Panelists discuss global, national political trends

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration hosted the panel discussion “The Rise of Authoritarianism and Other Dangerous Political Currents in the Trump Era” at the Ore Dock Brewing Co. Wednesday evening.

Department head and professor Carter Wilson moderated the event led by four professors of political science, including himself. Each speaker shared their academic perspectives on the subject.

“I think political scientists and academics have a responsibility to share knowledge and information with the public, especially on very critical topics,” Wilson said.

The department chose panelists who represented different parts of the political spectrum.

“We have a very well balanced panel, and most of the panelists are going to talk about the critical issues in politics,” Wilson said. “It is a richer experience and it’s healthier that way.”

The first speaker was professor emeritus and former department head of political science Robert Kulisheck. His discussion was influenced by the works of Yascha Mounk, the author of “The People vs Democracy: Why Our Freedom is in Danger & How to Save It” and a recent issue of The Atlantic called “Is Democracy Dying?”

“It’s probably not dying, but it’s definitely sick and stressed in many countries around the world,” Kulisheck said during his presentation.

Kulisheck highlighted global trends of authoritarian populist movements in democratic nations around the world and explained the way this is threatening liberal democracy.

Through empirical data, professor William Ball looked at different factors that led to President Donald Trump’s election. He discussed why college-educated and working-class Americans voted for Trump and pointed to economic anxiety caused by Obama-era economic policies as being a significant contributor. He compared economic data between the last two administrations to demonstrate his viewpoints.

Next, professor Jonathan Allen discussed the views of the Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin on Russian, European Union and U.S. politics. He also shared insights from author Timothy Snyder — who wrote “On Tyranny” and “The Road to Unfreedom.”

The last moderator, Wilson, presented data on the growing inequality gap in the United States since the 1970s and linked those figures to the rise of authoritarian movements.

“The rise of inequality is the foundation of authoritarianism,” Wilson said.

He equated Trump’s rise to power as a symptom of growing poverty levels. Through data, he concluded that financially driven campaigns and elections in the 21st century are endangering liberal democracy.

After the four presentations ended, attendees were invited to ask questions. As the panelists stood on stage together, they concluded that political trends need to be continually discussed and debated through informed conversation. Wilson said he hopes to have more events like this in the future so that the discussion can continue.

Corey Kelly can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is