ACU’s chapter of the American Enterprise Institute welcomed a Washington D.C.-based political analyst for lunch Wednesday, centered around the election environment.
AEI is a large conservative think tank in Washington D.C. with a presence on 70 college campuses across the country. Rachael Shudde, chair of ACU’s AEI Executive Council, was involved in planning the event with AEI’s D.C. office and said she looks forward to events of a similar nature in the future.
“I am excited that one of the biggest think tanks in the nation is sending people to our campus,” said Shudde, mathematics and political science major from Ovalo. “This is the first event, so we are kind of blindly seeing what we can do, but we really like getting the message out about AEI and what they do.”
The chapter’s first event featured Henry Olsen, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who spoke to a group of students on the state of the 2016 election. Olsen presented historical background on why both the Democratic and Republican parties have moved further left and right, explained how delegate systems for both parties’ conventions work, and offered his analysis of the race so far.
“This is the most interesting and consequential presidential nomination contest in the last 30-40 years,” Olsen said. “It’s consequential because voter coalitions are fraying. What we are seeing are sharp challenges and mobilization of voter groups that are dissatisfied with the existing political order.”
In his breakdown of the current state of things, Olsen said absent of an indictment of Hillary Clinton or someone very close to her, it is almost impossible for Bernie Sanders to win the democratic nomination.
“The Democratic voting rules don’t let someone come from behind unless the game changes dramatically,” Olsen said. “And past elections suggest it’s very hard to change voter groups’ minds once the election is this far in.”
As for the Republican nomination, the field is still unclear.
“It’s a 50/50 shot as to whether they stop Trump or not, and if they do, I’d say there’s an 80 percent chance the nominee is Cruz.”
Olsen’s experience and expertise provided students with knowledge and insight among the tumultuous sea of political views.
“My expertise can help students understand and place what they’re seeing in historical context,” Olsen said. “That’s necessary to understand what they are seeing and help them make good choices about where to vote.”
Brianna Close, junior advertising and public relations major from Lexington, South Carolina, said Olsen’s visit to campus was encouraging and informative.
“I really appreciated that somebody of such political prestige, someone so knowledgeable on the current election, was able to come to ACU,” Close said. “Considering how polarized and sometimes upsetting the election is right now, it was so encouraging to hear a really rational analysis of the election on both sides of the aisle. Mr. Olsen gave some kind of hope for what could finally happen in November.”
Close, who attended other AEI events in Washington D.C., said she respects the work AEI does in the political realm.
“They are a great network of resources for people,” Close said. “I think it is really positive to have people who have spent their whole life devoted to public service to come in and give a solid view of how things are now.”
Taylor Crumpton, social work major from Oakland, California, attended the AEI lunch, knowing her views would be different from Olsen’s.
“For me as a liberal-progressive democrat, I thought I was walking into a luncheon where all my values and principles would be made fun of,” Crumpton said. “But I really enjoyed how he was knowledgeable about both sides, and he presented information that was useful to republicans, democrats and independents.”
The AEI Executive Council on campus will continue to plan events in the future and hope to see their presence grow on campus and in Washington D.C.
“A lot of people [on campus] probably wouldn’t ever consider that they have a chance to get into policy making,” Shudde said. “But we want to tell them they can, even here.”