This class has been a crash course experience in learning how to understand and cover a presidential election. From behind a camera or in an interview, I have tried to capture what people think and feel about this particular point in our democratic history but I also feel like I have gone deeper.
In class, we have dissected the integral parts of America’s executive branch from the election system, the campaigns and even the powers and responsibilities of the president. I think because of this deep immersion into the meaning of our democracy, I had a better understanding of what voters’ and experts’ concerns were in whatever story I was doing.
For example, after becoming better acquainted with the process candidates go through during campaigns to win popular approval, I had a better understanding of how one particular candidate could embrace the othering of minorities. In the video and interview of Dr. Patti Minter, an associate professor of history at WKU, Lily Nellans and I were able to follow how the 2016 campaign was a continuation of tactics used in the past to attribute fear of other cultures with a brand of leadership voters will benefit from if they elect the candidate.
There have been some great surprises from this election as well. I doubted Donald Trump’s campaign strategies in a piece I wrote, thinking his preference for populist showmanship couldn’t make up for a dedicated ground campaign. Even after seeing and reporting on a Trump rally in Ohio first hand, I wasn’t convinced the efforts would supersede the organization I had witnessed in Clinton’s campaign offices in Cincinnati.
It seems I was wrong, mostly because of another lesson I learned in this class: the importance of actual voters. Whether it was witnessing and talking to early voters waiting for hours to cast their ballot or hearing from a third party local campaign coordinator speak of trying his best for the longshot, I learned that sometimes the people really do make the difference. Even though Gary Johnson didn’t receive any electoral votes and it’s doubtful Trump will drop below 270 votes by December, and Hamilton County, Ohio voted for Clinton when the majority of Ohio did not, it was an experience to see the kind of meaning Americans put into their election system.