By Evan Walsh, Transcript Reporter
Some of those who watched the first presidential debate may have been asking themselves: how did we get Donald Trump (R) and Hillary Clinton (D) as our presidential nominees?
Michael Cohen, a columnist for the Boston Globe and World Review, addressed the concerns ordinary Americans have about the candidates before students and faculty Wednesday, Sept. 21 in Merrick Hall.
Cohen, who has covered both Clinton and Trump’s respective campaigns for the last 15 months, began with a quote from William Faulkner about history repeating itself: “The past is not dead, it’s not even past.”
He then elaborated on those similarities this year’s election shares with another famous, though controversial, election year: 1968.
According to Cohen, Trump, the GOP’s nominee for president is not unlike Alabama’s George Wallace, a Dixiecrat, who divided the Democratic party prior to the General Election of 1968.
Both Trump and Wallace, considered outsiders to Washington’s establishment politics, have a history of using “strong but hateful rhetoric” to appeal to the interests of their constituents.
Citing his most recent publication, “American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division,” Cohen criticized the explicitly racist and misogynistic overtures coming from Trump and his supporters.
“When it comes to Trump, it’s not a matter of issues or ideology; it’s about fear … existential fears,” Cohen said.
Brian Goldaber, a politics and government major, said he enjoyed Cohen’s analysis and felt Cohen’s comparisons between Wallace and Trump were appropriate.
“They both capture a sense of frustration with the established political order and they overtly say a lot of things that conventional politicians would never say,” Goldaber said.
Jenny Holland, assistant professor of politics and government, moderated the event and led a Q&A once Cohen concluded his speech.
One audience member, soliciting Cohen’s opinion on gender’s impact on the race, wanted to know how “Trump supporters [those he’s met while covering the campaign] have responded when they were asked about the possibility of the first ever female presidency.”
Tyler Iffland, who remains unsure of which candidate he prefers, said he does not think that gender matters as much as each candidate’s lack of transparency.
“How can I confidently vote for Clinton when she can’t release her emails, and how can I confidently vote for Trump if he’s hiding his tax returns?” Iffland said.
Members of the Arneson Institute for Practical Politics and Public Affairs organized the lecture.