Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Fear Through the Years: The 2016 Election in Historical Context

Last week at Wake-Up Wednesday Dr. Troy Smith of the history department at TTU joined us to speak about the upcoming election in a historical context.
It seems like all the media can talk about is Hillary vs Trump. We wanted to know how this campaign compares to those in the past. The first election that seems to come to mind is 1884 for the sole reason that no one liked either candidate then either. It makes me wonder why this is the first issue that comes to mind. Perhaps it speaks to what Americans (or at least those who are unversed in politics and only watch the evening news for the latest football scores) value most in their leaders: appearances.

Dr. Smith, however, argues that there are other elections that provide us with a better comparison. The two elections that compare the best to the 2016 election are 1856 and 1920. The first comparison is immigration.  Today’s candidates are constantly arguing about immigration policies.  But even more than policies, the issue of hatred and fear towards immigration is huge in this election.  This was also the case in the 1856 election when the issue wasn’t Latino immigrants but Irish and German Catholic immigrants. In 1920, it was Jewish immigrants. Today, we aren’t as bothered by European immigrants (Trump’s wife is a European immigrant), but Latino immigrants strike a chord in many Americans; our candidates have caught on.

In the 1920 election, people feared immigrants because of their ideas revolving around socialism and anarchy among other things. Today, people fear immigrants, especially Middle Eastern immigrants, because of the terrorism we’ve faced in the last 15 years from a small radical faction of Islam.  Regardless of what people are fearing it is certainly a throwback.

There are some unique qualities about the 2016 election, though. One of the main unique factors is the Democratic candidate herself. Despite her gender (she is the first female candidate to win the nomination of a major party), Hillary Clinton is the first candidate who is a former First Lady, a former Senator, and the Secretary of State. While the Republican candidate seems to be lacking any political experience, he has certainly gained the backing of many Americans. 2016 will certainly be a historical race that could go either way. Remember to stay tuned into the election and VOTE. Here is a link to the Putnam County Election Commission: http://www.putnamcountytn.gov/?p=departments&s=electioncomm

Join us tomorrow night with Rev. Mark Pafford from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cookeville for a talk titled “A Rabbi, Reverend, Mullah, & Monk are My Traveling Companions”.    

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