Lecturer to discuss why Tea Party will help Obama

John Geer, Professor and Chair of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, will be coming to Swarthmore on Wednesday, October 26 to give a lecture. It will be held in Science Center 101 at 7:30 p.m.

Entitled “Why the Tea Party is Obama’s Ace in the Hole,” the lecture promises to explain why Obama still has a chance at reelection, irrespective of recurring theories within political science that say that presidents associated with sagging economies will not garner the necessary votes.

Richard Valelly, Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore, met Geer at Vanderbilt University when he went there to give a lecture in March. Impressed by his eloquence during lectures, Valelly invited Geer to speak to the Swarthmore community.

John Geer is a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. (Courtesy of my.vanderbilt.edu)

Geer has done a lot of research revolving around American elections and has published a book, “In Defense of Negativity: Attack Advertising in Presidential Campaigns,” in which he argues that negative campaign ads are not as detrimental as they seem.

“He has a nice counter-intuitive sense about the way in which the electoral process works…plus he’s a very dynamic lecturer,”Valelly said.

In choosing the topic of the lecture, both professors agreed that the Tea Party would be the one that would “work best,” Valelly said.

“The Tea Party is a current and wonderful example of the inherent tensions in political parties between being a purist and pragmatic entity,” Geer said in an e-mail.

“The Tea Party is incredibly interesting,” Valelly said. “I’m going to want to find out why the Tea Party is Obama’s ace in the hole, even if Mitt Romney is the nominee.”

According to Valelly, the lecture should be particularly interesting because of two existing and recurring lines of political science that point to conflicting outcomes for the race. One says that economic conditions matter for incumbents.

The other says that being too far on the left or right of the political spectrum, much like the Tea Party is, contributes to the downfall of campaigns.

“If you want to have some basis for assessing what seems to be the truism that any incumbent who’s running in this economy is bound to lose, then I think this lecture is going to give you perspective on that truism … Everyone is drawing the influence that Obama cannot win, and I think that this lecture offers a way to maintain some critical distance on what seems to be something so obviously true that it is hard to argue with,” Valelly said.

Geer received a bachelor of arts from Franklin & Marshall College and has both a Master of Arts and PhD from Princeton University.

He worked as the managing editor of the Journal of Politics alongside Valelly, and he has provided political commentary on live nation wide interviews for FOX, CNN, NBC and many others. He has won several lecturing awards, including the 2004 Birkby Price, the 2005 Jeffrey Nordhaus Award and the 2009 Ellen Greg Ingalls Award for teaching excellence at Vanderbilt University.

“I am excited about the chance to get reactions to this argument by some of the very best students in the country,” Geer said.

Swarthmore will host the first of his lectures on the Tea Party and its relationship to an evident win by Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential elections.

The lecture will be advertised not only to students, and to the public. Valelly expects an audience of approximately 80 people.

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