Regent Professors on the 2020 Election: Dr. Kevin Grimm
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.
Dr. Kevin Grimm grew up in the middle of the old ‘Rust Belt’ in Bowling Green, Ohio, and attended Bowling Green State University for undergrad and Ohio University for his Ph.D. His main field of study is modern U.S. and British history, as well as foreign relations. While his specialty may not be political science, Dr. Grimm pays close attention to politics because, in his words, “it becomes history, and so, I study it.”
Question: What would you say is your biggest concern about the 2020 election?
Answer: “I think my biggest concern is, and it’s very rare to say this, to be honest, but I think a potential non-acceptance of the results… If it’s very unclear, you know, if it’s a close election, especially in a couple of states and there’s court challenges—that kind of makes me worried that it’ll just further divide the country… [and] we’re divided enough already.”
You talked about division. Do you think that this year’s tensions between parties are unique to 2020, or have we seen this before?
“Yeah, for sure it’s not unique, so [it] definitely has happened in other elections. It’s worse than a lot of elections for sure… [Andrew Jackson] basically won both the popular and arguably the electoral vote in 1824 [but didn’t] get the presidency… The campaigns there were so vicious; Jackson was accused of being a murderer, and they thought that John Quincy Adams was a kind of a Satanist. Absolutely, I think we’re in the top few regarding that amount of tension… but not super unique. ”
In the event of Trump’s reelection, do you think that there will be any second attempt at impeachment? Or do you think that those talks have ceased?
“That’s a good question. I doubt there would be… You still need two-thirds of the Senate- that’s not been changed in any way, so… even if [the Democrats] win the Senate, they’re not going to get two-thirds of the Senate. I just don’t think it would be politically wise at this point… there still [would] be enough Republicans in the Senate [to prevent a second attempt at impeachment].”
What are some foreign policy issues that you think will help or hurt both candidates’ chances at being elected into office?
“I think the things that are going on in the Middle East- some of the very recent normalization of relations between Israel and like the UAE, Saudi Arabia… I think these are things that will help Trump, particularly with his base, which tends to be, you know, Evangelical Conservatives.
I think Biden’s probably got the general message that we’ll reconnect to allies in Europe, let’s say, and South Korea, Japan, and kind of tone down some of the rhetoric that has come from the administration about international institutions. I don’t think Americans are going to vote specifically for him based on that… he hasn’t really talked about foreign policy a lot.”
How do you think the reopening of the SCOTUS seat will sway undecided voters?
“To be honest, I think that it’s gonna probably play to Biden a little bit better. There aren’t a lot of undecided voters left, for sure… Even less so than in 2016, which is probably a bad sign in some ways for Trump, because a lot of the analysis afterwards was that a lot of late deciders in 2016 [voted] for Trump… But if you don’t have a lot of late deciders, then that’s not going to help him out.”
Do you think the sheer fact that it is open will significantly change the results of the election, or is it just another factor?
“No, just another factor. I don’t think it’s going to be as big as perhaps the open seat was in 2016 in driving out Republican voters to the polls. I think both sides are already really energized, so this kind of adds a little bit more ‘wonderful’ to the tension. But I don’t actually see it swinging a lot.”
Who do you think will win the 2020 election based on your evaluations?
“It does seem relatively likely Biden will win. I’ve seen articles that the Republican party has stopped spending [in Michigan], so that’s probably gone. Wisconsin, actually, even; despite whatever one might think about what happened in Kenosha… it actually seems that the polling there is going away from [Trump]. In addition to surprises and maybe Georgia or Texas or Ohio or Iowa, these are not likely.
I guess my point is that Biden seems to have multiple paths to get to 270, whereas Trump has pretty narrow ways to defend a lot of turf and make sure he wins what he did before. So I don’t see him expanding.”
When deciding who to vote for, what are the main things you keep in mind?
“Yeah, as a historian, I see what happens when countries… have had people who are only serving their own. We know that people want these positions often because of power, but in theory we like to think that they are like public servants, right? And that they would help do the best for the most people. Obviously both sides argue, ‘This is best for most people,’ but that’s at least one of my top things for sure.
Personally, as an international relations guy, even though it’s not important to lots of Americans, I do think that connections to other democratic allies are important. I think that we are in a period in which, and this has been going on for a while, that the United States has had a diminished presence around the world. In my field there’s a lot of debate about ‘Is US presence abroad imperialistic or not?’ Or a force for good or not? I don’t think that we’re perfect, but I think that we’re better than Russia and China… I try to look at the way that the United States is going to help spread ideals… like individual rights and democracy and stuff like that. So that’s another one of my criteria.”
Does being a Christian affect how you vote?
“I do tend to think of that [as] servanthood leadership, and practically, ‘what’s the best way to witness to others?’ Absolutely, I hold core ideals important. But in some ways, as a historian, I’ve seen so many different avenues and approaches to politics that it’s like, ‘what’s the most practical way, in the real world as it exists, that would show the love of Christ to others and that would…hopefully, convince others to put their faith in Christ?’ So sometimes that leads me one direction, sometimes another.”
Do you have any advice for first-time voters, especially first-time presidential election voters?
“Definitely vote, because I even tell my classes, I’m just like, ‘Vote.’ I know when I was young I didn’t do it as much- [but] the policies will affect you much longer than me. Along with that, know where you’re going, and especially with COVID, if you’re going to do it carefully… Take [voting] seriously… What do you want to see out of a leader? What policies are important to you? And then kind of consider [that]… you can vote for a third party candidate. That’s not a problem.
Obviously the presidency has a lot of power, and so, what do you want to see done with that power?”
Dr. Grimm closed the interview with a few final words regarding our responsibility as a Christian community. He said that loving others sometimes means having difficult conversations with them and relating to people regardless of who they vote for in November. It is our obligation as Christians to seek to love others and aim to show Christ in all areas of our lives, including our discussion of politics. In such a particularly “politically rancorous atmosphere,” loving others should be at the forefront of our minds.