Mohsen Abdelmoumen: Your remarkable work has resulted in an uncompromising statement in your book ”American Politics in the Age of Ignorance”. How do you explain the fact that States and policymakers reproduce the same policies that have failed?
Dr. David Schultz: There are several reasons. One of them is really the issue of limited knowledge and time where policy makers are looking for solutions to common problems and they are prone to looking elsewhere for answers or possible solutions. Thus, the concept of diffusion of policy ideas from one jurisdiction to another explains it. Yet there are also other factors. The role of lobbyists and special interests pushing a policy agenda, equipped with the power of money to enable policy agendas. One can also point to the failure to really engage in fact-based or evidence-based policy to drive decision making.
Your book “Election Law and Democratic Theory” talks about a democratic deficit. Doesn’t the debate about electoral law, or simply about democratic practice, need to be deepened?
Yes. The point of my book is to argue that election law needs a deeper theory of democracy and democratic practice to guide and inform it. Election law often involves making difficult normative choices about specific rights of individuals versus the government or other individuals. Such as whose free speech rights prevail. A theory of democracy is needed to guide election law and help inform these choices.
Can we say that a president who brandishes the bible against a backdrop of revolt is the president of all Americans?
He is not anymore, especially in a culture that is multi-religious and also decreasingly religious. Maybe at one time the USA was a Christian nature in practice (although not constitutionally) but it is less so now and the presidential appeal to religious symbols is divisive.
Isn't one of the consequences of Donald Trump's reign the crisis that the United States is going through with this great popular uprising following the assassination of George Floyd?
George Floyd was waiting to happen. The US has a long history of racism that goes back to the founding and in the last 25-50 years racial inequality has stagnated. Police use of force against people of color have also become a serious problem. Politicians have promised reform but little has taken place. As a result when Floyd was killed it opened up years of frustration and anger.
Your article “The Covid-19 Bailout: Another Failed Opportunity at Structural Change” is very interesting. The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the capitalist system. Don't you think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the Covid-19 crisis? Isn't it time for real change instead of reforming a moribund system?
Covid-19 did reveal lots of weaknesses in unregulated capitalism. It especially pointed to weaknesses in the form of capitalism the US practices as well as in its public health infrastructure. Real changes in both are probably necessary to address future pandemics as well as the inequities in American society.
You wrote the article “What If They Held a Revolution and No One Came?” in which you make a relevant observation. Don't you think that for a radical change to take place, there has to be a genuine Left? Doesn't the American Left need to be rebuilt?
The left in the US has always been weak and divided. Moreover, the left in the US is different than the left in other nations. Effectively, the left here is not socialist or communist and is perhaps not even as progressive as the social democratic parties of Scandinavia. It is divided over whether class, identity, or interests should be the glue to hold the left together.
How do you explain the failure of the Democrats to provide a real alternative to Donald Trump?
The American Democratic Party is still more of a centrist party, but it is divided internally with an older and new generation of members who share different world views and policy positions. This means the party does not have a clear agenda in the way Trump does, rendering it more difficult to find a first choice candidate for them. Moreover, to understand American politics one must also appreciate how our federalism and voting participation rates among some groups affect candidate selection and elections. The result is that a Biden may often be the compromise candidate even if he is not the candidate that is the first choice for many.
What is your analysis of the serious events in the United States after the assassination of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers?
This was a serious event but as noted above, it was not unexpected. Racism and excessive use of force by police have been issues for years. Now the question is whether the reaction to Floyd’s death will result in progressive policy change or a conservative reaction. Both are possibilities.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is Dr. David Schultz?
Dr. Schultz is a Hamline University Professor of Political Science who teaches across a wide range of American politics classes including public policy and administration, campaigns and elections, and government ethics. David is also a professor in the Hamline and University of Minnesota Schools of Law where he teaches election law. David is the author of 30 books and 100+ articles on various aspects of American politics, election law, and the media and politics, and he is regularly interviewed and quoted in the local, national, and international media on these subjects by agencies including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Economist, and National Public Radio. His most recent books are Presidential Swing States: Why Only Ten Matter (2015), Election Law and Democratic Theory (2014), and American Politics in the Age of Ignorance: Why Lawmakers Choose Belief Over Research (2013). A three-time Fulbright scholar who has taught extensively in Europe, Professor Schultz is the 2013 Leslie A. Whittington national award winner for excellence in public affairs teaching.
Published in American Herald Tribune July 19, 2020: https://ahtribune.com/interview/4303-david-schultz.html