The 2016 Presidential Primary comes to Ohio State on Sunday, with Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders visiting for a town hall at Mershon Auditorium.
Professor Michael Neblo has observed the campaign with increasing interest and a tinge of concern. He recently shared four observations about the primary and forthcoming general election.
Donald Trump’s success is not likely the result of an overall decline in civility in discourse.
“I think almost all of what we are seeing is being driven by the Trump phenomenon,” Neblo said. “Other candidates in the race weren’t being especially belligerent or uncivil until Trump started an arms race and behaved very differently from mainline political candidates. He got traction off of it, wasn’t punished for it and others felt they had to play the game or they would be crushed.”
A Trump-Clinton general election favors Clinton (but maybe not).
“I know what the standard political sciences answer should be, which is that in a Trump-Clinton general election, Clinton would win handily,” he said. “The idea is that Trump’s negatives are so large even in his own party, that he’d get clobbered in a general election. The caveat to that is that none of this was supposed to happen in the first place. Leading political scientists said that Trump would never get the nomination, and yet that looks like it will happen. I’d still predict Clinton would win a general election but I admit that this cycle is confounding what we normally would expect to see happen.”
American citizens should be wary of authoritarian style politics.
“U.S. citizens can’t or shouldn’t be complacent about the fact that we have seldom had serious authoritarian challenges here,” Neblo said. "I worry that this campaign is exhibiting more appeals to authoritarian leadership styles than we have seen in a long time. Regardless of one’s partisan leanings, I think it is unwise to think that we’re uniquely immune to the dangers of authoritarian politics.”
The general public isn’t as polarized as politicians are.
“Polarization among political professionals is real, and today I think the parties more cleanly line up on an ideological scale,” he said. “But part of my keep calm and carry on attitude hinges on the notion that the vast majority of citizens are not hyper intense people who see the other side as an evil enemy that should be subjugated. My worry is that if a huge number of people get so displeased with our system and opt out, they might accidentally amplify the voice of those who aren’t looking for civil discourse.”