NORMAL — Four university professors who follow politics and political behavior think little will change in Washington, D.C., even after Tuesday’s final election results are known and gridlock is likely.
But the close presidential election is not necessarily a bad thing, they say.
“They’re nail-biters and prevent us from sleeping,” said Kerri Milita, associate professor of politics and government at Illinois State University, but “Close races are good. They’re a sign of a healthy democracy.”
What isn’t good is the increasing entrenchment with each side seeing the other as “evil,” rather than just having a different view, said Ryan Burge, an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University.
“We need compromise,” said Burge. That can’t happens when each believes “the other side is evil. … That’s not the kind of language we need to get things done.”
He said, “The reality is not much is going to get done over the next couple of years. The only things that will happen are what has to happen: budget bills and probably a coronavirus stimulus package.”
Lane Crothers, professor of politics and government at ISU, said with the Senate and House still held by opposite parties and little desire to compromise, the president — whether it’s incumbent Donald Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden — will have trouble accomplishing things.
“We’re going to end up in a similar situation that we have now,” said Crothers. “The divisions we’ve been experiencing for a while are unlikely to change.”
Each side tries to delegitimize the other side, he said. “We are so intense in our certainty of our correctness and the other side’s wrongness.”
Greg Shaw, professor of political science at Illinois Wesleyan University, said the country has entered an era of "strategic obstructionism" where each side works to prevent the other from getting credit for accomplishing its goals.
""It used to be just in election years. Now it's all the time," said Shaw.
Like Burge, Shaw must-do actions, like passing the budget, will proceed. but other big issues, such as health care costs and Social Security insolvency, will be pushed aside.
The “blue wave” that some predicted would not only sweep Biden into the White House but also flip the Senate didn’t happen, said Burge. Instead, Biden appears to have captured the “blue firewall that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016,” he said.
“The big thing across the board is everyone expected a major mobilization of Democrats … that in fact was a major mobilization of everyone,” said Crothers. “Very little got resolved” Tuesday.
At one time, close races meant each side was appealing to the middle, but that's not the case in recent years.
"It's like a two-humped camel," said Shaw. "The electorate hasn't vacated the middle, but there's a definite dip."
Democrats and Republicans were mobilized by very different presidential campaigns. Biden had social distant, parking lot events, while Trump stayed with his huge rallies, often with people close together and not wearing face coverings.
“I think their campaign styles were very reflective of who they are as people and who they are or would be as president,” said Milita.
Watch: How mail-in ballots are processed at the Government Center in Bloomington
Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota
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