Estrich speaks on state of politics

by Omer Ismail | 4/16/99 5:00am

Susan Estrich, professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California, blamed excessive money and the media for the "sorry state of American politics" today in a lecture to 100 people in 105 Dartmouth Hall last night.

Estrich, giving reasons for the loss of respect for and interest in politics, blamed money as a major cause of recent low voter turnouts.

She said money is required to win any election today, and a politician must have it or obtain it by "sucking up to rich people."

As an example, Estrich said tobacco companies have financed election campaigns because elected parties give them protection from negative, anti-smoking policies. This, she said, is "the corrupting influence of money in politics."

Estrich attacked the businessmen that pay exorbitant rates to rent the Lincoln bedroom in the White House for one night or to have lunch with the president. Their intention, she said, is only to project their corporate interests.

"This is not altruism -- it's business," she said.

Estrich said money is invariably used to fund negative campaigning. She said Michael Dukakis, whose campaign Estrich worked on, lost in the 1988 election because he wanted to run a positive campaign based on constructive debate.

She said the sorry state of American politics today demands "digging dirt" on candidates by one another. The lesson learned, she said, is "never, ever, ever be caught on the receiving end of a negative campaign."

Estrich attacked the media as the other reason for the problems of American politics.

The media is supposed to cover the issues, she said. Instead they talk about candidates' hidden agendas and why the public should distrust them and their poll results, giving minimum importance to a candidate's actual election platform or speech content.

Estrich said the media simply "feeds the public cynicism." She said the people want "'Hardcopy' and 'Inside Edition'" in politics -- and that is exactly what they get.

"We are the root of the problem," she said.

She blamed television for deliberately promoting conflicting views in order to entertain the public. The goal of television companies "is not public education, but entertainment -- bad entertainment."

Estrich was concerned that America is raising a generation that does not "know how to do politics, understand what politics means and realize the sense of satisfaction that can be derived from politics." She said involvement in politics could be "sheer, clean fun."

Estrich, an exchange student at Dartmouth in 1972 from Wellesley College, said a college experience must make students realize that politics is about ordinary people who want to make a difference.

She said Dartmouth students have a wonderful opportunity to get involved in politics with the upcoming New Hampshire primaries. "The money part of politics stinks. The media is garbage, but politics can still be fun and satisfying," she said.