Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd talks to Dr. Robert Dion, Associate Professor of Political Science and Iglehart Chair at the University of Evansville about political history.
BB: From your local election headquarters, tonight’s In-depth takes a look at an incredible chapter in American politics. Today’s Iowa caucuses is going on right now, Tuesday’s State of the Union Address and a potential vote of acquitting the man giving the address on Wednesday and President Donald’s Trump’s Senate trial. All of this taking place in a 72-hour span. Joining me tonight our guest analyst Dr. Robert Dion, Associate professor of Political Science and Iglehart Chair at the University of Evansville. Dr. Dion, it’s good to see you tonight. We have seen nothing like this at least in my memory in such a short period of time.
RD: No, I’ve been teaching political science since 1991 and this will give you whiplash trying to keep track of whats of what’s going on. It’s a remarkable week.
BB: Let’s start with the Iowa caucuses, cause we have some of the totals up now but these are so minimal. Just the way the Iowa caucuses work, I read about them. But there are still parts of this that almost look like a miniature electoral college that we have here as oppose to a popular vote. Work that out for me?
RD: Well not even quite like the electoral college because those people are bound to vote a certain way. We know how we’re going their going vote. This is deliberative. People are in the room with there neighbors will talk to each other about how there going to vote on the second round because there is a second round.
BB: No secret ballots here?
RD: No secret ballot you’re talking to your neighbor, you’re deliberating about who you want to pick. You’re keeping in mind your second choice because your first choice might not meet the 15% threshold. Its something that people in the tristate are just completely unfamiliar with we like to cast our ballot get in and out. Keep it a secret ballot. This is the only state that does it this way and to be honest only the democrats do it this way. It’s a remarkable exercise. Its democracy in action. Well, see soon enough what the results are.
BB: Those results, we take a look at some of the candidates. In previous Iowa caucuses, there’s usually been a front runner and one candidate pretty close. But we’ve got five candidates be considered in Iowa. How does that leapfrog into New Hampshire?
RD: Well we’ve got the four early states this is the first. New Hampshire is soon coming after that. You’re exactly right, there’s not going to be a breakaway star. In every likelihood. we can’t forget the billionaire Micheal….. whose out there campaigning in the super Tuesday states. Spending 100’s of millions of dollars. So he’ll be in the mix as well. I think everybody is going to look to see how well Biden does tonight and how well Sanders does. That’s the big top-line story.
BB: And Pete Buttigieg who would have thought.
RD: Buttigieg a small-town mayor. A town smaller than Evansville for heaven’s sake. He’s at the national stage. He’s right up in there he’s in the top four or five presidential candidates on the democratic side. I think it’s fair to say he’s done Indiana proud. He’s made a very good impression on the United States and he’s made history as an openly gay major party democratic candidate.
BB: Okay, Tuesday and tomorrow night if you think things are strange right now in Iowa and the way things everything is shaping up with all these candidates in the Democratic party are locked in this ongoing debate. The State of the Union it’s going to be almost surreal tomorrow night. What do you think?
RD: This is something that happens almost every year but tomorrow night will be one for the record books. It’s a rare thing to have a president seeking re-election and behind him is going to be sitting the man who saved him in the trial and the woman who t-up the trial. It’s going to be awkward. It will be like a very bad Thanksgiving dinner. The big .. game right now is how is President Trump going to behave. Is he going to act presidential and t-up the campaign themes he wants to follow in the upcoming year? Or is he going to get a few digs in because it seems pretty clear he’s going to make it out of the trial? He’ll be acquitted on Wednesday.
BB: Speaking of the vote that is set for Wednesday, how we got there was relatively quick compared to the earlier impeachment preceding. What happens after all this ends on Wednesday? When it comes right down to it the American people how are they going to be impacted by this?
RD: Well one thing is we’ve got to get past the formality of the vote. I think its abundantly clear that he’s not going to be removed from office. The bar is unusually high. It’s 2/3 and with 53 republicans in the Senate, the odds are just small that he’ll be removed. But they’ll be a stain on his presidency. We don’t impeach people lately and we don’t do it very often. I think all the polls indicate that most Americans think he obstructed the Congress, abused his power. They are unhappy with the process that they’ve seen. The vote against having witnesses or evidence. The fact that he’s got this looming over him as he goes into this election year I think will do some damage. They shouldn’t be crowing too much they’re gonna survive the trial.
BB: What is this doing to the Republican Party. It’s not the Republican party our fathers knew and witness over the decades.
RD: No there’s been some profound changes there. Also, the Democratic party has its own internal dissensions right now. It’s a very troubled time. High levels of polarization but also internal dissension. It’s a very unhappy time. Sometimes we look back 40 -50 years ago some really troubled times, we’ve gotten through those. We have to back on the resilience of the American people and the sturdiness of our institution. But I think we all be much happier if the tone settled down a little bit.
BB: Are we more divided now then we were say 50 years ago during the volatile ’60s?
RD: I think that’s a useful comparison. I think in that comparison we’re actually better off. The kind of things we had to deal with.. the violence, the bloodshed, the assassinations. Thank goodness now all we have is some in tempered tweets, apologies for bad language here and that. Poor behavior on the part of our leaders. Nothing to compare to the riots and the shutting down of governments not just here but elsewhere.
BB: But the debate, tearing… you mentioned Thanksgiving dinner whatever .. the times you mentioned now they tend to go into traditions that usually families come together but this can rip people apart. Friends become enemies simply because of the politics.
RD: Well part of the problem and I think you talked about this before is we live in different spaces. We occupy different spaces online and in our daily lives. We communicate with people we share views with. We find ourselves in an echo chamber. There needs to be more constructive dialogue across the divide. Some of the candidates are making the case that that’s what America needs and they think they can do that. Mayor Buttigieg amongst others…brings eternal and you have to have faith among the American people that they’ll make a good judgment this year.
BB: One last question, the conventions they use to be basically the world series, championships, the Superbowl. Not anymore?
RD: No, they’ve been pretty ….affairs the last couple of years. You already know going into both of them how the pledge delicates are going to vote. There is a live possibility that there might be a contestant convention its a pretty remote possibility. One has to expect that as the process unfolds somebody going to run away with the nomination on the democratic side. And we know that Donald Trump is not going to be challenged for the nomination. BB: Well Dr. Robert Dion, thanks a lot for talking about this, we can go on all night… we have the time to consider though. Thank a lot and well certainly be watching with open eyes and all ears during the next few months. Thank you soo much. You’re watching Eyewitness News at 9 Brandon will be right back.
(This story was originally published on Feb. 4, 2020)