I miss Dr. Balkema's political science classes, especially now

I miss Dr. Balkema's political science classes, especially now

I majored in journalism when I got my B.A. at Valparaiso University. I learned a great deal about writing and reporting in my journalism classes, but also in many other classes; I learned that if I might not get a job as a chemist, for instance, I could at least learn to write sensibly about chemistry.

Two of my favorite classes were political science classes taught by Dr. Richard Balkema. He taught me well about national politics and, in a second class, state and local politics, and it has all come in handy in my life as a citizen as well as my life as an editor and writer.

But it’s days like yesterday and today that make me wish I were back in his class now. Serious events — by the standards of those calmer times — would lead Dr. Balkema to talk about his favorite movie, ‘The Candidate” (starring Robert Redford, made in 1972). The candidate, Bill McKay (Redford), is a creature of his advisors as he runs for the Senate and, unexpectedly, wins. In the last scene, McKay pulls his advisor away from the media throng and into a quiet room. He has only one question — and Dr. Balkema called it “the most important question in politics:”

“What do we do now?”

I’ve heard Robert Redford’s voice saying that every time I’ve spent more than two minutes on news stories over the past day.

It is truly the most important question in politics, the most important question for the country.


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  • "What do we do now?"

    In life as in politics, our biggest failings can be when we glibly believe that we have the answer to this question.

  • In reply to jnorto:

    Well put, jnorto. I didn't mention the answer from the movie because there is no answer in the movie. The question translates so well, but the answer needs a great deal of work.

  • 1. I am like you to the extent that based on high school experience, I thought I would be a chemist, but after not getting the green stuff to turn purple, and not understanding calculus, went into poly sci and economics. The poly sci was into such things as why Anwar Sadat was not such a bad guy, and how it was all about oil (before OPEC).

    2. I don't think Dr. Balkema or Hans Morganthal could have figured out this mess, including the effects of social media, a psychotic President using it to egg on his troops, propaganda channels on cable TV, and political advertising being 99% negative. The only light they could shed is how a Donito Mussolini could hijack a party and take over this nation.

  • In reply to jack:

    On further reflection, the reference should have been to Gamal Abd al-Nāṣīr.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks, Jack. Actually, chemistry turned up at my start just because it was a subject I can only write about -- I realized early that I wasn't going into the subject. It was between writing and music for me. But I knew politics would make up a lot of what needed editing or writing, so that's how I found my way to Dr. Balkema.

    One of the better reactions I've seen in the past 48 hours or so is that we need the Fairness Doctrine back in broadcasting. Before its removal in the late '80s, even those who watched only one network could get a sampling of various viewpoints.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    I don't think the Fairness Doctrine would make any difference anymore. Shoving aside El Rushbo's claim while on the air that it was only to muzzle conservatives, the FCC had jurisdiction to impose it because "the people" owned the limited airwaves. Such justification does not extend to cable and internet, the theory being up to now that there were not to be government restrictions on content, until #diaperdon found out that #diaperdon was trending.

    If talk radio is the issue, I think the real issue is that the government let radio consolidate into a few companies (iHeart, Cumulus, and Entrecom), who don't care what is on their airwaves (have both talk and urban stations, for instance), so long as it makes money. At least the FCC didn't allow Sinclair to take over Tribune Broadcasting.

  • "What do we do now?" An existential question to be sure.

    In the movie, Redford had just been elected president. Was he using "we" in the royal sense as did Queen Victoria when she would say "We are not amused"?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    With due respect, my friend, I believe that Redford's character had just been elected to the U.S. Senate. I remember him as such a creature of his advisors that I've always thought that he was speaking to the advisor in the scene, as in "What are all of us going to do?"

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