Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis called yesterday for a new way of selecting candidates for the office he sought 20 years ago during a panel discussion in front of a multi-national audience at Harvard’s CGIS-South building.
Dukakis was the primary speaker at the seminar panel, entitled “The Election: What’s At Stake?” in the Belfer Conference room.
During the panel, the former presidential candidate offered his opinion on both the current election and on how the electoral system should be improved.
“We have to get rid of the Electoral College,” Dukakis said, emphasizing its negative effects on the voting public.
He said that because of the electoral college, so-called “safe states” see little active campaigning and the American populace could end up with a president who failed to win the popular vote, as was the case in 2000.
Dukakis also said that despite Barack Obama’s current lead in the polls, he believes this year’s presidential election is still up in the air.
Praising Obama’s camp for their strategy during the campaign, Dukakis said Obama has put traditionally red states into contention, also focusing on implementing grassroots outreach.
“The Democratic Party once bought into this myth [of certain states being red],” he said. “It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
The seminar’s audience was comprised of associates at the Program on U.S.-Japan Relations—Japanese leaders spending a year at Harvard—as well as various other Harvard affiliates.
Virginia Sapiro, the dean of arts and sciences and a professor of political science at Boston University, was also on the panel.
Dukakis also spoke to the fundamental differences between the two parties, particularly about how each traditionally views the role of government.
According to Dukakis, Democrats use government to achieve social and economic goals within the state, while Republicans are only willing to intervene to solve foreign policy problems.
Dukakis even referenced the current financial crisis to prove his point.
“We have been dominated by a philosophy of governance to get government out of the way, and let the marketplace work,” he said.
“If history teaches us anything, folks, it’s that we have to regulate these financial institutions,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said.
Many from the primarily foreign audience were particularly excited to hear Dukakis speak so close to Election Day.
“Even though I don’t have a vote, I am very much interested in this election,” said Kazuko Sakaguchi, a librarian at the Document Center on Central Japan.
Dukakis qualified all his words, however, with an acknowledgement of his own failure to win the presidency.
“Don’t assume I know anything more than you do,” he said.