Quest keynote to focus on good, bad in presidential primary system

OSWEGO — A SUNY Oswego expert in presidential politics, Dr. Bruce Altschuler, will give the keynote address April 18 at Quest, the college’s day to celebrate student, faculty and staff research and creativity.

With Republican candidates still competing with frontrunner Mitt Romney for the nomination for president in the November election, Altschuler feels the time is good to take a look at what he calls “the big question.”

Dr. Bruce Altschuler
Dr. Bruce Altschuler

“Is this the best way to pick presidential candidates? I’m going to focus on changes in the system in recent years and particularly this year,” said Altschuler, a political science professor whose six books and numerous research papers frequently deal with the presidency and presidential politics. “What we find is that every four years what happens upends what we thought about presidential elections before.”

Altschuler’s presentation — titled “America’s Imperfect Presidential Election: What’s Next?” — will take place at 1 p.m. in the Campus Center auditorium. His talk will keynote a day of scholarly presentations, art exhibitions, performances, competitions and panel discussions. Quest events, including Altschuler’s talk, are free and open to the public.

Last year, 466 students mentored by 95 faculty members participated in 296 talks, demonstrations and other activities, according to Jack Gelfand, chair of Quest planning at SUNY Oswego. The highest quality contributions will appear in the 2012 Quest proceedings, and those judged the best of the best will receive cash awards in categories such as best scholarly poster, creative writing, scientific research and others.

Altschuler believes it is important to celebrate undergraduates’ research and creative work.

“I think that’s a keystone of what we do, of what students learn,” he said. “I think a lot of our students do great work, and I think it’s nice that they don’t keep it private, that they don’t keep it between them and their professors, that they share it with other people.”

Possibilities for change

The rise of the super PACs (political action committees) will come in for critique during Altschuler’s presentation. Wealthy individuals can give millions to PACs led by former campaign aides of candidates.

“The result is this huge money race that’s gotten worse than ever before,” Altschuler said.

While the candidates’ own campaign committees may spend money on positive advertising, super PACs almost always focus on negative ads, spending much more than the candidate each one backs, he said. The result is candidates pushed to extremes on issues such as birth control, immigration and so on.

Altschuler said he does not intend to advocate solutions himself, but to point out the good and bad in various options and proposals for changes in presidential campaigns. His own thoughts about a national presidential primary can be found in a peer-reviewed paper he wrote in 2008 for Forum, an online publisher of scholarly work.

“My own ideas are on record,” he said. “We have scheduled this in a way that will leave time for questions and answers. I’m interested in what folks in the audience want to talk about. I hope they will come with their own issues and questions.”

For more information about SUNY Oswego’s Quest 2012, visit