Research@Honors compares European and American elections in special lecture event

Honors PS 1010 Instructor Dr. Kevin Deegan-Krause treated 80 Irvin D. Reid Honors College and Wayne State University Political Science students to a special lecture about European vs. American elections during a Research@Honors Special Topics lecture on Monday, November 7.

Keeping it timely with national election on Tuesday, November 8, Dr. Deegan-Krause, an Associate Professor of Political Science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, highlighted differences between American and European elections in three key areas: political party leadership, how the elections work, and the understanding of left vs. right leaning political parties.

He explained that this idea of electing a political “outsider” in American politics is nothing new when studying European elections.

“When we study European politics…this isn’t unusual at all. This is not that strange. The rest of the world, even Western Europe, which is seen as relatively mature in its politics, has its own kind of (President-Elect Donald) Trump,” he said.

According to Dr. Deegan-Krause, new political leaders in Europe tend to have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Guardian (fierce defender of something)
  • Celebrity (famous for something)
  • Outsider (haven’t been in politics before)
  • Entrepreneur (been involved in market sector in one form or another)

“We are seeing one of those rare people who is a guardian, celebrity, outsider, and an entrepreneur,” Dr. Deegan-Krause said Trump.

He went on to explain that while in American politics the winner gets everything in presidential elections, it doesn’t quite work that way in Parliament elections. Calling  it Proportional representation, he explained that if a candidate gets 10 percent of the votes, the candidate would get roughly 10 percent of the seats in Parliament.

Parliament then gets together with each coalition in order to make decisions, such as electing a Prime Minister he added.

According to Dr. Deegan-Krause, a candidate like Trump would probably get between 10-30 percent in a Parliamentary or Congressional election, which would give him enough seats for a coalition. However, the chaces for Trump getting elected as a Prime minister without another coalition’s support “would be zero.”

“In the United States, you get a high chance that a Trump will not be President, but a chance that a Trump will be president with no need of support from any other party or any other view,” he said.

Dr. Keegan-Krause also explained that the party system is different in American and European elections. In European elections, if you are in an established political party, but do not like the candidate’s views on an issue, there is typically another established political party that has a candidate with similar views that closely aligns to your established party.

However, in the American political system, there are two major parties that dominate during elections, leaving voters with typically only two candidates who stand a chance of winning.

“At the very least America is a two dimensional system,” Dr. Deegan-Krause said when speaking about the role government plays in society. “America is a system that involves very significant disagreements about economic freedom (big government vs. small government) and a separate index…about cultural power.”

He added that he believes there is a growing third dimension that needs to be added: those viewed as “outsiders” verses those viewed as “the establishment.”

“There is (an) increasing dimension in American politics between the kinds of people who…are associated with the establishment and people who are against the establishment,” he explained. “We (had) a candidate who (was) anti-establishment, who really violates the rules of American politics for the sake of violating them and who demonstrates how the anti-establishment is, while we (had) another candidate…who (was) about as establishment as it (got).”

“I think this dimension is going to determine how American political parties choose their leaders,” Dr. Deegan-Krause said.

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