On Tuesday, Dr. David B. Magleby, an accomplished author and professor in BYU’s political science department, delivered the Maeser Distinguished Faculty Lecture Forum to students of all majors about the necessity of political parties.
The Maeser Distinguished Faculty award is the highest honor given to faculty at BYU.
His message to students was that with next year’s presidential election becoming a larger conversation on TV and social media, the need to understand the purpose of political parties and the importance of voting is crucial.
In the filled-up de Jong Concert Hall, Dr. Magleby shared a surprising result of research about political parties. Those people who call themselves “pure independents” tend to be the least informed about government, while those who are “strong supporters” of the Republican or Democratic parties tended to be the most informed and most active in voting and political participation.
Dr. Magleby noted from observing the south’s shifting political history, that if there is only one political party dominating an area, there is significant lower levels of voting participation and the area (or even country) ends up relying on strong, individual leaders only rather than moderating parties.
“A government with two parties moderates the outcomes and reduces corruption,” Magleby said.
Dr. Magleby also discussed the importance of compromise in politics. He noted the historic struggle between federal power and state power which resulted in “The Great Compromise” of 1787. Neither side got everything they wanted, and some had to give up some things in order to achieve others, including postponing the question of slavery until later.
He also reminded students that the Constitution itself, along with all the Amendments, used language that allowed for compromise and moderation.
“The Founding Fathers set out to build a ‘more perfect’ union, not a ‘perfect’ union,” Magleby said. “They provided the means for amendments and compromise.”
Along with stressing the importance of balancing political parties and being involved in the democratic process, Dr. Magleby urged students to not only be informed, but also to be respectful.
“Mutual respect is essential for democracy to function,” he said.
Magleby is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brigham Young University. He is nationally recognized for his expertise on direct democracy, voting behavior and campaign finance. He is the principle investigator on CSED’s projects monitoring soft money and issue advocacy in competitive federal elections.
His publications include Direct Legislation; The Money Chase: Congressional Campaign Finance Reform; The Myth of the Independent Voter; Soft Money and Issue Advocacy in the 1998 Congressional Elections; The Other Campaign: Soft Money and Issue Advocacy in the 2000 Congressional Elections; Financing the 2000 Election; The Last Hurrah? Soft Money and Issue Advocacy in the 2002 Congressional Elections; Electing Congress: New Rules for an Old Game; Dancing without Partners: How Candidates, Parties and Interest Groups Interact in the Presidential Campaign; Financing the 2004 Election;The Battle for Congress: Iraq, Scandal, and Campaign Finance in the 2006 Election; and several editions of the American government textbook Government by the People.
He is a former Dean of the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences and former president of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society. Additionally, he was a Fulbright Scholar at Nuffield College, Oxford University.