Published 04/08/16

student asks panel a question

The debate was the latest in a series of special programs and learning opportunities offered by the University to deepen the engagement of students, faculty, staff, and members of the public in the historic process of selecting a president.

The 2016 election: A season of doom or hope?

A high-profile panel of political experts and media personalities fielded broad questions in a lively discussion that centered on the question: “Will American Democracy Survive the 2016 Election?”

What’s happening in America “is the most significant bad and good thing in 80 years,” said former Republican Congressman from New York John LeBoutillier, who co-hosts Political Insiders on the Fox News Channel. As the Great Depression loomed, Americans had faith their government would lead them out of hard times, he said. “Today, no one has faith in government and many believe maybe government is part of the problem.”

The easy solution, LeBoutillier said, is thinking one person will emerge as a savior.

Political debate panelists “You are the savior,” he said, pointing to the standing-room-only crowd of students, faculty, staff, and members of the public gathered Thursday evening in Bryant’s Stepan Grand Hall. “By electing people who bit by bit will work together,” he said, that confidence in America will be restored.

On the panel moderated by Lee Elci, host of talk radio’s The Lee Elci Show on CBS News in Connecticut, LeBoutillier was joined by:

  • National security expert Scott Bates, who is president of the Center for National Policy;
  • Leslie Marshall, host of the liberal nationally syndicated radio talk show The Leslie Marshall Show; and
  • Former Republican Congressman from Connecticut Col. Robert “Rob” Simmons, who is now the First Selectman in Stonington, CT.

"If young Americans get involved, the country will survive but that requires participation.”

Another question facing the nation, Bates said, is “what kind of country are we going to be?” Some candidates appeal to voters’ fears, urging a return to the 1950s. But, he noted, that means black people must ride at the back of the bus, women are relegated to the kitchen, and gays must stay in the closet.

“We can do better,” insisted Marshall, noted that fewer than 50 percent of the people eligible to vote cast ballots. If more people got out and voted, she said, “maybe we wouldn’t be talking about these candidates. At every level, yes, we can do better. “

Simmons agreed, adding “If young Americans get involved, the country will survive but that requires participation.”

As a congressman, Simmons said, he worked not only with members of his own party, but across the aisle as well. But, he noted, moderate Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats have been voted out. Government gridlock, LeBoutillier later noted, “is actually Republican versus Republican, the Tea Party versus the Reagan Republicans. They cannot work together.”

Students have been examining and discussing all aspects of the campaign in a variety of classes as part of their studies this semester. The debate was the latest in a series of special programs and learning opportunities offered by the University to deepen the engagement of students, faculty, staff, and members of the public in the historic process of selecting a president.

Associate Professor of Political Science Rich Holtzman, Ph.D., led a discussion about the “Road to Election,” followed by a viewing party as Super Tuesday presidential primary results came in on March 1.

Associate Professor of English and Cultural Studies Amber Day, Ph.D., pulled back the curtain on media coverage during a student and faculty roundtable on the political conversation in March.

More than 20 Bryant students mingled with some of the biggest names in politics in January at the New Hampshire Primary Student Convention, which opened that state's primary process to students from all over the country. The students – each of them either a Political Science major, minor, or concentrator – had a ringside seat to everything that has to do with presidential politics.