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Beyond the Spin Summary

Rosie DiGironimo '17 - September 27, 2016

This Election is not typical. Rosemont College held a panel discussion called "Election 2016: Beyond the Spin" where the speakers discussed the differences in this compared to other presidential elections.

Dr. Michael Hagen, an associate professor of political science at Temple University, served as one of three panelists. Dr. Hagen has extensive experience with political participation, campaign politics, and news media. Hagen’s main focus was elections in Pennsylvania and how various factors affect elections, campaigns, and their consequences. He explained that from a political scientist’s perspective, when both candidates are polling closely during an election, campaigning is the most important thing. There are a lot of predictions, based on the fundamentals of the American political system, that have Hillary Clinton winning the electoral votes and becoming the next President of the United States. Usually these predictions are very accurate, but this election is so different. For example, states that have been historically blue or historically red have been purple creating swing states that never existed before. Dr. Hagan explained that he has little confidence in the prediction models for this election. Everything that has happened so far is in opposition to how it usually is, and these usually rock solid fundamentals that are not as stable this time around.

Dr. Robin Kolodny, a professor of political science at Temple University and another panelist, focused mainly on Congress. She discussed the transformative nature of legislation and how bills always get modified to benefit all the constituents that the Congressmen and women represent after they are introduced. She explained that Republicans have many more seats up for re-election in the House having more positions to defend than Democrats. She predicted the Democrats are in good shape to gain the majority of the House with fewer seats to protect. She also commented on differences in this election, especially with the way money has been spent on campaigning. Donald Trump has not used any Super PAC money at all to fund his campaign. In the past, Super PACs have dictated campaigns and given a huge advantage to candidates who are fortunate enough to have them. Trump has been able to fund his entire campaign, so far, without using a Super PAC once, giving him more freedom to stand for his personal beliefs, rather than the opinions of the major Super PAC donors. Dr. Kolodny also touched on how very different the media coverage is. Social media has completely changed the way the candidates are promoting themselves. Things such as YouTube ads, Tweets, and Snapchats are spreading awareness of the political candidates and their campaigns. Donald Trump's campaign has also changed the way the media is reporting. Because of his celebrity, anything Trump says is quickly picked up by media sources and then spun totally out of proportion, spreading very false information to our citizens. Trump’s persona has given him free media attention throughout the entire campaign which Dr. Kolodny has yet to determine a good or bad thing.

Sharmain Matlock-Turner, the president and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition, was the third panelist. In her presentation she focused on the process of elections in general, how officials are constantly running for local or national office, and how important it is to follow candidates and be knowledgeable about the issues and their stances on them. She argued that the state and local races are potentially more important than the Presidential election and voters need to be informed about politics on the smaller stage and look further down on the ballot. The panelists then began to take questions. 

 

1st question: The parties seem to not like their own candidates. Are we beginning to see the breakup of political parties?

Answers: Just because one case doesn't fall into the structure of the theory does not mean that the theory is worthless. Parties are a way to label how people categorize their ideologies in the most efficient way. The panelists argued that, though one may not identify with every single thing in one party, one will usually agree with enough of it to be an efficient voter. It was a general consensus that the parties will never go away and  that they are necessary for political function and efficiency in the United States. A two party system is healthy for the function of government.

 

2nd question: How has the media affected this election?

The media has been slacking off during this race. There have been so many false things  reported and run without evidence delivering dishonest news to millions of Americans. The panelists explained that the media used to investigate so much before even thinking about running something and now every small detail is printed and usually blown out of proportion. The media is also quickly moving from story to story whereas in the past they would report on the same event for days to make sure the news was properly delivered. Social media is completely changing everything. It used to be TV ads and now everything is Twitter and Snapchat and YouTube ads. Technology is changing the way people consume their news and how people get their information. These social media platforms are totally unmediated and it is becoming so easy to spread lies and false information. The panelists also commented on how cheap it is to use social media as a campaign tactic when previously, candidates would have to spend millions on TV advertisements. While they still do pay a lot for commercials, it is easier to put their efforts into gaining a persona on social media which is almost free exposure.

 

Unfortunately, I had to leave after this question to go to a Pre-health meeting. We were holding our own elections for the executive board of which I currently serve as vice president. I thought the panel was very interesting and the panelists definitely brought up some differences in this year’s election that I had not thought about. However, I would have appreciated a little more bipartisanship in the panel. I felt that every candidate was very liberal and offered no perspective from the Republican side which made the discussion quite one-sided.