January 2: Today was the first day of the William & Mary DC Winter Seminars for 2017. Students living in the district moved into the Embassy Hotel and 450 K apartments before heading to a welcome lunch and the first class session at the Washington Center.
The American Politics Seminar jumped right into course material, discussing how well the U.S. government actually represents the people of the country. Today focused on an article on the polarization of politicians running for office, especially compared to moderates or swing voters; as well as one of Donald Trump’s slogans “Drain The Swamp.”
The discussion began with an exchange of ideas of what was meant by “Drain The Swamp” and lead to looking at different proposals on how it could be applied. Among things discussed were tightening on rules for lobbyists, especially regarding lobbying after working in government, term limits, and a hiring freeze. An interesting argument regarding term limits, was the idea that turnover of new congressional members could empower outside bureaucrats, who already know how to work the system. Also, there was some skepticism on the plausibility of it happening, as a constitutional amendment would be required.
Turning to the polarization among politicians, a large portion of that issue seemed to lie in the idea that politicians must mobilize their base. ‘Safe-districts’ for parties, where the real battles are fought in the primaries, tend to push politicians farther right or left to appeal to their respective bases. Also, because the bases of the parties, with strong left or right opinions, tend to be the voters that turn out to vote in both the primary and the general more than moderates, there is an incentive to focus on the bases because they are more likely to vote on election day. Sometimes decisions are made by those who show up, thus politicians need their base to show up.
On another note, a big part of the DC programs are experiencing DC. Tonight students in the program had the chance to go ice skating at the National Gallery Sculpture Garden. Perfect for a winter day in DC.
Tomorrow is the first full day of the program, looking forward to guest speakers and more discussion.
Allie Thibault ’19
American Politics Seminar