Vision Series Features Prof. Jeremy Mayer on Elections

Posted: October 2, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jim Greif

Jeremy Mayer
Jeremy Mayer

The 2008 election is fast approaching, and after months and months of campaigning, advertising, fund raising and debates, the United States is on the verge of electing a new president. The country will either inaugurate the oldest president in American history or the first president of African-American descent.

During his Vision Series lecture titled “Endgame: The Last Month in Presidential Elections, This Year and Every Time,” Jeremy Mayer, associate professor in the School of Public Policy, will compare this election with previous contests and discuss how the media and political parties are changing.

The lecture will be presented on Monday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Concert Hall on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. A reception with the speaker will follow the presentation.

“One key difference between this election compared to previous elections is the way in which candidates can simply ignore the mainstream media when a reporter says that a candidate might not be telling the truth on a particular issue,” Mayer says.

Podcasts, blogs and other partisan media allow candidates to stay on message, even if evidence contradicts their statements. Mayer says that with this major shift in media, voters now have the opportunity to view or listen only to media that confirms their existing beliefs and insulate themselves from viewpoints that they don’t want to hear.

The 2008 presidential primaries broke records in terms of the number of voters that participated as well as money donated to candidates. Mayer attributes this enthusiasm to the candidates and the historic length of the primary season. Primary candidates were still fighting hard in April, May and June, something that the United States has not seen in quite some time.

“I think the fact there was such excitement about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton led to the increase in turnout on the Democratic side,” Mayer said. “Also the length of the contests in the Republican and especially the Democratic primaries was almost unprecedented in the modern era.”

In his talk, Mayer will also discuss how Virginia is considered a battleground state for the first time in a generation and how this has changed the dynamic of Virginia’s political prominence.

“Virginia is in play, and we are seeing for the first time campaign headquarters for both parties have opened all over the state,” Mayer says, indicating that many questions remain. “Can Republicans run a campaign in Virginia? Because they haven’t had to in a long time. Also, can the Democrats learn?”

While this might be unusual for Virginia, Mayer says that every election has new states that have historically voted for one party move into the area of “battleground.”

Mayer will also talk about the Virginia senatorial election and how Mark Warner is running a careful campaign and doesn’t have to say much or heavily align with Obama because he is so far ahead in the polls.

The lecture will also cover the country’s current financial crisis and how it adds to the difficulty of predicting the election results.

“I can’t think of a presidential campaign that has had as momentous an event happen with 40 days to go,” Mayer says. “This is one of the most important crises in the last 100 years and it is happening a month before an election. Imagine if a 9/11 happened before an election.”

With a look at the latest polling data, Mayer’s lecture will conclude with predictions for the presidential election, the Virginia outcome and the balance of power in Congress.

Mayer is frequently interviewed by national media on presidential elections, the role of media, racial politics, foreign policy and public opinion. He published the study, “Racial Politics in Presidential Campaigns 1960-2000,” as well as articles and chapters on presidents and elections. He has also given multiple lectures on behalf of the U.S. government on American politics in countries around the globe, including Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands and Portugal.

Admission to the lecture is free, but tickets are required. Reserve tickets online or visit the Center for the Arts ticket office, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For information, call 703-993-8888.

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