Note: I am currently in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. I am attending an academic seminar this week and will be doing a fieldwork placement during the convention next week. I am writing a daily journal to reflect on my experience and will post my entries here. Enjoy!
It is only my first day here yet I have learned so much already. From studying the traditions of conventions to analyzing current political candidates, today has been all about politics and I love it. It is a good preview of what the next two weeks will be like! I enjoyed hearing words of wisdom from talented individuals like the former Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Russell, and the current CEO of Democratic National Convention Committee, Rev. Leah Daugherty.
The 2016 election is different than ones in the past. Instead of looking at candidates’ leadership quality, people are much more focused on their personality and issues. It may explain the rise of popularity for Sanders and Trump. Quoting Jesse Jackson, Daugherty said that people can break rules if they know them, but they cannot if they do not. This refers to Sanders and Trump who have new ideas. They only can succeed as long as they know the rules. In order to continue doing well throughout the general election and in upcoming debates, Trump has to prove that he can act presidential and the question is whether or not he is capable of doing that.
Trump has impacted Democratic Party demographics by drawing away certain registered Democratic voters. Like what Russell brought up during his speech, many white blue-collar working men, or Reagan Democrats, as he called them, left the Democratic Party to vote for Trump in primaries and probably will vote for him again in November. They are registered Democrats who typically end up voting for Republicans in presidential elections. I had the opportunity to ask Russell if he thinks the Democratic Party should invest its energy on these Reagan Democrats who are Trump supporters or invest it somewhere else. He responded by saying we ought to focus on doing voter registration drives, as there are numerous individuals who are still not registered to vote. It is probably more effective to convince unregistered individuals to vote for Clinton than to convince registered voters to change their minds.
Historically, conflict at party conventions can hurt the party’s chance of winning in the general election, yet there are other examples where parties do just fine after conflict. In regard to how much impact Sanders has had on Clinton, Sanders supporters actually are switching over to Clinton at a faster rate than Clinton supporters moved to Obama in 2008. However, Russell believes that even more Sanders supporters would move over to Clinton if Sanders did more like asking them to support Clinton.
Unity within the party is especially important in the general election. Some Democrats may not be fond of Clinton, but it may be essential for them to vote for Clinton in order to help the party. As Daugherty said, the decision should depend on how much the party means to an individual. Country versus party, that is something people need to decide. When a student suggested that voting for the first female candidate may not be as important as voting for certain values, Daugherty replied that ensuring that the next president remains a Democrat is more important than ensuring a female in office, but that is even more of a reason to vote for Clinton.