If you're trying to cut through the political spin of the current presidential campaign, give the Dole Institute of Politics a try.
A hotly contested presidential election really points out what a tremendous resource the Dole Institute of Politics is for Kansas University and the rest of Lawrence.
The institute is a busy place about any time, but its schedule is in overdrive in the lead-up to the Nov. 4 election. In addition to the normal study groups, programs and tours, the Dole staff is putting together numerous events in connection with the presidential race.
The first installment in the institute's "Potus 44" series was held Wednesday night. The program, titled "Obama vs. McCain: Campaign 2008," featured two Dole fellows, Republican strategist Joe Gaylord and Democratic political consultant Ray Strother. Strother also was a featured speaker at KU's Kansas Editors Day program last Saturday, along with Salon.com's Washington bureau chief Walter Shapiro and Dole Institute Director Bill Lacy.
The reaction of people who attended the two programs is noteworthy because it reinforces the basic goal of the Dole Institute, which is to promote civic dialogue and involvement in a nonpartisan way. Both programs were seen as intelligent and informative discussions of the current political campaign. Even though the panel members have backgrounds in partisan politics, they were able to take an analytical approach to the campaign and minimize the political spin. It's something that too often is missing from the political scene.
Between now and the election, the Dole Institute has scheduled a program in which local filmmaker Kevin Willmott will discuss political movies. Other programs will include a discussion of the history and function of the Electoral College, a "one-month-out" look at the campaign, a presidential debate watch party and other events that still are being finalized. The programs will feature KU professors and national political figures including authors, commentators and campaign operatives.
It's quite a lineup. All of the election series programs are open to the public, which can count on an interesting and civil discussion on topics that will inform their votes on Nov. 4.
It may be more comfortable to stay home and listen to the television commentators with whom you already agree, but if you want to get some inside scoop that might broaden or even challenge your political perceptions, it's worth your time to venture out to the Dole Institute this fall.