Profs. Lawless and Cary Reflect on Bipartisan Team-Teaching Experience

December 28, 2020

Commonwealth Professor of Politics and Department Chair Jennifer Lawless and Adjunct Professor and Miller Center Fellow Mary Cate Cary published an op-ed in USA Today on their experience co-teaching a course on the 2020 presidential election. Dr. Lawless is a liberal professor of American Politics and a former Democratic candidate for Congress; Ms. Cary is a political commentator and speechwriter who worked in the first Bush White House, and previously served as Deputy Communications Director for the RNC. Lawless and Cary capitalized on their very different political positions in designing and teaching "Election 2020" last semester, presenting students with divergent perspectives and recruiting a bipartisan cast of guest speakers, from Bush campaign manager Karl Rove to Obama policy advisor Melody Barnes. In their op-ed, the two teachers report that they often found common ground: "We didn’t sit around singing "Kumbaya." But much to our surprise, we regularly found ourselves agreeing with each other." They also offer this takeaway from their collaboration: "If we don’t want 2021 to be a volatile repeat of 2020, maybe the lessons we learned this semester can apply. Try to listen respectfully, invite a variety of viewpoints into the discussion, and acknowledge that it’s unlikely you’ll ever see eye to eye on hot-button issues or the last election. You might even enjoy yourself."