The city of Philadelphia was the center of the political universe last week with the 2016 Democratic National Convention. I took a week off from my internship at Meridian to work as a runner for ABC News and attend the largest gathering of political junkies that I’ve ever seen. Runners provide extra support to ensure things run smoothly — from driving golf carts to help network employees navigate their way through the vast security on the convention grounds to working right on the convention floor with correspondents and anchors for the network. A national political convention is a big deal in any presidential election year, but this one featured a lineup unlike any I’ve ever seen: two Presidents, two first ladies and a vice president — all speaking in prime time.
I haven’t been a runner during any other election cycle, but I know that this isn’t your typical election. There’s never been a candidate quite like Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton is the first woman to receive a major party’s nomination. Yet despite receiving their parties’ nominations, poll after poll shows that a majority of voters don’t like or trust either candidate. They have both set a dubious record: the most unpopular party nominees since the beginning of political polling. This has resulted in many voters who say they are primarily voting to oppose the other candidate — not to support their candidate. I’ve spoken to religious Republicans who are so shaken by Donald Trump’s “hateful” agenda (just look at this list of 250 people he has insulted on Twitter) that they may vote for Hillary Clinton even though they have strong differences. And I’ve met disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters who are so angry at the system that they may vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein – or even Trump.
On the first day of the DNC, I could sense the contention. There were Bernie supporters with signs reading “liar” who chanted, “lock [Hillary] up!” But by the third day, the crowd seemed to unite a little more. I thought the speakers — particularly Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Tim Kaine – did a thorough job of stressing the importance of unity. Of course, there were still plenty of angry Bernie supporters who started chants in the middle of speeches and held up signs in protest, but I think it had toned down since the beginning of the week.
This election has dominated national news for months, but sometimes we forget that it is being covered all over the world. What happens in this election doesn’t only matter to us, and other countries are closely watching the United States to get an idea of what the next four years will look like. I reached out to the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI) fellows to learn about how the conventions were covered in their countries and hear some of their thoughts about its ramifications.
Archil Bakuradze, a fellow from Georgia, said the Democratic National Convention was widely publicized while the Republican National Convention was also publicized, but to a lesser degree. He told me that, for the most part, Georgians are more inclined to support Hillary Clinton as Georgian social media has been dominated by Democrats and the general population seems to be concerned about the extent of hate in Donald Trump’s platform. On the other hand, pro-Russian voters in Georgia sympathize with Trump, perhaps because of the “bromance” he has with Putin (as mentioned by Hillary’s campaign chairman, John Podesta), as well as his overall pro-Kremlin policies.
Meanwhile, in England, the election is also plastered across national news sources such as The Guardian, the Times, and BBC. Alexander Hurst, the YTILI fellow from the United Kingdom, told me that, “Trump’s attitude towards NATO is creating large scale concern in the UK political class and media and his Russian comments are creating fear from parts of the media that would like Trump to do well.”
But not all countries seem to be as concerned about Donald Trump. Ioanna Fotopoulou, the Greek YTILI fellow, said that the majority of Greeks, “don’t care who the president is as long as they feel secure that the president will support Greece.” However, she mentioned that people who follow politics more closely are more concerned about the balance of power that can change with a new president. The more liberal Greeks are concerned about what Trump can do if he is elected, but at the same time do not have positive feelings towards Clinton. Ioanna observed that the Democratic convention was much more happy and celebratory than the Republican convention, a sentiment that I noticed as well. Overall, she says both conventions were widely covered in the national news and newspapers with a little more focus on Trump regarding some of his “provoking” statements.
Both conventions had extremely different strategies. At the Republican National Convention, the emphasis was on security and combating the dangers facing our nation. There was a lot more internal contention (I mean, just look at how Governor Kasich wouldn’t even attend the convention in his own state because he is refusing to support Trump). Despite the Bernie drama at the DNC, I think there was a little bit more discord at the RNC. Gorazd Gotovac, a YTILI fellow from Slovenia, noticed this as well, saying, “one of the things that stood out was the coverage of the internal battles at RNC and lack thereof at the DNC.” He also noted that he didn’t hear a single word about either candidate’s actual platforms. “There is a serious lack of content which is then replaced by pandering and empty phrases,” said Gorazd. “Okay, that is politics, but they take it to a whole new level – some things are straight up lies and they do not care when they are confronted.” His observation is shared with many Americans who don’t feel like either candidate is trustworthy.
It was a great experience to have a front row seat at such a historic event. There is an immense amount of work that goes into producing the convention from all angles – the security has to clear out the stadium and thoroughly check each attendee; the speakers have to tweak their speeches to perfection; the event planners need to ensure that the “show” runs according to schedule; Katy Perry has to do her soundcheck; and, of course, the news networks have to cover the convention and make sure people all over the world can get a sense of what happened.
The world is watching, America. Hopefully we make the right call.
Links to the company websites of YTILI participants mentioned in this article: