Panel provides perspective on 2016 elections

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DePauw University played host to its own version of a Sunday morning political talk show—complete with shouting and an array of competing perspectives.

Four Indiana journalists joined Professor of Political Science, Bruce Stinebrickner, in a crowded Watson Forum on Thursday attempting to process an election that defied polls and pundits.

Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism and former Washington Post writer and editor, Miranda Spivack, served as a faux moderator. The evening started civil, but the tone of the conversation quickly began to shift. As topics related to defining what the election meant for America, the panelists, along with the audience, had trouble finding common ground.

“Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the only two people that could lose to each other,” said political insider, attorney, and radio host Abdul Hakim-Shabazz. He blamed Trump’s initial rise on several factors including the sheer size of the field competing for the GOP nomination.

“The Republican primary was like ‘Jon and Kate Plus Eight’ times two,” Hakim-Shabazz said.

Former Indianapolis Star political reporter Mary Beth Schneider agreed, but added, “the media had an additional challenge this time: bold face lies.” Schneider believed this cycle was extraordinary, usually candidates stretch the truth, this time around she blamed both Clinton and Trump of blatant dishonesty.

“The problem with the Clinton’s is that they give the legal answer, not the honest answer,” said Hakim-Shabazz, offering a potential reason as to why Clinton failed to reach 270 electoral votes. He believed her insistence upon tip-toeing around the issue of using a private server while in office, rather than addressing it head on, haunted her.

Other panelists blamed the media’s lack of coverage of when FBI Director James Comey announced for the second time that he was not seeking to press charges against Clinton for the  for the use of her private email server.

Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, Emmitt Riley, who was in the audience, expanded what other panelists had mentioned. “What propelled Trump to victory is a resurgence of white, working class voters in rural areas that had previously not been activated,” Riley said.

Spivack agreed, but believed there was more to Trump’s victory than activating rural, white voters. She tried to highlight the controversial statements Trump made without much backlash from prominent Republicans in Washington. “Until Trump was accused of groping white women, [Speaker of the House] Paul Ryan announced he wouldn’t campaign for him. I think it’s much deeper than that,” Spivack said.

When a Greencastle resident asked the panel about the media’s responsibility for Trump’s election, the four journalists were outspoken—shouldering some of the blame, while shifting more towards their organizations.

“The network execs loved Trump and they made millions off of him,” Schneider said.