IOP lights up Chicago Ideas Week

The IOP and CIW collaboration draws 200 UChicago students.

By Jeevna Sheth

Mayor Rahm Emanuel admitted to gerrymandering and an Institute of Politics fellow compared his own party to stubborn children at this year’s Institute of Politics (IOP) event at Chicago Ideas Week (CIW).

Tuesday night, IOP fellows Amy Walter and Ramesh Ponnuru joined Emanuel, Meet the Press’s David Gregory, and other political insiders on a stage at the Cadillac Palace Theater in the Loop to talk politics and discuss the “State of the Union.” Part of CIW, the city’s own annual gathering of famous minds, the talk turned up an audience 600 strong, a third of whom were UChicago students.

Themes of the night included the recent bipartisan fiscal compromise, confidence in the government, the role of data in politics, and the dysfunctional GOP.

To kick off the talk, Emanuel, a former congressman and chief of staff to President Obama, sat down with host David Gregory for a 30-minute interview and emphasized the need for compromise.

“There’s more consensus on government spending, tax reform, and even in some areas of entitlement. I think it requires two things. One, neither party can accept either extreme; and two, you’ve got to go for what I call a single or a double but not right through to the grand bargain,” Emanuel said, referring to efforts to solve the debt problem in one piece of legislation often dubbed a “grand bargain.”

In the panel discussion, former Obama senior advisor David Plouffe agreed. “It’s not about winning the battle, it’s about getting something done,” he said.

IOP fellow Amy Walter, national editor of The Cook Political Report, claimed that the voting public also shares the blame and the problem.

“We wonder why no one is talking to each other [in Washington], but we aren’t talking to each other either. Not even in our own communities,” she said.

Walter also argued that abysmal voter turnout in primary elections has added to the crisis.

“We get the government we vote for, and when 20 percent of people vote, you get a government that represents those 20 percent,” she said.

As for maneuvering in elections themselves, Emanuel admitted to personal wrongdoing.

“We have become so good at redistricting. I’ve practiced this craft,” he said. “The system is set up for the voters to choose their representatives, but because of technology and politics, the representatives are now picking their voters.”

Republican strategist Steve Schmidt and conservative commentator and IOP fellow Ramesh Ponnuru spoke extensively of the woes facing their own party. Schmidt, referencing the debt ceiling debate, argued that true conservatives pay their bills—and that pure radicals, like Senator Ted Cruz, have caused anxiety in the markets. Ponnuru agreed, claiming that Republicans might have to screw up to recognize their own folly.

“Some kids just got to touch the hot stove,” he joked.

The collaboration between the IOP and CIW drew upon the strengths and goals of both, according to IOP Director Darren Reisberg.

“They [CIW] wanted to utilize our fellows and feature them in panels,” he said. “In return, we were able to bring more students. Instead of the 10 students last year, this year there were over 200. They were a very vocal and visible presence.”