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Wendy Scattergood

Readers who live in the WBAY-Channel 2 viewing area will see Wendy Scattergood participating in the station’s election night coverage. Wherever you live, watch for post-election analysis from other St. Norbert professors.

November 2008

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Political scientists, economists much in demand this election season

As the media in Wisconsin and beyond look to interpret the ups and downs that characterize both presidential campaigns and current affairs in general, they draw heavily on the knowledge of St. Norbert faculty members specializing in the field.
Mike Counter, who manages media relations for the college, knows how busy the political science faculty members are during any election year. But this year, he says, is beyond anything he’s seen. “You throw in the economic situation, and Kevin Quinn and Sandy Odorzynski [professors of economics] have been in constant demand too. You combine the political and economic issues, and they’re really using the expertise of these people.”

Political scientists are go-to analysts
Quinn, who says he’s been on TV so many times in the last few weeks that he was recognized by a McDonald’s drive-thru attendant, believes that the media seeks out St. Norbert College professors because of what they do every day – teach: “A good teacher can cut through complexity to make clear the main forces that shape life. In some ways, explaining whats and whys to the public through electronic and print media is a lot like explaining technical concepts to undergraduates.”

Members of the political science faculty like Charley Jacobs, Dave Wegge and Wendy Scattergood have appeared all over Wisconsin to talk about the presidential election.

They have been on local and Milwaukee television stations as well as WisconsinEye TV. They have been interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio and quoted in Green Bay, Appleton and Milwaukee newspapers. Scattergood was recently quoted in USA Today and is billed as WBAY’s political analyst.

What’s at stake
There is no question that much is at stake this election – on both domestic and international fronts. The economy, Iraq, health care, immigration and our environment all weigh heavily on the minds of the electorate. Yet, much of the media attention is focused on the superficial, say the professors.

Jacobs says, “I wish that the questions were a bit more substantive. Most of the interviews, which by necessity are quite short, address horse-race or beauty-pageant questions – who won, who did better, who spoke more clearly or directly.” Jacobs wants more talk about the content of the proposals offered by both Obama and McCain.

Wegge thinks the media hasn’t spent enough time talking about how policy decisions today will impact society in the future. “We as a society have strapped our children with a substantial financial burden. I believe one of the next significant conflicts in our society will be a generational conflict.”

Beyond U.S. borders
Americans won’t be the only ones glued to their TV screens tonight. According to Gratzia Villarroel, a St. Norbert political scientist and expert on international affairs, the 2008 presidential election could change U.S. foreign policy significantly. “Barack Obama believes in providing global leadership with the understanding that ‘the world shares a common security and a common humanity’, ” she says.

Obama’s popularity abroad, she adds, is sometimes compared to that of John F. Kennedy’s. “He is seen as someone who is attuned to the complexities of international challenges, but also a bridge-builder who can bring about a new chapter in U.S. foreign policy.” Critics at home continue to claim that Obama doesn’t have enough experience in international affairs to be an effective president of the United States.

McCain, on the other hand, has plenty of experience. Those abroad just don’t know if it would improve U.S. relations with the rest of the world. Villarroel says, “Because McCain has already expressed his desire to expand U.S. covert operations to fight the war on terrorism, and because he intends to support the creation of the League of Democracies, some believe that he might continue to support the Bush Doctrine.

“Nevertheless, McCain argues that he has a new vision for U.S. foreign policy. The League of Democracies would promote greater cooperation among U.S. allies, and the new international organization would bring over 100 nations that share a common vision together to find solutions to international crises.”

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