Innovation Symposium 2016: Politics, the Media and Breaking Templates

Paradigm − October 25, 2016 − filed under Events

7H2A6540 (1)Candy Crowley, award-winning journalist and former chief political correspondent for CNN, began her talk at Paradigm Outcomes’ Innovation Symposium 2016 with a surprising confession about herself and the media.

“I have never seen so many people so wrong about so much for such a long time.”

She gave a few examples from her own illustrious career, beginning with Ronald Reagan. She was covering his presidency in October of 1983. At the time, Reagan was on a golf outing in Augusta, Georgia, when news broke of some kind of explosion at the Marines’ barracks in Beirut. As the terrible loss of life began to be revealed, Reagan cut short his trip and headed back to Washington.

“I began thinking, ‘He’s done. We’re a year before the next election. He’ll never get re-elected.’ He ended up winning by a landslide in 1984. That’s when I should’ve quit predicting what’s going to happen because templates are out there to be broken.”

These “templates” are a recurring theme, she explained. “You think that no president can survive this or that, that no candidate would be elected if this or that happened. Then somebody comes along and breaks that template.”

She also related how in 2014 she was asked to forecast the 2016 election. Her predictions? Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell, current and former governors of New Jersey and Virginia, were the ones to watch. “Today, Christie is out endorsing Donald Trump, and McDonnell was indicted on federal corruption charges. He’s not going to be a politician anymore. That’s how good I am at this. You’ve been warned.”

Which leads, Crowley said, to this election. Time and again, she would talk to voters who told her they wanted Trump, but she wasn’t buying it.

“That was the media’s mistake all along,” she said. “We didn’t know what we didn’t know.”

What many people failed to understand was the deep discontent among both Republican and Democratic voters, Crowley explained. That discontent gave rise to Trump and Bernie Sanders in places in America where the national politicians, party leaders and journalists weren’t watching. “We weren’t focused on what was going on and how deep the discontent was out there.”

She pointed out another historical “template” that could be broken. No Democrat who has served out his term has been replaced by another Democrat since Martin Van Buren versus Andrew Jackson. Clinton could do it.

“I think the biggest problem for Hillary Clinton is ‘who is she?’ I call it ‘Plexiglas.’ You see her but it’s hard to feel who she is.” Crowley mentioned how at rallies Clinton would give a good speech and people would say how smart she was. “But it’s not the same. You want your president to be smart. Obama touched them and Hillary only impressed them. Touching them wins every time.”

Crowley pointed out how important making that connection is to the electorate by looking at polls from the 2012 campaign. Among voters who said “a vision for the future” was key, Romney won that with 54% of them. Strong leader? Romney took 61% of those who were polled. Shared my values? 55% Romney. But when the question was, “Who cares about people like me,” it was 81% Obama.

“It matters that people feel like you get them and you understand their lives,” Crowley said.

Crowley ended on a hopeful note for people with fears about either a Clinton victory or a Trump victory. She related a story from her own memories of the sixties. Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X had all been assassinated. The Vietnam War was raging. There were riots in the streets. The National Guard shot and killed protesting students on college campuses. People thought the world was ending. It didn’t happen. The country survived.

“I think democracy is a good idea and I think we believe in it, however, imperfect we are. Somehow, democracy figures it out.”

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