JU political science professor Stephen Baker was profiled on The Florida Times-Union’s front page Monday, May 6, reflecting on his 28-year teaching career at the University and his love of politics.
Among other things, Baker, who retired at this semester’s end from full-time instruction, told writer Matt Soergel that he was already enamored of politics by his teens, with the Nixon vs. Kennedy presidential election capturing his fascination.
“And since 1985 he’s been a political science professor at Jacksonville University, becoming a much-quoted expert in area media outlets on issues local and national,” Soergel wrote.
Here’s an excerpt from the story:
In a wide-ranging interview on campus in the week before finals, he spoke about his decades studying politics. He discussed how compromise should not be a dirty word and how students’ views on social issues have changed. He spoke about the re-election chances of Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and Gov. Rick Scott’s chances for re-election.
And he revealed that he admires most of those who put themselves in front of the public and run for political office.
Politicians often get slammed, and many times they deserve it. But studies, he said, show politicians tend to be more empathetic than the public at large, more intelligent and even possess a higher moral sense. There is another side though.
“You basically have to be kind of crazy to run for politics. You have to have these emotional needs that can’t be met any other way. And they have to be generally concerned with the human condition,” he said.
He paused. “I probably should have said that first.”
Baker’s fascination with politics is rooted in its very nature. “It’s how things get done,” he said. “How people build consensus. It’s through compromise, how you give to get.”
Consensus is a rare thing though. Most congressional districts in Florida, for example, are gerrymandered in favor of one party or the other, so many politicians, he said, know their only serious challenge is going to come from the more extreme wing of their party. To head off those challenges, candidates often move to more extreme positions. Hence, less compromise.
“The real problem is fear of compromise, that you are somehow surrendering some of your rightness if you compromise,” Baker said.
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