PoliSci lecturer weighs in on State of the Union

By Madison Ferril


Rebecca Flavin is a lecturer in the political science department who joined Baylor in 2010. She graduated from Wheeling Jesuit University and earned her master’s from the University of Notre Dame. She is currently working on her doctorate through the University of Notre Dame. She has done research and teaching in constitutional law, and the history of political philosophy and American politics, with emphasis on politics and religion. 


Q: In his State of the Union address, the president kept emphasizing the bipartisan element of government and the need for both parties to work together. Is this even possible? 

A: I absolutely think it’s possible. I think they need to put the concerns of the country and their constituents ahead of their agendas. No one wants to raise taxes, but they need to think in the long term.

Q: Why is the middle class such a major battleground for both parties? 

A: The easy answer would be that that’s where the votes are. And if you poll the people the vast majority of people will say that they’re middle class.

People who most would not consider themselves middle class self-identify as middle class. This can be people who make anywhere from $20,000 to $200,000. The practical answer is that’s where the majority of the country is and that’s where the need is.

Q: Some say that Republicans chose Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to try to appeal to Hispanics and young voters. Why the sudden concern for these demographics?

A: They’re concerned about these demographics because in the polls these are the demographics they lost handily to Obama. Also looking forward, people in your generation tend to be socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

So the question is which set of issues are going to trump in an election, because you may be put in a position where neither party really appeals. They typically tend to pick someone who is an up-and- coming start. They always try to pick someone to give them the national spotlight so that you get the name and face recognition with the American people.

Q: Would gun control laws proposed by the president actually violate the Second Amendment? 

A: It all depends on how you define the Second Amendment. How the Supreme Court defines the Second Amendment in McDonald v. Chicago and DC v. Heller is they recognized that predating the Constitution and the Second Amendment, it was always assumed you had the right to individual gun ownership.

It’s a very politically and emotionally charged topic. So people tend to look at the Second Amendment and see any regulation as a violation of the Second Amendment, but the truth of the matter is that none of our rights are absolute.

For example, speech rights. The United States has some of the most liberal speech laws in the world, but you still can’t say anything you want. The proverbial example being you can’t shout fire in a crowded theater. Then there is a whole other group of people who are arguing that it’s not getting to the heart of the problem.

You have all these arguments about what’s going to be effective, what the real heart of the matter is and it makes this issue difficult to legislate. There’s not an easy fix.

Q: Job creation has been a major concern since the start of the recession in 2008. Is it the responsibility of the government to provide jobs for citizens? 

A: That’s the million dollar question: Who ultimately should be responsible for creating jobs, and even more complicated is what can the government do to help prompt people to create jobs? One of the phrases that got tossed around a lot was “job creators.”

In terms of government involvement, there’s a fundamental disagreement about whether or not tax cuts, which is something that the government would do, is going to lead to job creation, or if government investment would create jobs.

Q: Was the State of the Union an effective speech? 

A: I think so. I think what he’s proposing has the potential to be effective because now he’s a second- term president. He doesn’t need to think about his own re-election. He can focus on getting things done.

You saw him on Tuesday night bringing up some of the issues that Democrats have criticized him for forgetting, in particular the environment.

He alluded to rights for gays and lesbians too and that’s something he’s been criticized by people in his own party for. He has more leverage to try and work on those issues than he did before.

The primary focus in his first term of office was really the economy. Not that it isn’t a focus now or isn’t important now, but when you’re in an economic crisis sometimes some of the other issues have to take a back burner.