Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Students vote at Alice Cook House Tuesday.

November 7, 2018

Cornell Professors Ponder Over 2018 Elections

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In anticipation of the highly contested midterm elections, The Sun reached out to professors to get their opinions on a variety of topics, including why people should vote in the first place, the impact the Brett Kavanaugh hearings might have had on this election and the significance of a blue wave. Here are some of their responses. Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Why Should We Vote?

“It’s a fundamental part of our responsibilities as American citizens, and further it’s one of the few ways that we have to influence government meaningfully.” – David Silbey, government

“In the month leading up to the deadline for registering to vote in New York State this year, I brought NY State Voter Registration forms to class and told students that if they filled them out and brought them back to class, I would personally bring them down to the Board of Elections office in Ithaca.” – Bruce Monger, earth and atmospheric science

“It is essential for people — especially working class, poor, oppressed, and marginalized people — to develop an independent vision of justice and freedom based on their own, objective analysis of the material realities of their lives, and to find individual and collective ways to realize those visions. Voting is a part of that struggle, but given the patently anti-democratic nature of our political system, it must be seen as a modest, rearguard act simply to preserve the tenuous rights and resources that we have won over generations.” – Russell Rickford, history

“This is actually a complicated question. I am happy when people vote because, collectively, we must continue to monitor (and sometimes reject) our leaders even if our own individual vote will (almost) never make a difference in the outcome.” – Richard Bensel, government

“Goodness, of course it is important to vote! And of course one should read and listen and know what candidates stand for.” – Mildred Sanders, government

“Once you vote, tell someone that you voted! In this, social media can be a force for good. Those who vote are more likely to vote again in the future … convincing friends or family to vote this time will also lead to positive effects in the long term.” – Alexandra Cirone, government


Why are the Midterms Important?

[Republican control of all three branches] “has meant a rightward shift in American policy, and these midterms give Americans a chance to weigh in on the change.” – David Silbey, government

“We don’t live in a genuine democracy. The periodic electoral rituals in which we participate reflect a kind of managed democracy in which the trappings of democracy exist but provide very few possibilities for meaningful change for the masses through the ballot.” – Russell Rickford, history

“Midterms are an opportunity to contest what a governing party/president have done in the last two years, and to inject more balance into national government by voting for the opposition party for Congress.” – Mildred Sanders, government

“Meanwhile, many races for both local and national office this year are extremely close, and early voting is at an all time high. This will be an election to remember, so students shouldn’t miss out.” – Alexandra Cirone, government


What are the Most Important Issues for This Election?

“In policy terms, the most important issues have been health care, gun violence, and immigration. In political terms, the most important issue has been President Trump and his actions in office.” – David Silbey, government

“We desperately need action on climate change. The one and only thing holding us back on action is good leadership — we need to vote out leaders that are too afraid to act and vote in leaders with the courage to act.” – Bruce Monger, earth and atmospheric science


What if the Democrats Control the House?

“give [Democrats] the power to push back on President Trump’s policies and behaviors. It would also raise the question of impeachment in the run up to the next presidential election.” – David Silbey, government

“would provide oversight of President Trump’s Administration and slow some of its actions that are most harmful to the environment.” – Bruce Monger, earth and atmospheric science

“The current presidential administration would be subject to many, many investigations which would reveal, I think, that it is probably the most corrupt in American history.” – Richard Bensel, government

“The Democrats have to come up with a winning program to take back control of government. This is a trial run.” – Mildred Sanders, government


What is the Impact of the Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings?

“The Kavanaugh appointment seems particularly to have energized college-educated women, and has driven the gender gap in party preference to a much higher level.” – David Silbey, government

“I admit that I live in a bubble, but every single woman I know was in tears and/or was mad as heck that a man like Judge Kavanaugh would be pushed through the confirmation process in spite of his clear lack of moral character and honesty. And I think that has energized woman to vote.” – Bruce Monger, earth and atmospheric science

“The nomination fight probably raised Republican turnout by one or two percent. As a political strategy from the Democratic perspective, it was a mistake in the way it was conducted.” – Richard Bensel, government

“It has increased Democratic funding, and will increase Democratic turnout among women, but it seems also to be increasing REPUBLICAN turnout in red states and that may save or win a couple of new Senate seats for the GOP.” – Mildred Sanders, government


What are Other ways to Participate?

“Contacting your Congressperson to express your concerns, volunteering to help on election day, engaging with politics at the local level.” – David Silbey, government

“Raising your voice about issues that concern you — this can be as simple as talking with friends about climate change or it can be joining a climate march or writing letter to your state and federal leaders. Or, is can be participating in acts of non-violent civil disobedience. Choose the method of raising your voice that fits your personality and fits the level of importance you feel for your cause. But do not sit on the sideline!!” – Bruce Monger, earth and atmospheric science

“Of course, true transformation requires a far more expansive, grassroots, multidimensional struggle that includes mass agitation, local organizing, autonomous activity, general strikes, direct action, etc.” – Russell Rickford, history

“READ, expose yourself to different perspectives. Engage in civil discussion with people who hold opposing views. Give small donations to your favorite candidates in close races. Avoid labeling people you disagree with (calling them fascist, racist, ignorant, deplorable, etc.) Derogatory labeling is not useful to learning, and certainly not useful to persuading others.” – Mildred Sanders, government

“When researching candidates or the issues, stick with trustworthy and reliable sources — and if you see something fake, fact-check it using Politifact or”  – Alexandra Cirone, government