Posted on: October 30, 2020 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

By Brendan McQuinn, News Editor

The whiplash-inducing whirlwind of current political turmoil—including politicization of the Supreme Court, the pandemic’s effects on voting patterns, and the accuracy of election polls—was the topic of discussion Tuesday during the latest installment of the college’s Democracy Commitment Webex series.

Moraine Valley political science professor Kevin Navratil hosted colleagues Merri Feffles-Dunkle and Deron Schreck for the virtual event, part of a panel collection aimed at generating civil literacy amongst students.

In a discussion focusing broadly on races at all levels, much of the initial conversation centered specifically on the contentious partisan hostility that has been rocking the U.S. Supreme Court in recent weeks after Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s controversial nomination and subsequent confirmation.

“It is not unconstitutional,” said Navratil, responding to an audience question about the ethics of Coney Barrett’s fast-tracked ascension. “It’s just breaking norms.”

Both Feffles-Dunkle and Schreck expressed concern over the extreme politicization of the Supreme Court.

“People show up to the ballot box and believe they have majority rule, but it will come down to five people on the Supreme Court who will decide for the rest of the country what the laws are,” Schreck said, noting a majority conservative sway in place on the court in the wake of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s succession of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“We’re the only country that does it this way,” Navratil said. “We shouldn’t be relying on somebody’s health or the random nature of when somebody passes away determining how many Supreme Court picks a president gets.”

The judiciary aspects of the United States democracy have become a high-stakes, high-focus battleground over the course of this election cycle.

“I think the good thing that has come out of this, maybe, is that people are paying attention to it more,” Feffles-Dunkle said. “I always find it ironic that people know the least about [the Judiciary branch], because this is the branch that affects your life on a daily basis,”

Schreck agreed, remarking upon McConnell’s desired legacy as it related to the courts: “When you talk about these, the court system in general, it’s almost as if McConnell knew that [Republican support amongst the general public had been waning], so he had to make sure that there was one of the branches of government that would always represent his frame of thinking.”

People show up to the ballot box and believe they have majority rule, but it will come down to five people on the Supreme Court who will decide for the rest of the country what the laws are.

Political science professor Deron Schreck

Shifting focus from the drama playing out across the stage of the judicial branch, Navratil centered his portion of the discussion on the presidential race itself, analyzing the impact that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will have on the results of the 2020 cycle, the accuracy of state-level polls depicting one candidate’s lead over another, and the Electoral College’s impact on presidential elections.

“I think [Trump] is being severely hurt in his re-election bid because of COVID, because of the deaths, because of its economic impact,” Navratil said, remarking upon how drastically the handling of the pandemic both in its early stages and its current state of resurgence has swayed voters either to or from support of the current administration.

Additionally, both Feffles-Dunkle and Navratil mulled the possibility of the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders allowing people to work remotely and thus move while retaining their jobs, potentially altering the voting patterns in key battleground states.

“Clearly COVID is having a major impact on our election,” said Navratil.

He questioned the accuracy of national- and state-level polls in depicting voter trends across the country, showing Biden in the lead.

“If the current polls are as wrong as they were in 2016,” said Navratil, “it’s possible that a state that Biden has a current 7 percent lead in, he may lose, [for example] Wisconsin or Iowa.”

In spite of polls that could be unreliable, however, Navratil expressed a preference for Electoral College projections, remarking that even if Biden were to lose states that showed inaccurate polling, he would still be “above the 270 vote threshold” for the college, bolstering his chances of securing the presidency.

“We don’t pick presidents based on polls, we pick presidents based on votes,” said Navratil.