In the future, I will use this space to discuss political news and events concerning our state and nation. First, however, I want to take a moment to introduce myself, explain my reason for writing and share what to expect—and not expect—from this column moving forward.
I am an assistant professor of political science at the University of Arkansas at Monticello. My work allows me to spend a significant amount of time teaching and researching topics related to American and state politics. Part of my job as a political scientist is to communicate to my students the importance of civic participation and the need to be knowledgeable of our state and country’s political institutions. I want to expand this dialogue beyond the classroom.
While a representative democracy requires an active citizenry, we, as citizens, too often suffer from low interest in and knowledge of politics and government. As a result, too few of us consider the impact of government in our lives and even fewer people vote. However, when you stop and think about some of the most common sources of political information, can you blame someone for avoiding them? Those among us who do seek out political information are too often overwhelmed with pundits who, with their hyperbolic speech and combative tones, seem all too willing to pit us against one another. These people seek to create the perception that all political issues fit into tidy boxes labeled “us” and “them” or that entire states can be easily and accurately described as “red” or “blue.” Many of us find this divisive environment exhausting. We can get so disgusted with the lack of civility and objectivity in political discourse, that we just give up and tune it out. We deserve better.
For quite some time now, I have heard students, friends, relatives, and acquaintances express frustration and disgust for our polarized politics. Furthermore, there has been a recent push for political scientists to weigh in on public policy debates and political discussions. Even before Nicholas Kristof’s 2014 New York Times op-ed titled, “Professors, We Need You,” some political scientists began to engage the broader public and share what they learned to provide evidence-based analyses of political events. To that end, I would like to play a small part in improving political discourse. Here’s the deal—you can expect me to use this space to discuss current political events and topics related to our state and nation in a civil, objective manner. I am going to take relevant political issues concerning Arkansas or the U.S. more broadly and explain them objectively and to the best of my ability—no strings attached. Let’s be honest, you don’t care what my views are anyway. I want to provide an informative and (I hope) interesting column that will encourage a more thoughtful political dialogue in our region.
John C. Davis is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Arkansas at Monticello and writes a regular column for Southeast Arkansas media outlets.