Political Polarization

Larry Sabato, Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia

Larry Sabato, Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia

One of America’s most well-known political scholars told a Randolph audience the nation faces a rough road ahead unless politicians move away from extreme views and unwillingness to compromise.

“The centrifugal forces always threaten to rip apart the family of democracy, and we need institutions and processes to hold us together,” said Larry Sabato, who provided the 2013 Philip Thayer Memorial Lecture in September. “One of those processes was the diversity of opinion within the two major political parties, and now it’s gone.”

Sabato, the Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Political Science and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, is a national political expert known for his accurate political predications and insight. Mixing humor with political data, he entertained an audience of about 500 in Randolph’s Smith Hall Theatre.

Sabato compared the country’s political parties to birds, explaining that in order to fly, you need a left and a right wing. Unfortunately, he added, each party now has one injured wing. Unwilling to compromise, they fail to find solutions to many issues.

Sabato demonstrated the political polarization using data from presidential elections and opinion polls. He also made predictions for the coming congressional and presidential elections, including an analysis of scenarios each party could face depending on whom they nominate for president in 2016.

Political science professor Vincent Vecera was glad that the visit sparked interesting political conversations on campus. “I thought it was a valuable opportunity for students and the community,” he said. “He asked provocative questions, and I was proud of the questions from our students and neighbors.”

Daniel Baker ’15, a political science major, enjoyed thinking about the data and its implications. It reminded him of the event in 2012 when Republican strategist Karl Rove visited the College and gave insights on that year’s Republican primary. It shows the power of data-driven methods in politics, he said. “People like Larry Sabato really bring out the science aspect of political science.”