David Hawkings is a senior editor at CQ Roll Call, a news service devoted entirely to covering American politics and government. He’s been a correspondent and editor in Washington, DC, for three decades and was a reporter in Texas before that. He’s read your posts and comments, hear what he had to say…
Questions for Burnet News Club members
Listen to the response from David Hawkings and answer the following questions by replying to this post:
- Where does David Hawkings work?
- How many elections has he covered as a journalist?
- Who would be the oldest president, Hillary or Trump?
- What is a millennial?
- How many millennials voted in the last presidential election?
Read David’s response here
Dear members of the Burnet News Club,
I’m thrilled you all have been talking about the American presidential race as a contest of “politics vs. personality,” because that’s more accurate than it’s ever been in the seven previous national elections I’ve covered.
Also it was fascinating to read your comments, because so many are very much like what people here in the US say when you ask them to explain their voting decisions.
Plenty about the 2016 contest is extraordinary, not only in the biographies of the candidates but also in the attitudes of the voters.
Hillary Clinton is the first woman ever nominated for president by a major political party. She’d be the first president in a century and half who served both in Congress (as a senator from New York from 2001 to 2009) and a presidential Cabinet (as secretary of State from 2009 to 2013.) And she’d become the only person whose home was the White House before becoming president, having lived there as “first lady” when her husband, Bill Clinton, was in office from 1993 to 2001.
Donald Trump would become the first president without any previous experience in government. He was never in the military. He has never been a government employee. And, until now, he’s never even been a candidate for elected office at the local, state or federal level.
“Most of your posts described Trump negatively. And the words you used – racist, inappropriate, grumpy, sexist, rude – echo how many voters view him.”
Voters don’t seem too concerned, but both are grandparents and are the most elderly matchup of Republican and Democratic nominees ever. Trump, whose 70th birthday was in June, would be the oldest person to become president. Clinton, who turns 69 two weeks before Election Day, would be the second-oldest after Ronald Reagan, who took office in 1981.
Many other aspects of their careers, however, have created this, unfortunately unique, aspect of 2016: Trump and Clinton are the most strongly disliked candidates in modern history.
Solid majorities of Americans, in some surveys almost three out of every five voters, disapprove of each of them. Only one-third or so of voters say the terms “honest and trustworthy” apply to either of them. A month before the election, the weekly Economist/YouGov poll found 46 percent of Trump supporters and 36 percent of Clinton supporters describing their decision-making as mainly about voting against the other candidate.
The voters’ collective distaste is much more about the candidate’s personal behavior than their policies.
Most of your posts described Trump negatively. And the words you used – racist, inappropriate, grumpy, sexist, rude – echo how many voters view him. That’s mainly because of the extraordinarily long list of confrontational things he’s said since becoming a candidate last year: about Mexicans, Muslims, women, disabled people and of course his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.
Your posts didn’t much reflect the things about Clinton that Americans don’t like. After watching her as a powerful person in the news for almost 25 years, they view her as dodgy, not routinely honest, unwilling to admit mistakes, ready to change her mind about her beliefs in order to be popular and acting too often like the rules don’t apply to her.
What parts of his personality do Trump’s voters like? They appreciate that he “tells it like it is” and assume his business experience would produce innovative ideas for fixing economic problems and fighting terrorism. This argument was reflected by chocolatebrownieswoo_3, who smartly wrote that those who succeed in business “have a ‘political career’ because a strong political presence is necessary in business to cut successful deals.”
And what do Clinton’s fans like about her? “Fairer,” the word used by supadupa123, captures much of it. Her voters believe her career, starting at a charity aiming to improve the welfare of children, makes clear she’d focus on helping those discriminated against historically, or left behind in good economic times. They believe she’s got the steadiness and confidence to stand up to US adversaries in the world.
Their specific policy ideas have often been overlooked in all the talk of personal qualities.
Clinton’s agenda includes many items president Barack Obama tried but could not really accomplish: Create more jobs with government spending on public works and “green” technology, cut college costs and start all elementary schools when children are four (not five) years old.
Trump’s agenda is somewhat unlike what fellow Republicans usually focus on. He wants much more restrictive rules limiting imports from other countries, and his biggest spending priority is a giant wall along the Mexican border that many in his party think is too expensive and impractical for limiting immigration.
Election Day is on November 8th, but some of the 50 states allow people to cast their lots early so the voting has started.
Younger people say they favor Clinton to a lopsided degree – but their record of getting to the polls is not good. Millennials, those older than 18 but younger than 35, now make up 31 percent of those eligible to vote. However, fewer than half those people voted in the last presidential election, four years ago, while solid majorities from ever older age group cast ballots.
If more younger Americans decide to exercise their fundamental right to participate in a democracy, that boosts the odds Hillary Clinton will be the 45th president of the United States.
It was interesting reading your comments and a fun challenge trying to explain the presidential election to you all. My final word is this: When you’re old enough, make sure that you learn about your candidates for Parliament – their party policies more than their personalities – and then go vote! Start a competition between younger people in the UK and the US!