Kansas has produced a long list of presidential contenders from both sides of the political aisle—including Bob Dole, Gary Hart and Alf Landon—and Dwight Eisenhower, a hugely popular U.S. president who had no political party affiliation before running for office. As The New York Times' Chris Suellentrop wrote, "Kansas politics have always been touched with a spirit of the avant-garde and the unorthodox."
"I remember politics being a dinner conversation subject quite often," recalled Dr. Jaclyn Kettler, who grew up in a small Kansas farm town. Today, as a political science professor at Boise State University, she inspires those conversations. On Wednesday, May 4, at the Boise Public Library Hillcrest branch, Kettler will guide the public in a presentation on women in politics, focusing on the 2016 election campaign.
Have your classes' studies paid any particular attention to the Idaho Statehouse?
It has been wonderful to have current and ex-legislators come to class as guest speakers. Plus, we've examined a few pieces of legislation.
Well, the instant horse racing bill for one. [The 2013 Idaho Legislature legalized instant horse racing gambling machines only to rescind the law in 2015]. Our class talked a bit about the process, and we looked at who was donating money to lawmakers.
If a citizen wanted to follow the money, where would you point them? The Federal Election Commission?
The FEC has really improved its website over the years. For state and local politics, I recommend FollowTheMoney.org. I don't believe one donation directly impacts how an elected official generally acts, but looking at who they're getting money from might reveal what a politician's priorities might be.
How might you gauge your student's engagement, or lack thereof?
What I see is their frustration and their feeling that there may not be too many options for them. That said, I also see a lot of students involved in politics, even if they're not actually voting.
Give me an example.
Volunteering. A lot of my students' political engagement is issue-driven rather than through a particular political campaign.
The two clear frontrunners in the race for the White House are Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, yet they're also shackled with the highest unfavorable ratings in modern history.
But one of them is going to win.
I'm intrigued that here we are in 2016, yet some high-profile political pundits still refer to American women as a "voting bloc." Isn't that a myth?
The research shows that if anyone is a bloc recently, it's men but even then, it's too huge a group to consider homogenous.
I would be remiss if I didn't ask about Mr. Trump's recent comments implying that if Mrs. Clinton was a man, she would lose by huge margins, even within her own party.
At this point, it's not surprising to hear anything from Trump. I don't think his argument persuades a voter one way or another. Plus, Clinton can use Trump's rhetoric to her advantage.
Do you have a sense of what Mrs. Clinton learned from her loss eight years ago when she was soundly beaten by Barack Obama for her party's nomination?
Some of her attacks in 2008 fell pretty flat. Additionally, her 2008 campaign took its presumptive support for granted. Her messaging this year seems to come across a bit better.
What are your go-to media sources when you're searching for political reporting?
The New York Times and Washington Post. The Monkey Cage blog at the Post is particularly great.
And broadcast media?
My husband cut the cable last year when we got mad at the rising cost of cable television. We don't watch too much TV.
And on Election Night, who might you watch?
True to your Kansas roots, safe choice.