- August 2, 2016
- Posted by: Maeve McCormack
- Category: insight
Barack Obama. Meryl Streep. Bill Clinton. Carole King. The 2016 Democratic National Convention was bigger and more crammed full of celebrities than any UK political conference, and made history when it ratified Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential candidate, the first woman to win a mainstream party’s Presidential nomination.
Having spent the last week working at the DNC, here’s my view from the ground on how the US Presidential race is shaping up.
Bernie is not America’s Corbyn
There are similarities between the cult of Corbyn and that of Sanders – the hero-worship, the anti-trade deal posters and the protests outside political gatherings. Unlike Corbyn, however, Bernie Sanders has not taken over his party. By Wednesday, you could spot the Sanders fans based on wherever there was a cluster of TV cameras. Their continued lack of support for the Democrats’ nominated candidate made a good story, but the ‘Bernie or Bust’ team is a minority force within the party as a whole.
Trump, on the other hand, is a supposedly anti-establishment figure who against conventional wisdom secured his party’s nomination. Senior figures within his party have refused to support him and the opposition have said he’s a danger to national security. Sound familiar?
But Hillary’s definitely going to win, right?
The consensus among foreign commentators until recently has been that Clinton was guaranteed a win, but the polling shows that the race is tight. She is currently enjoying a post-Convention six point lead, but was trailing Trump in the ratings immediately after the Republican National Convention. Both candidates are currently struggling on trustworthiness scores. Trump has alienated chunks of the electorate in swing states through his comments about women and non-white voters, but this might not be enough to see Clinton across the line.
In some respects the Democrats have a similar challenge to the UK’s Labour Party: blue collar voters are increasingly ambivalent about the extent to which they feel the party is doing enough to support them. States with large working class populations such as Pennsylvania, which has backed the Democrats in every Presidential election since 1992, could swing towards the Republicans later this year. A Democrat win should certainly not be taken for granted.
Trump: Vilified by the press, beloved of the electorate?
It was striking how many of the Democrats’ campaign videos were anti-Trump rather than pro-Clinton. It was reminiscent of the Remain campaign’s Project Fear during the EU referendum. Democrats need to be careful not overplay this messaging or they too could be defeated. Trump is increasingly seen as a victim of a hostile media, and he is winning support as a result.
Clinton has a clear platform: equal pay for women, improved gun controls and investment in jobs and growth, and she should focus on her vision for a more United States of America rather than relying on an ‘anyone but Trump’ vote. She remains the favourite, but to consolidate her lead she needs to be more than the ‘first woman’ or ‘not Trump’ candidate.
Top five speeches
You’ve probably already heard the speeches from the Clintons and the Obamas, Kaine and Biden, but here’s a rundown of the top five less high profile slots which are definitely worth a watch:
Bloomberg is a businessman and former Mayor of New York, and there was speculation that he would run as an independent candidate for President. He has previously been a member of both the Republican and Democrat parties.
In a previously unprecedented move, US army generals spoke at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Allen was accompanied on stage by a number of military personnel, warning against electing Trump as President.
Smegielski is the daughter of Dawn Hochsprung, the Sandy Hook Principal who was murdered in the mass shooting in 2012. Since then she has become a prominent campaigner for gun controls, one of the key campaign issues underpinning Clinton’s presidential bid.
Elmets is a former economic adviser to Republican President Ronald Reagan, and described himself as a Republican who would be voting for Clinton this year.
Khan is the father of one of fourteen US Muslims who have died serving in the military since the 9/11 attacks. His speech led to a surge in sales of the US Constitution after he urged Donald Trump to read it more closely.