David Shribman tackled shifts in America’s two-party system and explored similarities between the dynamics of the current election and elections of the past in a talk entitled “The New Architecture of American Politics” this past Tuesday at All School Meeting (ASM).
Shribman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning political pundit and the current Executive Editor of the “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.” He has covered every presidential election in the United States since Jimmy Carter v. Gerald Ford in 1976 for the Gazette.
The main purpose of his talk was to educate students about the election rather than convince them to pick a particular political side.
“I have a great friend, Mrs. Jeton [Special Assistant to the Head of School] here who called me up and said that she wanted to foster a conversation about the election and have someone explain what the forces at work for the election were, rather than take a side of one or another, to analyze rather than to opinionate,” said Shribman in an interview with The Phillipian.
Throughout his talk, Shribman alluded to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s current struggle to win the votes of African-Americans.
“For years, Republicans have tried to get votes from blacks, who were once reliable supporters of the party… it was Lincoln, a Republican, who made the Emancipation Proclamation.Moderate Republicans have provided the margin of victory for both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” said Shribman during his presentation.
“But since 1968, when Richard Nixon began a southern-strategy aimed at whites and the old confederacy, blacks have redoubled their support for the Democratic party. Now, as perhaps his biggest gamble, Mr. Trump has undertaken an offensive to win black support,” he continued.
Claudia Meng ’18, one of the two students who introduced Shribman during ASM, found that Shribman was able to educate the Andover community about the current election without offending students with strong political affiliations.
“[Shribman] compared certain candidates to previous candidates, and he made a lot of links between different campaigns. I have been following the election a lot, and I think he did a really good job of staying politically impartial. I think that makes people a lot more receptive to what [he] has to say because he’s talking about a historical background, the things that he’s saying are less able to be contested because he’s trying to provide a perspective for this year’s election rather than condone or deplore either candidate,” said Meng in an interview with The Phillipian.
Jimin Kim ’20 acknowledged the risk taken by the administration for hosting a talk about the current election, given that Andover’s campus is home to students that identify across the political spectrum.
“I thought that [the administration] was taking a little risk because if he turned out to be more Democratic than Republican and he showed that in his speech, some students might not have felt that comfortable,” said Kim.
Members of the student body found Shribman’s talk to be informative and interesting as it introduced ideas that many hadn’t considered before and explain the reasoning behind certain events in the election.
“It’s really important I feel that we as young people get engaged in the political process and I’m happy that they brought in a speaker to just talk about things that are going on in this country. I think the speaker did a good job of being fair to all sides and [allowed] us to make informed decisions and really understand how the things that are happening have come to be. I didn’t [have much perspective on] a lot of the stuff he was talking about like blue-collar workers, African-Americans and how they used to be largely Republican, and it’s really brought a new perspective to the way I think I’m going to look at this election,” said Shyan Koul ’19.
Shribman emphasized that it was important to consider the complexity of the changes in the current election and to recognize their historical derivations as well as their future implications.
“I hope that [students] realize that the campaign is a lot more complex than just… the two candidates yelling at each other and that there are important changes and forces at work in American politics now that are changing the way we look at politics and eventually may change the way we live,” said Shribman.