July 29, 2016
DALLAS (SMU) – SMU experts share their thoughts on the fourth and final day of the Democratic National Convention and the current state of the presidential race. The complete roundup of experts’ insight is offered here, and more convention experts are available here.
LAST NIGHT ‘THE DEMOCRATS WERE REPUBLICANS’; SO WITH DEMOCRATS CLAIMING MORAL HIGH GROUND, IS THE GOP FACING ITS DEMISE?
“Speaker after speaker, including the candidate herself, explained that governance was not about what you said or promised, but what you did, something revealed only over the long expanse of time. That’s fine if you like Hillary Clinton personally, but her competent speech – largely lacking the power and flowery oratory of previous speakers, including the sitting president of the United States – bespoke a broader point: That you need not like your leader; what really matters is what that person has accomplished in the past and therefore might expect to do in the future. With Trump known, even by his supporters, for his spontaneous personality, Clinton and her team argued that voters are better off going with a proven commodity.
“Fundamentally striking was that last night the Democrats were Republicans. Trump’s radical break with the Republican party has allowed Democrats to capture tropes and values they’d long been excluded from employing. Their message last night was that they are the party of values; the party of loyalty and patriotism; the party of military respect; the party of justice and freedom; and most striking of all, the party of God. All of these used to be Republican tropes, with Democrats long arguing that they were the better managers, while Republicans seized the moral high ground. If Democrats can claim morality as well, there is no reason to think the GOP, already potentially in its death throes, is indeed facing its demise.”
Engel is director of the SMU Center for Presidential History. He can discuss:
- comparisons to past presidential races
- foreign policy
- presidential rhetoric
‘HUGE DIFFERENCES’ IN HOW CANDIDATES ARE VIEWED BY GENDER,
PLUS IMMIGRATION STANCES SET TONE FOR ‘NASTY CAMPAIGN’ AHEAD
“Certainly it’s part of the Democrats’ emphasis in this election that they’re the multi-ethnic party, and they’re trying to use that to draw a contrast with the Republicans.
“Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could not hold more different views on how to deal with immigration. That subject won’t be a pure winning issue for either party; there are real divisions in this country regarding it. But last night Clinton went all in on the path to citizenship – what Donald Trump would call ‘amnesty.’ So clearly that will lead to a vigorous debate this fall.
“There’s also an enormous gender gap in this election. There’s been one for some time in American politics; women are a bit more Democratic than men. But this time, it’s more than ‘a bit.’ There are huge differences. Women tend to be pushed away by Trump. And men tend to be pushed away by Clinton. That’s also going show up through the fall.
“Clinton’s use of Jackie Kennedy’s quote regarding the Cuban Missile Crisis – ‘that a war might be started – not by big men with self-control and restraint, but by little men, the ones moved by fear and pride’ – was a real shot across the board; she’s going after Donald Trump hard. Expect her pitch this fall to be heavily centered on ‘Donald Trump as president ought to scare you.’
“Looking ahead, both candidates have high negatives. And with each of their strategies being trying to get voters to reject the other, I would anticipate a pretty nasty campaign going forward.”
Wilson is an SMU associate professor of political science. He can discuss:
religion and politics
- political psychology
- public opinion and politics
IF MANY VOTERS DON’T BELIEVE IT’S ‘MORNING IN AMERICA,’ WILL THEY ALSO BELIEVE ‘THE END IS NIGH’?
“My, how the narratives have changed. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Republicans positioned themselves as the party of decency and common sense. This week the Democrats have taken back that message. Clinton’s surrogates have put forth a storyline that yes, the country faces challenges, but their candidate is a fighter who won’t quit; that the Democrats represent what’s right about America – goodness, decency, inclusion and hard work. They’re not talking about growing the social safety net (though protecting it is implicit) – except in cases where children are concerned (college, family leave, childcare, etc).
Conversely, Republicans have morphed into the party of dis-inclusion and anger. With Trump as their standard-bearer, there has to be some discourse of outrageousness and non-normalcy: He is, after all, a celebrity, tabloid star and reality-TV personality; it can’t be so much about common people as about fear and extravagance. So the outreach to ordinary folks feels missing; instead there are calls for “law and order” and contempt for anyone who’s different.
“So which narrative will be more resonant? Trump’s rise, and the success of the Sanders movement, suggests many voters don’t believe it’s ‘morning in America.’ So are they willing to believe, with Trump, that midnight is near and danger is likewise nigh?”
Martin is assistant professor of communication studies in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts. She can discuss:
- economic messages in political campaigns
- presidential campaign strategy
- religious voters and evangelical social movements
DODGING SUCH SERIOUS ISSUES AS WIKILEAKS AND PROTESTS WON’T JIBE WITH 21st CENTURY DEMANDS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY, ACCESSIBILITY
“Patriotism, family values, faith, defense of Israel, military valor represented by such men as Sen. John McCain showed how Hillary Clinton sought to reach into the breach between Donald Trump and Republican conservatives.She praised Bernie Sanders and asked his supporters to join her in carrying out the progressive DNC platform they support.
“It was a dramatic night of speeches. Clinton’s speaking style was above her usual average; the words were strategically crafted to broaden her political reach to those who’ve not shown support for her.But the DNC continues to be buffeted by the new realities of 21st century campaigning, including the daily releases of WikiLeaks data about behind-the-scene campaigns, and Trump asking the Russians to raid her server for his benefit – while media coverage of the vigorous protests by Sanders supporters outside the hall was almost nonexistent. Clinton hasn’t had a press conference in more than 200 days, and her chief of staff announced she may not have another one before November. It’s unclear that this kind of protected conventional messaging for a candidate can be sustained in 2016.
“The night, and overall week, of the DNC was perhaps the crescendo of politics-as-usual in this country, with the exception being that history was made with America’s first major party nomination of a woman.It’s entirely possible that this is the beginning of the end of traditional politics of America.”
Voth is SMU’s director of debate and an associate professor of corporate communications and public affairs. He can discuss:
- debate prep, strategy and effectiveness
- comparisons between this debate season and the 2012 election’s debate season
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