Geneseo hosted a panel on Tuesday Nov. 1 entitled “How Did We Get Here? Understanding Key Factors Behind the 2016 Presidential Election” in order to discuss the current presidential election and the country’s political climate. The discussion was hosted by associate professor and Chair of the Communication Department Andrew Herman alongside a four-person panel including adjunct lecturer of communication Max Mertel, professor of sociology Denise Scott, professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations Jeffrey Koch and sociology major senior Katherine Zaslavsky.
The panel’s purpose was to inform students about processes occurring in this election, according to Herman.
“The purpose of tonight is not in any way to tell you who to vote for, but it’s really at this critical moment—when we’re hypersensitive to everything—to open up a few windows to make you a little more aware of some of the processes that are going on behind the scenes,” Herman said.
Mertel discussed social media’s contribution to increased support for Donald Trump and his eventual Republican presidential nomination. Mertel compared Trump’s mastery of social media—specifically Twitter—to how past presidents mastered other forms of media, including Franklin D. Roosevelt’s use of the radio, John F. Kennedy’s use of live television, Ronald Reagan’s use of movie quotes in his speeches and Barack Obama’s use of YouTube as free airtime.
“Many of us now exist in our own personalized media world, and I believe Trump uses media in a way that makes his messages unavoidable,” Mertel said.
Scott then spoke about how Hillary Clinton’s gender has impacted her campaign. Scott began her talk by illustrating the obstacles Clinton faced as a child.
“Hillary Clinton is a woman who knew she wanted to enter politics at a very early age … according to several sources, she wanted to be an astronaut when she was very young and presumably she wrote a letter to NASA and was told by the program that they didn’t accept women.”
At the highest levels of government and business, gender bias stems from family values that are deeply rooted in American society, according to Scott. This cultivates females to be passive and raises males to have more leadership qualities, Scott added.
“In this campaign, Donald [Trump] actually has used gender to denigrate Hillary—and other males, actually—to boost his image; that of a real man … the rough and tumble cowboy-type of masculinity,” Scott said.
During the discussion, Zaslavsky read quotes from Trump supporters to the audience in order to gain the perspective of a Trump supporter. Supporters of Trump admire his authenticity, Zaslavsky said.
“Donald Trump is not worried about being offensive; he’s not worried about hurting people’s feelings, and that is a really attractive viewpoint for a lot of people … that contributes to his celebrity status,” Zaslavsky said.
Some supporters also see Trump’s economic success as the embodiment of American capitalism, according to Zaslavsky.
Koch then provided insight as to what this election means for the future of American politics. Koch cited Obama’s approval rating and his administration’s failure to bring large scale economic growth by historical standards as his precursors to reasons why the 2016 presidential election should have been an easy win for Republicans.
“The way things are going economically and the amount of years the Republicans have held the presidency made it seem like this was going to be a Republican year,” Koch said.
Zaslavsky encouraged students to participate in the election at the close of the panel.
“If for no other reason, go out and vote because you have a unique opportunity to be a part of history,” Zaslavsky said.