Maybe you've heard about this little election thing coming up? Because we're obsessed, too, we decided to catch up with Dr. Matthew Crenson, political scientist, professor emeritus at Hopkins, and author of several political books including his latest, Presidential Power: Unchecked & Unbalanced.
What book or film most changed your life? Tootle the Train. The book's repeated injunction to "stay on the tracks no matter what" blighted my life until after I got tenure.
Who is your favorite Baltimorean, living or dead? Congressman/Senator/General Samuel Smith
What is the best advice you ever got? "Don't become a minister." —From my minister.
What's the key to getting young people to vote? It will be interesting to see if the new technologies of politics manage to sustain the activism of young people. The Obama campaign, for example, has a text messaging network in place that will remind its voters to turn out on election day. Traditionally, turnout among voters under 30 has been low. Cell phones, the Internet, and outrage may combine to change that.
Is the blogosphere good or bad for our election process? Both. It's bad because it allows misinformation to circulate unchallenged and because it tends to segment the electorate into "niche publics" whose members listen only to the likeminded. It's good because it has revolutionized campaign finance by allowing small contributors to account for a larger share of political resources. And it increases interest in politics.
The national media gets accused of dumbing down the issues. But aren't soundbites all people want? Not at all. I find that people are hungry for political information and political discussion—real discussion. Above all, they seem to be searching for a context that will help them to make sense of what's happening to the country.
Is it remotely possible that Maryland could become a "red state" this election cycle? Not a chance.
Back to local politics: Can a popular sitting mayor get a truly impartial jury? No problem. Thousands of potential jury members in Baltimore are completely oblivious to local politics.
What's the one truism from politics that people never seem to learn from? "Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean that politics won't take an interest in you." —Pericles