2016 U.S. Election: Q&A With Michaele Ferguson, Feminist Political Scientist

I’m posting this unpublished Q&A session I had with Michaele Ferguson mainly because I thought it was interesting, but I hope it could shed some light on the future.


The 2016 U.S. Elections nearing, and understanding this conflicting election has perplexed political scientist and thrown their theories for a ride. Michaela Ferguson, serves as an associate professor in American Politics, and faculty associate in the Women and Gender Studies Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  

She is currently researching theories in defining neoliberalism and how neoliberal feminism affects contemporary society, and is in the early stages of curating a collection of political writings of Tibetan Buddhist, Chögyum Trungpa.

Ferguson’s expertise on American political knowledge led us to explore the current trends and controversy following the upcoming election in November.


Will heath play a major factor in this election? (Trump is 70, Clinton is 68 )

I certainly think the incident that happened with Hillary Clinton puts that front in center. The Trump campaign had already been speculations about her health prior to that. There is a huge phenomenon of women working while they are sick. A lot of the women I know were relating to this, talking about this as a general phenomenon that women tend to work through illness that men would be much more likely to take time off for. In that sense, the health crisis with Hillary might actually mobilize voters to support her, and female voters in particular might recognize a little bit of themselves.


Will age be a factor on how the candidates deal with today’s issues?

One of the interesting things about both of the candidates is that during their national conventions; they brought out their children. Partly because they both realize that they need to be demonstrating very clearly that they can connect to younger voters. The most recent polling data that I saw, is actually showing that a disproportionately high number of younger voters are going for the third-party candidates when they are offered as options in a poll, either the Libertarian or the Green candidate.

From that perspective I think that both of the candidates have an age problem. If younger voters who are interested in voting are planning to vote for the Greens or the Libertarians, that is a vote they could have gotten. On the other hand, Bernie Sanders was the oldest out of the three of them, and he did very well among younger voters. He shows that you can be in an older generation, and have a youth appeal.


Critics argue that technology in this election has been skewing people’s political vantage?

I think we should be concerned about any attempts by social media organizations like Facebook to direct content that we are going to see or we are most likely to see. But I think there is also the underlying question on how much diversity are people getting in their media? How much critical thinking are people engaging in ? I think that Hillary Clinton had a valid point in the faux-pas she made at her fundraiser, when she was talking about Trump amplifying the voices of organizations that had only had a few followers on Twitter. But when he retweets it, those tweets are now being amplified. People who are now following him, might not have the context for understanding who is this person that he is retweeting


Is there one issue that could turn the greatest number of women into single-issue voters?

If there is a blatant episode of sexism against  Hillary in the campaign from here, forward. I think if Trump started talking about women the way he has talked about women in the past, in the more egregious statements that the Clinton campaign has brought out. If one of the future debates a moderator was clearly sexist, or all the debates follow that same pattern that Matt Lauer established. Then I think you start to see the kind of behavior that gets women to get behind Clinton.


In your research you study the political writings of a Tibetan Buddhist, is there any lessons from that you’ve been able to apply towards American politics?

It is really about being able to still be present no matter what is happening. In politics, especially with young people or people who haven’t been involved with politics, suddenly get involved. When they lose they get demoralized, and they want to give up. I can see this with some of my students who were really passionately behind Bernie. He loses the nomination while, ‘Hillary is corrupt, I can’t possibly vote for her, the whole system is rigged, I’m just going to stay out.’ – that is the response to losing. I think there is a characteristic that we have to cultivate in a democracy, that is related to having the capacity to lose. About accepting that, but not having that acceptance be simply ‘people win and lost in politics, so there is no reason to get involved in it’ but rather accepting, I lost that time, but I care about the fight so I’m going to get back in it, I’m not going to let that loss harden me or turn me away from politics.


Whoever wins this election do you think it’s going to be a landmark/historical decision?

I think it is historical no matter who wins. Either, we have the first female president, we ever had which is historical for that reason alone, or we have somebody who is known from the business and entertainment world. But has had absolutely no political experience before. The way that Trump has completely booked all the expectations political scientist had, the pundits had, the party leadership had. It is already historical – both of them. For that reason alone, I hope you don’t sit it out, and I hope your peers don’t sit it out because when your grandkids asked you what you did in that election. You don’t want to say, ‘I was the cynical guy, and there was no reason to vote for either of them’ – you want to be able to say you took a stand.


UPDATE: Sun. April 23, 2017 – I just wanted to add in a more recent talk with another political scientist Ryan Dawkins. Donald Trump appealed to many U.S. voter because of Clinton’s campaign strategy and ads trying to show that Trump wasn’t normal in the political spectrum and was an outsider. He said, that resonated to many U.S. voters because they had past qualms with how Democratic administrations have acted in past years.

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