Speaker breaks down election
The Southside Planning District Commission and the Lake Country Development Corporation gathered in Chase City on Thursday night for their 47th Annual Meeting.
Serving as guest speaker for the evening was Dr. Robert D. Holsworth, managing principal of DecideSmart, a firm providing strategic advice, research and civic engagement services to public sector organizations, nonprofits and private sector companies with public policy and government interests.
Holsworth was the founding director of the Center for Public Policy and the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. His observations on national and Virginia politics have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and New York Times, among others.
Holsworth told the group that from his perspective, the 2016 race for the White House has been unusual, to say the least. Citing two hard fought primaries, he noted 16 “mainstream” Republicans had challenged the “outsider” candidate, Donald Trump, while on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders, a self described “Democratic socialist,” had run a strong challenge to mainstream favorite Hillary Clinton.
Both of these primaries, said Holsworth, showed that Americans are looking beyond the status quo and looking for something beyond traditional candidates.
Speaking about Trump, Holsworth said that Republicans had 16 strong, “first string” candidates battling Trump.
“The reason he got the nomination, I think,” said Holsworth, “is that there were 16 Republicans running against Obama. Trump was running against Obama and the whole establishment. He was the one fighting against the elite, and he managed to tap a lot of people who didn’t look like the ‘country club’ Republicans. He sent that message and he won.”
Holsworth added that Trump’s status as an outsider and a successful businessman had probably been the biggest part of his message and appeal.
“That might be why he has such a loyal group of supporters,” said Holsworth. “And he has them.”
Holsworth said the challenge Trump now faces is to make peace with other groups of voters.
“The challenge is that in doing that, he’s done it in such a way that he’s antagonized a lot of other groups like Latinos, women, African-Americans. That has made it difficult for him to get a larger base.”
Holsworth added that had Trump focused on issues such as trade, terrorism and the economy, he might have enjoyed a larger share of support.
The changing demographics of the United States, he added, also work against Trump’s more narrow focus and his seeming difficulty in expanding his base of core supporters.
Both Clinton and Trump, said Holsworth, both suffer from high negative ratings among the general population.
“They have the highest negative ratings of any candidates who have ever run,” said Holsworth.
Clinton’s big strength, said Holsworth, appears to be her command of policy and issues.
“She knows the issues backwards and forwards, but she has limitations and weaknesses,” said Holsworth.
Citing the seemingly endless stream of stories surfacing from Clinton’s email server scandal and Wikileaks, Holsworth pointed out that “Americans don’t trust her.”
Clinton’s largest challenge, he said, is whether or not she will be able to reassemble the “Obama coalition” and whether they will turn out on Election Day to support her.
During the Democratic primaries, said Holsworth, Sanders easily led Clinton with the younger voters and women. Many of those, especially the younger voters, have not been as enthusiastic about supporting Clinton.
Holsworth also pointed out the larger presence of independent candidates in this year’s contest could also be a factor in the final outcome. He added that Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson appears to be drawing equally from Clinton and Trump.
On election night, said Holsworth, the final result will most likely come down to the battleground states.
Holsworth also raised the question of how the election will impact the political scene in Virginia.
Pointing out that should the Clinton-Kaine ticket win, Virginia will need a new senator to take the place of the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Tim Kaine.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe would appoint the new senator to serve the remainder of Kaine’s term.
Holsworth also said it is not outside the realm of possibility for McAuliffe to be offered and accept a position with a potential Clinton administration.
After discussing several possible gubernatorial candidates, both Republican and Democrat, Holsworth turned to the question “what happens if Trump doesn’t win?”
Holsworth pointed out that Trump has essentially established a movement.
“Trump will monetize it in some fashion,” said Holsworth. “He has raised issues, and his people are loyal.”
Holsworth added that at 70 years of age, he doubts Trump would make another campaign.
“But,” he said, “I think he’s going to hold his voters, maybe as a media mogul. He has a following now that’s interested.”
Holsworth also said that if Clinton wins, “establishment” Democrats will also face challenges from more liberal factions within the party, likely led by Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“We’re going to see Republicans with some serious issues,” said Holsworth, “but Democrats are not going to be immune to interparty battles either.”