Harrison Hall in winter

Janus Lecture

Spring 2018 JANUS Forum: “Is the Party Over? American Politics in the Age of Trump”
Wednesday March 6, 2018

Summary written by Maia Anderson, CAS communications intern

Miami’s Political Science Department hosted their 6th annual spring Janus Forum on Wednesday, March 7. Held every semester since 2013, the Janus Forum is meant to provide a place for debate between between members of the community with opposing views.

This semester the guests consisted of Ezra Klein, founder and editor-at-large of Vox.com, Kelly Ayotte, a former Senator from New Hampshire, and Jonathan Swan, a national political reporter for Axios. The combination of journalists and a politician was an intentional move on the part of the planning committee, run by students, in order to get a diverse array of viewpoints.

The debate was mediated by Miami senior Madeline Zick, who read questions set by the panel and from audience members submitted via Twitter.  The main focus of the night was American political parties and their changing roles and influences during the Donald Trump administration.

One of Klein’s most notable statements of the night emphasized the divide seen between the two parties today.

“The core fact of American politics right now is that we have weak parties and strong partisanship,” said Klein.

Ayotte made note of how much both parties have changed throughout the years, saying, “If we went back fifty or sixty years, I certainly never would have been chosen by my party.”

Swan offered a unique view of American politics, being a native of Australia. His outsider view of our government led him to stray from Klein and Ayotte’s statements that the parties are weak by noting that, compared to his native country’s parties, ours are still very strong and have a great deal of power.

“American parties are plenty strong but the system is completely screwed up,” said Swan.

According to Swan, event like the Janus forum are essential for a well-rounded education.

“When I was in college it was always good to meet people who are practitioners, who do things you don't necessarily get exposed to everyday,” said Swan.  “I wish I encountered working journalists more when I was at university. Just to have that experience with people who are doing it day in and day out and not lecturing about it or theorizing about it, is just incredibly valuable.”

The forum gives students studying political science a practical experience to meet and speak with people who work in and influence their future career field.

“It adds a lot of value to my degree in political science and a lot of my professors in classes respect that as well and give me a special opportunity to attend,” said Brendan Greenlee, a junior at Miami.

Junior Paolo Federico-O’Murchu discussed his thoughts on why discussions like the Janus forum are important in college, at an age when many people’s political minds have not been made up.

“It’s still possible to change people’s views more here, but the macro trends of American polarization I think definitely hold true,” said Federico-O’Murchu. “It’s almost undoubtable at this point.”

When asked about their thoughts on the speakers, both students seemed to agree that while they enjoyed all of them, Swan was the one that made the event.

“I think Swan really sold it for me,”said Greenlee. “He talked a big game and I think was able to follow it up.”

The Janus Forum is sponsored by The Thomas W. Smith Project on Liberty, Democracy and Citizenship, the Miami University Department of Political Science and the Office of Diversity Affairs. The event is made possible by the support of The Thomas W. Smith (Miami ’50) Foundation.

Visit the Janus Forum website for information about upcoming Forums.