Since having the fall conference, I was able to return to my paper with a more critical eye about how I was going to organize my ideas and explain how party polarization could be lessened if we also analyze the presidency in terms of Founding Father ideology. My central thesis did not change after coming to the conference, however the way I chose to discuss my topic did. I ended up analyzing three presidents (Reagan, Carter, and Obama) instead of four presidents. I also pinpointed which Founding Fathers I wanted to use to apply to each president (Hamilton and Madison). The choices I made in part were from other fellows I discussed my topic with, my advisor in D.C., and my advisor at Denison. The input I received was extremely helpful.
While that was key to getting my paper underway, it was a struggle to decide what to leave in and what to keep out since I kept finding really great sources and lots of information on economic strategies of presidents that under the Founding Father ideology were explained a lot better than just using the two-sided liberal conservative spectrum alone. For example, my strongest analysis was in the part where I discussed President Obama and his parallel to Alexander Hamilton. There has been a lot written on this, especially about economic policy. Additionally, I did a lot of analysis in my paper as well as provide information. At first I was hesitant to rely on using my own observations, experiences, and thoughts to engage with the material I was finding from other scholars, but once I started to do so that became the most fun part of the writing process. I hope that my paper encourages people to think more about how we can increase civility and inclusivity in our leadership in the future.
I have enjoyed watching the current election and hearing commentators come on and talk about how the significance of the party label is still important, but there are other things that are beginning to surface that make us evaluate leaders differently. Following current events has been crucial for me to keep strengthening the claim that I make through my research. I am looking forward to getting more critiques at this conference and understanding what other perspectives on party polarization might enhance the my research. I appreciate so much the feedback from all of the fellows in my group and the advisors at the center. This has been a wonderful learning experience.