’s American Democracy Project, featured two panel discussions by political office holders and the media on the inner workings of the U.S. government, politics and public affairs. 

President Nancy Carriuolo welcomed students and guests to the two-day event, and Garrison Nelson, professor of political science at the University of Vermont, delivered the keynote address entitled “A Governing Crisis: When it Happened, How it Happened, Why it Happened.” His remarks provided a comprehensive overview of how the U.S. Congress arrived at its current state of polarization.

Bill Rappleye of NBC 10 moderated the first forum. Panelists included Nelson, former U.S. Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) and David Minge (D-MN); and Scott MacKay, political analyst for Rhode Island Public Radio.

The topic under discussion, “Congress, Bipartisanship and Governing Across the Divide,” focused on the emergence of partisanship, the decline of collegiality in the legislative branch, and how to change the present state of affairs.

Minge recalled a time when Members of Congress would interact socially and recreationally, “but that has not happened since about 1985,” he said.

Panelists also discussed issues of campaign financing, media relations, motivations behind running for office and the need for U.S. citizens to become more active in the political process. “So many people think their civic duty begins and ends with voting,” Buerkle said. “People have to hold their representatives responsible.”

The second forum was titled “Paradigm Shift: Reimagining Journalism and Civic Life.” Mark Curtis, of ABC 6, moderated the panel that consisted of Jim Hummel, founder and executive director of the Hummel Report; Doug Lezette, assistant news director for NBC 10; Tim Murphy, assistant news manager for the public desk at the “Providence Journal”; Bill Rappleye of NBC 10; Catherine Welch, news director at Rhode Island Public Radio; and respondents Buerkle and Minge.

This forum focused on the evolving profession of journalism and what students entering the field should be prepared to encounter. “My advice is to learn everything,” Murphy said. “Learn how to write, make videos, edit videos and stay abreast of the new technology.”

Day two of the Congress to Campus forums featured local women politicians: State Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-13), General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, State Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-34) and Catherine Taylor, director of the Rhode Island Division of Elderly Affairs.

Moderated by NBC 10′s Alison Bologna, discussion focused on women’s roles in politics, double standards, and the need for more diversity across state and federal government.