Lisle, Illinois ~ The advent of the information age and how people get their news has contributed to a cultural shift that has made effective dialogue on both the left and the right more problematic than ever, said Erick-Woods Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState.com and a frequent Fox News contributor during his presentation at Benedictine University on Tuesday.
“We have the ability to form our separate cultural idioms and our separate ways of talking to each other in a way we used to not be able to,” Erickson said. “This makes it much more difficult in this country for someone to come to a position of power because there are so many more conversations and culturally idiomatic expressions and languages within languages that people have to learn.”
The University brought Erickson to campus as part of the nonpartisan Center for Civic Leadership (CCL) speaker series at Benedictine. Established in 2005 under the direction of former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, a 1969 Benedictine graduate and Distinguished Fellow, the CCL seeks to shape a new generation of public leaders and responsible citizens. The University invites prominent public figures to speak on campus to expose students and the community to multiple viewpoints on current topics.
Erickson focused mostly on power struggles and changing political philosophies within the Republican Party during his lecture, discussing the impact of the 2010 elections, changes in political party designations, the Affordable Care Act, the recent government shutdown and other events. He also discussed the role of the media in shaping public opinion, his experiences working on political campaigns and as a city council member in Macon, Ga.
He credited Bill Clinton with inadvertently creating the first wave of the tea party movement in 1994, when more conservative Democrats opted to switch parties, shifting political ideologies within the Republican Party.
“Conservative policy positions became Republican policy positions because all of the conservatives had moved into the Republican Party,” he said. “Many of the Democrats of 1990 are Republicans today. This presents a problem for the conservative movement and where we are with the tea party movement.”
After U.S. Sen. John McCain lost to Obama in 2008, Republicans and tea party conservatives fought back and pushed more leaders into state and federal offices, but their success ended in the nomination of a lackluster conservative for president in 2012, Erickson said.“The Republicans thought they were on to something, and then they nominated a man who focused-grouped whether or not he should wear jeans in public,” Erickson said. “Whether you liked Barack Obama or not as a conservative, most people liked him better than Mitt Romney. Even I liked him more than Mitt Romney.”
Erickson forecasted that the 2014 primary season will be one of the “bloodiest” ever for any political party in light of the recent Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which opens the door for outside groups to raise money against longtime Republican donors.
The challenge will be for Republicans to nominate a candidate who can bring the party and nation together, he said.
“Unless we can find a politician who can pull us back together and find common ground for all of us, we’re going to be in much more of a world of hurt than we are now,” Erickson said. “Politics in the United States is cyclical. Ask Karl Rove how his permanent Republican majority is doing for him. Politics ebbs and flows. One party is dominant and then the other party is dominant. For anyone who thinks Democrats will dominate this country for the next decade I have to tell you that events change things.”
Meghan Nolan, a senior Political Science major at Benedictine, who describes herself as more left- leaning, said it was refreshing to hear Erickson, a conservative, call out Republican leaders for their failings.
“It was interesting to me that even someone from the right-wing conservative blogosphere is sitting here saying that their candidate, which the majority of their party affiliation had chosen to run, was horrible and he knew he wasn’t going to win to begin with,” Nolan said.
Alex Adkins, a junior Political Science major, said he was optimistic Republicans will regain control in Washington, but that they will need to do a better job of communicating and explaining their side.
“Right now I think the Democrats are doing a much better job of saying what they mean and are able to communicate with people better,” Adkins said. “I think Republicans need to change this as well if they want to take control.”
To learn about more upcoming speakers sponsored by the CCL, visit www.ben.edu/ccl.
Benedictine University is an independent Roman Catholic institution located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded in 1887, Benedictine provides 55 undergraduate majors and 17 graduate and four doctoral programs. Benedictine University is ranked No. 1 among the country’s fastest-growing campuses between 2000-2010 in The Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of private nonprofit research institutions, and Forbes magazine named Benedictine among “America’s Top Colleges” for the third consecutive year in 2013. Benedictine University’s Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain’s Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area in 2013.