Dismal. Apocalyptic. Vapid. Embarrassing. Spiteful. Meaningless. Frightening. Ugly.
These are just some of the words the University of Dallas community has used to describe the 2016 election cycle.
Politics professor Dr. Christopher Wolfe suggested a more precise term: Götterdämmerung.
By this, Wolfe said, he meant that both political parties are seemingly destroying themselves and each other.
The campaigns certainly have received their share of publicity, but UD professors have made it very clear that they believe the Constitution is the winner or loser of this election.
With the power of the Supreme Court heightened by the still-vacant seat and the likelihood of additional vacancies in the next few years, the nominations made by the next president are critically important for both major political parties.
“The matter at issue is which candidate is likely to do more harm than the other to our constitutional order and thus the common good of our republic,” politics professor Dr. David Upham said.
“The two biggest dangers to our constitutional government are that the next president will appoint ‘Living Constitutionalist’ judges to the Supreme Court and that the president will use executive orders to override or ignore what Congress has written into law, in ever more flagrant ways,” Wolfe said.
On that matter, history professor Dr. Susan Hanssen agreed.
“The Supreme Court [is what is at stake in this election],” Hanssen said. “We are increasingly ruled by the court, and it seems clear that the two candidates have very different ideas about what kind of candidates they will put forward for the two to four new justices who will likely be appointed in this next presidential term, thus establishing a direction for the country for the next half century.”
Dr. Samuel Weston, an economics professor, believes that the shift away from globalization poses an equally dangerous economic threat.
“Essentially, the movement toward global trade is being torpedoed,” Weston said. “That seems to me to have frightening implications both economically and diplomatically … On the other hand, we have another candidate much more in line with the economic movement of the past 50 years with open borders and an unimpeded flow of goods. That is the internationalist vision in charge since World War II.”
Although there are competing ideologies among the different candidates, Upham and Wolfe both encourage students to continue to be active citizens beyond simply voting.
“[After the election] citizens should, I believe, think seriously about the degree to which our Constitution does indeed serve the common good,” Upham said. “To the extent citizens conclude the answer is ‘yes,’ they should work to preserve, protect and defend that Constitution.”
Hanssen advised students to essentially continue to pursue the virtues taught at UD.
“Forge strong, close-knit communities of friends and family in which the moral and intellectual virtues can survive and flourish,” Hanssen said.
Wolfe encouraged a more novel approach.
“We should reward or punish the next president after two years by voting in the midterm elections in 2018,” Wolfe said. “Divided government, where the Congress is controlled by the opposite party of the president, can derail a bad president’s plans.”
Each professor offered detailed advice for first-time voters.
Hanssen suggested sticking to the values inherent to the traditional American way of life.
“The most important consideration is the recovery of our country’s respect for the most basic values: the dignity of every human life and the proper legal recognition for true marriage, which secures healthy families for the future,” Hanssen said. “Affirming these values and prudentially judging the crisis moment in the life of the Supreme Court and its role in our national life should help signal how to vote.”
Wolfe encouraged voters to examine all options, even options outside the two major parties.
“I, along with most voters, consider these to be two bad candidates nominated by the Republican and Democratic parties,” Wolfe said. “A voter in this case needs to do a ‘lesser of evils’ analysis, perhaps even considering third-party candidates.”
Prudence, Upham said, is the best tool students have to make educated decisions.
“Remember that in this election, there is no obviously ‘principled’ choice, and we should use prayerful prudence in seeking to identify the best or least bad decision,” Upham said.
Upham offered one more piece of advice to voters faced with difficult social division.
“Be kind to your fellow citizens as they strive to [identify the better candidate], and be kind to others even if they don’t appear to be doing the same,” Upham said. “In sum, my prescription is prayerful prudence and kindness.”