Sorry Donald, Brexit is not about you (or the United States)

By Jacqueline S. Gehring

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Americans awoke Friday to news of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, with commentators portending that this vote brings the US one step closer to Donald Trump’s presidency.  Donald himself proclaimed “I hope America is watching.”  Of course, Trump also congratulated the Scottish people for taking “their country back” even though they actually voted to stay in the EU.  (If they were voting to take their country back, they would have done so by declaring independence from Britain, not the EU.  Hasn’t Trump ever seen Braveheart?)  

It is not only Trump, however, who believes that the Brexit vote may predict the American presidential race.  A look at today’s media coverage, or the twitter feeds of many American political scientists, show similar fears.  At the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum claims Brexit is “a warning to America,” while the New York Times suggests that populist anger driving Trump is also the main driving force of the Brexit vote.  

I will not argue here that Brexit does not have supporters who are driven by xenophobia and populism.  It certainly does.  The British wish to leave the European Union, however, is not an inherently xenophobic or populist wish.  Instead, Britain has been ambivalent about the European Union since its founding, when Britain chose not to join.  Later, as the British economy struggled, European membership began to look better and better.  So much so that they applied to join the EU twice in the 1960s.  French President De Gaulle vetoed the British application both times, an experience not easily forgotten by the British.  Finally in 1973, Britain joined the European Community (what we now call the European Union).  Even at this moment, when Britain had been trying to join the EU for over a decade, there was still significant domestic concern about how membership in Europe might affect British independence, and fear among trade unions that Europe would decrease worker’s protections.  These concerns were so significant that Britain held a referendum just two years after joining Europe.  With British economy and political power waning, 67% of voters supporting membership because they hoped it would strengthen Britain.  It did.

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The Party Decides the Transition

By Heath Brown

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Much attention has been paid to The Party Decides: Presidential Nominations Before and After Reform and its implications for this primary season (see here and here). The book argues that party elites have a strong voice in the selection of presidential candidates. Rather than candidate selection determined primarily by members of the party voting in primaries and caucuses, those in a party’s organizational coalition – large donors, interest groups, and major activist organizations – drive party decisions. A second argument of the book is that much of this happens during the invisible primary, largely unobservable to most of the public and the media since it happens behind closed doors shrouded in secrecy.

Whether or not the book accurately predicted what has transpired in this year’s campaign has been debated at length elsewhere, and seems far from resolution. What has not been addressed so far is whether the book speaks to subsequent phases of the election. In particular, whether the arguments at the core of the book can help better understand the 72 days between the Election and the Inauguration, what is called the presidential transition phase. During this time, the president-elect and a transition team make thousands of decisions about the direction of the country including hundreds of personnel appointments and policy choices.

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The Personal is Political, or At Least, Relevant

Today marks the second post in our new “professional development and reflections on the discipline” series, curated by the WPSA Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession. In this post, Professor Hirsch reminds us that there is strength in sharing our experiences with each other,  and grapples with our one-size-fits-all system for measuring success. For more on his reflections, check out his memoir,  Office Hours: One Academic Life. If these topics are of interest to you, we would like to encourage you to register for our short course at the APSA conference in Philadelphia in September on Unlocking Success with Failure. This half-day short course will focus on unlocking our success – as individuals and institutions – by exploring the failures in our personal and institutional stories. We will do so in the context of the many interdisciplinary intellectual frameworks that illuminate failure as inevitable and necessary for achievement.

By H.N. Hirsch

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Recently, I took a step away from usual scholarly expectations–I published a memoir about my academic life, a memoir I spent roughly four years writing (and rewriting and rewriting).  Having reached my sixties and having, somewhat by chance, somewhat by choice, worked in a variety of different institutional environments–the Ivy League, the University of California system, and two liberal arts colleges–I felt I had things to say about the strengths and weaknesses of each of these major types of academic workplaces, as well as things to say about being a gay academic of a certain age.

Writing a memoir is an odd experience when you are still embedded in the system you are describing, or at least it was for me.  At times I felt–and will no doubt be judged by some to have been–disloyal or ungrateful, someone seeking revenge or (as an officious senior colleague once said to me) someone who doth protest too much–an occupational hazard for anyone doing personal writing of this kind.  At other times during the writing process I felt liberated–enormously free to ignore standard scholarly form and to say things I had kept to myself for many years, things that seemed to me necessary to say.

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