Regent Professors on the 2020 Election: Dr. David Impellizzeri
Note: The purpose of this column is not to advocate for one political party or another, but for students to learn more about the election and the knowledge and views of the professors who share information in regards to their expertise on the matter.
Although originally from Long Island, New York, Dr. David Impellizzeri has lived in eight different states throughout his lifetime. He attended Lee University and Duquesne University, through which he obtained a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry, a master’s degree in leadership and liberal studies, as well as a second master’s degree in philosophy. Additionally, he has a Ph.D. in rhetoric, which is his main area of instruction here at Regent. His background in these fields causes him to be reasonably concerned with the nature of America’s civic discourse. This merits an incredibly unique perspective and interpretation of American politics and politicians and the influence they have on our socio-political community.
Question: How do you think the political tension in America has heightened throughout the years?
Answer: “I want to answer by saying this: that problems with our civic political cultural discourse [are] not new with the 2016 election, [although] I think there’s been an intensification over the last several years, certainly. One of the places that I go when I think about the nature of our civic discourse right now is the work of moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre who wrote a book by the name of After Virtue in 1981. [In this book] he’s suggesting that we live in a time after virtue… [and that] we have lost a sense of shared criteria for how we’re to evaluate moral conduct and decision making. And so, because we’ve lost this criteria, we are left in a place of arbitrary preference.
What MacIntyre says is that our time is characterized by the obliteration of the distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative human relations… and I think just now over the last few years we are becoming, even if it’s in an inarticulate sense, we’re kind of becoming aware of this- of our inability to [distinguish between this manipulative and non-manipulative] form of public conversation with others… It is not just because of how things have gone for the last four years or for the last ten years even, but rather it’s something that has been in the making for quite some time.”
How do you think that social media has affected America’s current political climate?
“Media ecologists are going to really push the issue of form content unity, that certain media are only going to allow… certain possibilities you can’t do. You can’t do philosophy with smoke signals, for example, right, but smoke signals can communicate something vital. Another example of this was in the shift from a radio culture to a TV culture. Maybe you’ve heard of this before, but [during] the debate between Richard Nixon and JFK those who listened to that debate on the radio overwhelmingly said that Richard Nixon won the debate. Those who watched it on television overwhelmingly said John F. Kennedy won the debate. And there are media ecologists who really point out how it is that the media themselves shape our perception of reality.
How does social media then shape our perception of reality? Well, let’s contrast [social media] a little bit with print media. Print media goes through a long process of publication… [and] is long form… I mean you sit down and read [an article in The Atlantic or The New Yorker] and you know you’re going to be reading for a while. Social media, on the other hand, is about short forms of communication and the goal is to attract people to what you’re saying in a quick period of time… And what garners attention is criticism. Because we’re drawn to drama and conflict, criticism tends to be… enormously prevalent on social media. There’s plenty more to say, but I think the form of the medium itself lends itself to… [such] possibilities.”
How do you think the election of either candidate will affect this social and political climate that we’ve been discussing?
“I think that no matter who wins we’re in trouble. And I think our problems are deeper than electoral politics, but electoral politics is where it tends to bubble up… I think what we’re seeing is something that’s been a long time in the making, so I think there are specific ways each candidate now can make things worse.
I think we’re all well acquainted with the ways in which Donald Trump can inflame tensions that exist rather than speak peace to those tensions. And then I think with Joe Biden, if he were to win, I think he’s going to have difficulty having enough spine to stand up to the radical ‘capital L’ Left in his own political party… which I also think exacerbates tensions.”
During the first presidential debate, what were some key elements that you think helped or hurt each candidate’s platform?
“I would say, just from a standpoint of analysis, from those who either resonate with President Trump or who strongly oppose him, I think his debate performance was just a missed opportunity. He had a chance in the midst of intense racial tensions, the likes of which many of us have never seen in our own lifetime… to talk about some of the things that he was able to do that his administration, and even some others who totally disagree with him, have acknowledged as real accomplishments for African-Americans… I mean, he had a real chance to talk about the record[ed] lowest unemployment for African-Americans, at least in recent history, [and] he had a chance to talk about prison reform… But his own self-destructive tendencies… prevented him from actually accomplishing his larger goal of getting his message across to the American people. And that’s just one instance in the debate that stands out to me.
Just as President Trump had a chance to denounce white supremacy… I think Joe Biden had a real chance to denounce some of the violent elements on the left, and he didn’t either. He referred to Antifa [as] not a movement or a group… I can’t remember his exact language now, but basically he kind of reduced them to an idea, right? And an idea doesn’t throw a brick through your window, you know. So anyway, I think he had some real missed opportunities too.”
What advice do you have for first-time voters, and especially first-time presidential voters?
“Question your sources and intentionally seek out sources that are different from your own political instincts and inclinations. I would say read sources that are going to disagree with your own viewpoint because you may think you’re getting a balanced perspective from a certain news outlet, but I really don’t think you’re getting that in most cases today… I would also say that don’t just get your news from TV or social media. Read more long form print that has to go through editorial processes and things of that nature.”
When participating in voting, what are the top three factors that you keep in mind?
“I would say religious liberty is really important to me, so I would say that’s up there. I don’t know if I’m giving these in order, but let’s just say religious liberty. Then I would say moral issues, and for me it would be largely around the protection of legally innocent human life from death or torture… Obviously [the protection of] the unborn would be [a huge part of that]. And then I would also say economic issues. Economic issues just from the standpoint of the wallets of everyday, hard-working American citizens.”
Who do you think will win the 2020 election?
“My goodness, I mean honestly, I just really don’t know. If you were to ask me before the pandemic I would have said I would have thought President Trump would’ve won. But not only since the pandemic, and whether you think he mishandled it or just it was just a failure of PR, either way, public perception is not good for the Trump administration with respect to the pandemic. And then after this summer of racial tensions and of social unrest, and then I also think just even after Trump’s performance in the first debate… I think Joe Biden has a heck of a lot more of a chance [now] in my view than he did six to eight months ago.
I think Joe Biden might win. And that’s kind of where my hunch is moving toward right now. But I also know that a lot of people will not admit publicly to supporting Trump. And I think polls can be enormously skewed, as we’ve seen in 2016. And who knows, Trump may win this thing… and we might all just be really surprised once again. So I really don’t know.”
As we await the results of the election, tensions are undoubtedly high. We can not predict who will win for certain, and even when we do find out who the winner is, we cannot know for sure all of the events that will follow. And while this unknown future may be terrifying, it is important to remember where our hope actually lies. Not in political candidates, who, because they are human, are imperfect and disappointing, but in a God who is sovereign and who will never disappoint. As Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” So no matter what happens tomorrow, know that you can rest in the knowledge that God is ultimately in control.