By: Rachel Cain — News Editor
Students in Gov. Bob Taft’s POL 350 Legislative Politics class welcomed two visitors from Capitol Hill Oct. 14. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and White House staff member Broderick Johnson addressed the class about their careers in public service.
Johnson, assistant to the president, cabinet secretary and chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, spoke briefly about his experience with the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, an inter-agency program launched by President Obama in 2014 to ensure that boys and young men of color have access to opportunities for achievement.
Johnson arrived at UD just after speaking with the members of the Dayton My Brother’s Keeper community.
“They give you such a bright sense of the future and possibilities,” Johnson said.
Johnson was last on UD’s campus in 2012 with Catholics for Ohio and said, “It’s great to be back on this campus.”
Brown visited Taft’s POL 350 class at UD once before, although his last time was five years ago. He and Taft have known each other since they first met in the Ohio state legislature in the 1970s.
Brown offered Taft’s family as an example of the shifting dynamics of conservatives in today’s politics.
“[Sen. Robert Taft] never would have thought it’s the role of conservatives to shut the government down,” Brown said.
According to Brown, Sen. Robert Taft, Gov. Taft’s grandfather, had a philosophy “that a conservative government shouldn’t [intervene] unless the public sector can’t or won’t.”
He explained that this view is drastically different from some conservatives today, who believe that “if there’s government, it’s bad.”
However, Brown said he believes there is a need for reasonable conservative voices in the U.S. federal government. He said there should always be an ongoing debate between “innovators” and “conservators.”
“That’s a tension and debate you want to have, but don’t have today,” Brown said. “We have progressives, but not conservators.”
He then decried the rise in partisan politics, especially within the Republican Party. Brown said that Tea Partiers “enforce a party discipline that wasn’t the case when [he] was in Congress 20 years ago.”
Change will only take place, Brown said, “when responsible people start saying no….When people in the Republican Party say, ‘We’re not going to stand for shutting the government down.’”
“This isn’t the worst time in history,” Brown said. “[Congress] is pretty dysfunctional, but it won’t always be like that.”
Students asked the senator questions on a wide variety of topics, including advice for how to attain a job on Capitol Hill.
“Unfortunately in this world today, you would have to start as an unpaid intern,” Brown said, and then suggested that students should also volunteer in campaigns. “I wish it was better advice than that.”
Another student asked Brown to address the factors leading to a diminishing number of young people seeking jobs in public service.
“We’ve got to deal with the issue of campaign financing,” Brown commented. “The Koch brothers are all about fossil fuels. There’s an obeyance to the fossil fuel lobby that wasn’t there 10 years ago.”
Brown also praised Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley for her dedication as a civil servant to the city.
“The mayor is making a lot of difference in this town,” Brown said. “So much has happened to this city, and she’s doing a lot to fight back.”
Following the event, Brown expressed to Flyer News that he hopes students will “dig deeper” into political issues.
“I hope students become more engaged and work in the presidential race for either party,” Brown said.