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On Trump and the Norwegian Election: A Comparativist’s Thoughts. Interview with Professor Jennifer Bailey

11.09.2017

 

Jennifer Bailey. A stern figure of learning for some, a witty professor for others, we sat down with the weroance of comparative wisdom to get to know her better.

 

Origin Story

The daughter of an American military officer who served in the Vietnam War and periodically living abroad, Jennifer Bailey’s interests in all things international grew accordingly. During her studies at Georgetown University she met her current husband, NTNU professor Torbjørn Knutsen, and they ended up in Trondheim, both as professors in the same department. An interest is one thing, but why become an academic in the field?

 

- When I went to university, I realised that I very much liked being there. I liked what I was doing, which was reading and figuring stuff out. I was particularly influenced by a teacher of mine who introduced me to theoretical approaches to understanding international politics. I then ended up in comparative politics because, following the logic I ended up at an intersection of international politics inspired by Kenneth Waltz, thus encountering the need to understand what is happening inside states.

 

                             Foto: Erlend Gylver

 

 

Academics is all well and good, but what about who Bailey is off campus? Here are six quick, with Jennifer: (i) In her free time she tries to catch up on life, enjoys gardening, long walks and detective stories, (ii) her favourite meal is prime rib, (iii) Greggory Peck was her celebrity crush growing up, (iiii) her favourite movie is Dr. Strangelove (1964), (iiiii) her best quality is loyalty and (iiiiii) her hidden talent is crochet (although she did enjoy horseback riding in her day).

US politics

 

An American, Jennifer naturally followed the presidential election in 2016. Being an academic, she naturally had some thoughts on it.

 

- I think it is hard to point to one reason, I think it was the perfect storm in many ways. I am not a Trump fan I have to say, but we have to be honest. For me it’s not the stance I oppose to, but it’s the lack of coherent thought behind him that bothers me the most. This is important because of the question regarding why so many people voted for a man with no set of coherent ideas and who lied and so on.

 

Going on, she raises the point of the United States having always been a deeply divided country and how many tend to forget this as they think no further back than The Cold War, when an artificial pressure united the country. She also points to one major fault line in the racial tension in the states, that despite the increase in Hispanics living in the US there is still a black/white opposition that dominates. Couple with this the fact that the north-east intellectual elite that she herself is a part of, albeit for her academic side, not an elevated sense of self, riding a wave of arrogance over the rest. A growing unrest for the middleclass and deep distrust of the establishment and Jennifer feels the perfect storm was due during Trump’s election cycle.

 

In regarding his time thus far in his time as POTUS, Jennifer raises two points for consideration. One of which being that he is not really getting anything through Congress because of his, for his sake, shoddy relationship with the Republican party. Another point raised is the fact that there are other, strong candidates from the Republican party with more backing in for example Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnel. She mentions that his lack of effort in convincing those who took upon a “not my president” attitude after the election has not helped him one bit. His focus seems to be on solidifying his stance within his diminishing base. All in all he has burned bridges rather than building them. All in all, thus, Jennifer rates his first 9 months a meek 2/10.

 

Norway all day

Despite being away, she has managed to follow the Norwegian election. She is surprised at the rapid decline of the Labour party and expects a new blue government.

 

- I would be very surprised if that does not happen. For me, the only question is how big a majority they are going to get and who, if any, will they ally with.

 

Speaking about differences between the Norwegian and American election model, she is quick to mention the fact that the Norwegian election cycle is much shorter than the American one. She follows up with a lack of intrusive messages on the television and phone calls as well as nothing like talk radio where people like Rush Limbaugh can rile people up for 25 years.

 

- The Norwegian debate tends to be much more like debates. People don’t scream at each other, they talk. I don’t see Erna (Solberg, red. anm.) whipping up rallies throwing Jonas (Støre, red. anm.) in jail. All in all it’s much more civilized.

 

On where Norwegian parties would place in the current American system she had two interesting thoughts on FrP and Rødt:

 

- Hopping a lot between Norway and the US, I witnessed a phenomenon where I heard an argument on the radio in the US - whereas in Norway FrP were saying the same things. I would place them in the republican camp but not as far as the Tea Party. And when it comes to Rødt, I haven’t looked into them I a while but I don’t think they would function in the US. I don’t think the US is ready for people who are openly communist, but who knows.

 

And in closing, Jennifer had some final words for the students attending the election countdown

 

- Have fun with it, and don’t take it too personally.  

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