Decoding 2016: David Axelrod with Joel Benenson, Senior Strategist for the Clinton 2016 Campaign

Decoding 2016: David Axelrod with Joel Benenson, Senior Strategist for the Clinton 2016 Campaign


2016 has been a year
of the unexpected and the unprecedented,
with events as far-ranging as Brexit and a
Cubs World Series, surprising analysts and
intellectuals the world over. Powerful geopolitical forces
like nationalism and globalism are locked in conflict
over the mission of democratic societies. And the resulting
disruptions have pitched people against each
other in all forms of debate. Perhaps no event
denotes the unexpected and the unprecedented nature
of 2016 more than the election of Donald J. Trump. Luckily, we have two of
the top political minds here with us this evening to
help decode the 2016 election. Joel Benenson, founder and CEO
of Benenson Strategy Group, has been named
pollster of the year by the American Association
of Political Consultants, among the most powerful
people in DC by GQ magazine, and a part of the new
lineup in Washington by Newsweek Magazine. He was also included in
The New Republic’s the O List, which identified the
30 most influential players in Obama’s 2008 run for office. Mr. Benenson and his
firm won the Ogilvy award for government and
public service. He is also the only
pollster in American history to have served on three
successful presidential campaigns. Most recently he served
as senior strategist for Hillary Clinton’s 2016
presidential campaign. And many of us already
know David Axelrod. He is a veteran of American
politics and journalism, and the former chief
strategist and senior adviser to President Barack Obama. He currently serves as director
of the Institute of Politics, senior political commentator for
CNN, and host of The Axe Files, which today released
its 100th episode. So please join me in welcoming
Mr. Joel Benenson and Mr. David Axelrod. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. Thank you, thank you so much. You know, point of
personal privilege here, or disclosure,
or whatever. The first call I made
when Barack Obama decided to run for president in
2008 was to Joel Benenson, with whom I had
worked and who I knew when we were both journalists,
or when I was a journalist and he was just out of
the journalism business working for Mario
Cuomo in New York. And I reached out for
Joel because he is not only brilliant and incisive,
but passionate about his work. And nothing has changed
in all this time. He is still that person. And you have the
most unusual story. So I know we have a
lot to cover tonight. But I just want you
to give these folks a sense of how being an
actor and a beer salesman led you to become a
presidential pollster. I just drank a lot. In the beer store
we’d go to the back, and we’d drink and say, hey. What about just
becoming a pollster? This year I think people
would believe you. Yeah. A lot of people
would say– when I used to say to people
at parties and things and there’s a lot of noise,
what do you do for a living, and I’d say, I’m a pollster. People would go an upholsterer? I guess they’d never met
an upholsterer before. Yeah. It was a very non-linear path. And for all of you students
who are here and trying to figure out what
you’re going to do, feel free to share this
story with your parents. But it did take me 10 years
to get through college. I grew up in Queens, one of
the outer Boroughs of New York City. And I went to Queens
College, which is part of the City
University of New York. And it was free. And I was a theater
major in college. And that happened kind
of serendipitously. But I got into it
in high school, and then stayed
with it in college. Although I minored
in political science. Or I always thought
I did actually. Don’t ask him to
recite Shakespeare, or we’ll never get out of here. That’s right. Right. Or Hobbes either. But I thought I minored
in political science. It turns out I’m two
credits short of actually officially having a minor. So the school won’t give
me an honorary degree in political science now. But you know, I was
bouncing around in the ’70s doing avant garde theater. We had a small troupe of actors. We had one play
that was performed Off-Broadway at some well-known
theaters in New York. The [? Cabiculo, ?] La MaMa,
at the Lincoln Center Street Theater festival. And an uncle of mine
said, you know, there’s no money in what you’re doing. I said, oh, I know that. And he was an accountant. And there were these beer
distributorships in New York. They were like
warehouses where you can sell to the
public retail, where you can sell wholesale to
tavern owners or bodegas and grocery stores who
have to buy beer and soda when they have cash, because
they can’t get credit from the big Budweiser
distributors. We would be able to
buy from those folks. So I was doing that in
a neighborhood called Crown Heights, which
was extremely diverse. And it was a very– And volatile. –and volatile. Yeah. At various points,
yes, there were a lot of– but it was the
most diverse, I believe, community in
America at the time. This is in the late
’70s and early ’80s. And it was really
a microcosm of what was about to happen
in New York City. Legacy working class
whites, because we were around the corner
from Ebbets Field. But a very large
Caribbean community. If anybody’s from New
York or you’ve ever seen the West Indian parade down
Eastern Parkway on Labor Day, my beer distributorship was
in walking distance of that. So we used to sell a ton of
Guinness stout and Heineken, because folks from Jamaica and
the islands were drinking that. That was their native beer. And it was a fascinating
education, because in fact, in 2012– Axe knows this story–
somebody at my firm said, of all the things you’ve
done in your life, what do you think was the
thing that most made you the good pollster that
you’ve really become? And I said, being a beer
distributor in Brooklyn. And everybody
burst out laughing. We have this common
area where we all eat. And she said– wonderful woman. You know Cher. I said, no. Seriously. Being a beer distributor. And I said, look. I was a working class kid. I got to go to college
because it was free. So I’m college-educated. And that has been a
great benefit to me, even though by that point I’d
gotten my degree, obviously. But I said for seven
years, everybody I was working with was
living paycheck to paycheck. Everybody I was employing,
whether it was– like I say, the guy who didn’t graduate from
high school from Bensonhurst. White guy who just wanted to
get his kids a better future. The Panamanian cashier who
worked for me– Emmelina Jenkins, I still
remember her name– who spoke with a thick
Panamanian accent. And all she wanted
was for her daughter to have all the
opportunity in America. And up and down the line
of people I dealt with, the tractor trailer
driver who was bringing us trailer loads of
Budweiser or Schaefer or Miller beer from
upstate New York and drove all
night that we would unload either by
forklift or by hand when the forklift broke down. These were all folks who were
living paycheck to paycheck. And I think those voices
were always in my head. And I think at
some point, I knew I didn’t want to be
a beer distributor. And I was reading a lot. And I finished college
during those years actually. And it really rekindled
my political interest that I had in college. I grew up in the ’60s. I was a bit of an activist,
part of the anti-war movement, feminism through college. And I didn’t know
what I wanted to do. And somebody said to
me, make up a list. And I made up a list. And I decided I wanted to be a
sportswriter covering the New York Yankees. That was not an easy path. Turns out becoming a pollster
was a little bit easier. But it did get me
into journalism. And I started covering politics. And I covered politics. And then as Axe said, we
met on this ’94 campaign. I left journalism after a pretty
good career as the state house bureau chief for the
New York Daily News, which was the largest tabloid
in America at one point. And I was covering Mario Cuomo,
who was running for governor. And I think we talked a lot
when he was having his dalliance with the presidency in ’91. And he ultimately didn’t run. But at that point,
the reason I left journalism was I said
to my wife at one point, I don’t want to pretend that
these two candidates are equals. I had a strong view about
the guy who was going to run against Mario Cuomo. And I thought Mario was a giant. And he is one of
my political idols. I thought he was brilliant. Flawed in some ways. And that got me into politics. And Axe was doing the IE. I’d been interviewing
him a lot as a reporter, because he was in
consulting already. And that was the first race we
actually worked together, cause you did the ads on the IE. Right. So it’s a non-linear path. But in my mind, everything
I did along the way fits, because as a pollster,
I’m not just a numbers cruncher. I think about language,
the impact of words. What do they really mean? We use qualitative and
quantitative techniques. And I think that diverse
background has helped me. So that that’s a great sort
of segue into the topic here. You went and first you
worked as a kind of second in the 1996 Bill
Clinton campaign. And then you did the two
Obama campaigns with us. You’ve been polling for the
White House these eight years. You’ve been through
presidential campaigns. As I’ve pointed out from time
to time, neither of us are kids. And yet you chose
to do this campaign. Did you have a reluctance
about doing the campaign? Well– What I might be asking is you
knew what campaigns entailed. How all-enveloping, how
physically and emotionally draining they are. And I think– and you
know this– after 2012 I didn’t think I
would do another one. And I think when
the Democrats really got our clocks
cleaned in 2014, I thought this election took
on even greater importance. And I thought if I could
play some role– as you say, we’re not kids. I am older than David. I was playing for that. I may look younger. I may look younger. But I’m older. I wasn’t playing for that. But you know, I thought if I
could play a role, I should. And I think it’s hard. I think in candor, these
things have gotten so long now. I first met with Hillary Clinton
I think in December of 2014. And then early January– And they kind of
reached out to you. They reached out to me. I knew Houma for a long time. There were folks
she was talking to. Some of whom were
from Obama world. And then when I first met with
her, we didn’t know each other. And she said, everybody
I talked to says that I have to talk to you
if I’m going to do this. So we had a very
good conversation. The first meeting I thought was
scheduled for about 45 minutes. And I think we went for
about an hour and a half. Probably because she asked
you about your life story. That took up 80
of the 90 minutes. And then we talked about
the campaign for 10 minutes. No. And I think it was just
a good conversation. I was very honest with her. I knew obviously
a lot about her. We’d run against her in ’08. And I think she appreciated
my candor there. And I think when it got time
to have a serious discussion, we did. And I thought this
was important. And if I can make a
difference, I should. Hindsight is perfect. Hillary Clinton was in
many ways as you look back sort of the quintessential
sort of establishment candidate in what was shaping up to be
an anti-establishment year. Did you have those
concerns at the time? Well, look. There are a couple
of things that I said to her from the outset. I said, first of
all, you’re trying to do something that has
been done very rarely in our history, which is
succeed a two-term president of your own party. I think the last Democrat
that did that was probably in the 19th century, actually,
forgetting Roosevelt’s four terms. And I think even on
the Republican side, George HW Bush did it in ’88. Ran as the last time. What’s that? Yeah. That was the last time– The last time. But even then, it’s
been very rare. –since the ’20s. Yeah. And it’s been very rare. And I was very candid with
her about that undertaking. The other thing
I said to her is, we’re a pretty young country. You know, we’re 240 years old. But compared to our
counterparts in Europe, we’re a young country. And the fact is that
in our history– and I think Donald Trump is now
only the seventh person elected president who is over the age of
60 on their first election day. 45 presidents, only seven
out of 45 60 or older on their first election day. And I said those things
to her, because I think you have to go
into these things. I certainly do as a
strategist, as a pollster, thinking about them. And I think it’s important that
the candidate evaluate them too. It was no doubt
succeeding an incumbent. And President Obama’s
numbers at that point were not as strong
as they are now. But they were strong for
someone going into the last two years of his second term,
relative to where some of his predecessors had been. And I think we had to find
a lane where we could be different from him in some way. But she, of course, was
not just any candidate. Not at all. She was the Clinton franchise. The Clinton history was
long and very much connected with American politics
for a generation, really. And the challenge
was going to be to take the approach,
as I said at the outset, you are the most famous
least-known person there is. People know a lot
less about her. She’s a fairly private person. I think she always has
been, notwithstanding a lot of public exposure. How debilitating do
you think that was? I’ve always believed
that authenticity– and I’ve said this to you–
is a leading indicator in presidential races. And it’s hard to be authentic
when you’re very guarded. I mean, that may
be authentically what she is is very guarded. Yeah. But I think a lot of
people who’ve succeeded are private, and try to
create some separation between their public
lives and private lives. And I think
particularly somebody who raised a daughter
in the White House and under the spotlight
of that, and I think you go through those things. And I think I’m not
going to second guess anybody who has to live that,
because it’s unimaginable. Do you think she’s endured
unusually harsh scrutiny? Oh, I think for 30 years. Absolutely. I think if you look
at– I mean, look. There’s going to be
a lot of coverage and a lot of discussion
going on still this week. And there has been. And I was at some
discussions last week or the week before, both one
in Europe at NYU’s school over there with Democrats
and Republicans, and one in California. I think there is a massive
discussion going on among including
people in the media about how this was covered. Was it balanced? You know, this goes
beyond just the fake news issue that kind of the new
media are dealing with. But I think there’s a lot
of introspection going on. And there should be about
how this was covered. At the end of the
day, you know, it’s like I would say on
television interviews at some point at the end. You know, I get asked every
time I was on television about the fact that well, how
is Hillary Clinton going to win if people don’t trust her? Donald Trump was less
trusted and honest in the eyes of voters
throughout the campaign than Hillary Clinton was. How many of you ever
saw a Trump surrogate on TV– show of hands–
asked, how is Donald Trump going to win if the
majority of American people don’t trust him and
think he’s honest? Anybody ever see one of his
surrogates asked that question? No. Anybody see a Clinton
surrogate asked that question? Yeah. So I think there’s no question
that there is an imbalance. So do you think that–
well, let me just move along here,
because I’m going to get back to this question. Every successful
campaign has a story that is discernible and
resonant that is rooted in who that candidate is. Did Hillary have such a story? Yeah. I think she did. And I think if you go back
to our convention, which some pundits, including
those I’ve heard on CNN, called it the best convention
ever put on in history. And if you look at the narrative
arc of that convention, some of it was about
Trump and the case we’re making about Trump. But much of it was about
Hillary Clinton’s life. And we talked about what I said,
the least-known famous person. We had one night, the second
night of our convention, that we dubbed internally
“the fights of her life.” A woman who for 30
years has actually been fighting to make a
difference in people’s lives. Families and children very
much at the center of it, but including disabled people,
doing things in the White House as First Lady. A lot of people know
she did CHIP, and had something to do with health care
and tried to get health care. But you know, she reached out
to Republicans in those days. She worked with
Tom DeLay, who was the whip for the Republicans
on the floor during impeachment of President Clinton in
the ’90s, and found out that he cared about foster kids. And she went to work
with him and said, look. We don’t agree on anything. But we care about these kids. Can we help get more
of these kids adopted? So there was a story to tell– But it’s interesting
how you– I mean– They were very powerful. I did think it was a
very good convention. I think the numbers bore
that out afterwards. And Donald Trump reacted
badly for three weeks to the convention,
which underscored that. But as you tell
those stories, you talk about what she
did for this group and that group and this group. And the critique–
and again, hindsight is 20/20– is that these
appeal to segments. But there wasn’t an
overarching message that spoke to the
entire country so that people couldn’t
see themselves in what she was talking about. Particularly on the economy. I disagree with that. I think we were
making a forceful case around a set of issues we
described as family economics, and that families were different
and are different than they were 20 or 30 years ago. And people– as good as
President Obama’s numbers are now– they are not still feeling
like they’ve gotten where they want to be in their lives. And there are a
host of things that have been holding them back. And there are issues
around minimum wage for millions of people
who are working poverty. She had more policy than anybody
who ever ran for president. But they were constructed
around family economics. They were constructed
about helping families get ahead and stay ahead. People have been inching
along in these eight years. We know we’re having all
this good job growth. But they wanted permanence. And they know the
gains they’ve made. They certainly don’t feel
the gains they’ve made are durable today. Absolutely. But do you think that people
perceived her as that champion on election day? I do. I think they perceived her as
that champion on election day. Look, I think there are
multiple forces at work here, which I’m
sure we will get to. But we were winning
this campaign. Like, we were winning
this campaign. We came out of the third
debate consolidating our lead. We have a variable in
this race that we really didn’t have to any great extent
in either of President Obama’s races with third-party
candidates who were polling at a sizable number for
a presidential campaign, significantly higher
than Ralph Nader, who everybody remembers as
a third-party candidate, who got like 1.6% of
the vote in Florida. We had third-party candidates
polling at 8% to 11%, 12% early in October. And we always had
these two groups of people– Trump defectors
and Hillary defectors– people who in a two-way
would vote for one of them. But when we asked the
four-way question, then the poll would move to
the third-party candidates. And we saw after the third
debate we were consolidating. We had momentum. And we get to 11 days
out, when the FBI director takes an unprecedented action
and throws a monkey wrench into the campaign that you
couldn’t have anticipated. [INTERPOSING VOICES] And you could see palpably
that that stalled our momentum. When you signed up
with Hillary Clinton, you didn’t know about this
private e-mail account. Correct? Yeah, correct. So when the story
broke, you probably learned about it in approximate
vicinity to the rest of us. And then you saw
her poll numbers took a deep hit after that. How damaging along the
way was this e-mail story? Because you’re citing
the Comey thing as a decisive blow at the end. Well, here’s the point. And I’ve said this all
through the campaign. People made up their
minds about emails long before the Comey event. Then why was the Comey thing– Because it put it
into the discussion. You’re running a campaign
where your closing argument is out there. And you now have the FBI,
who injects something back into the campaign,
unprecedented. You have Trump surrogates
going out there and using it to gin up their
base and get some of their folks motivated again. And you guys had to
finish differently than you would have
had that not happened. Is that true? You were pretty much on
the attack after that. Well, I don’t know how much
we finished differently. I think you want
to close strong. Look. I said five days before
the Comey announcement, I was on George Stephanopoulos’
show, Sunday Morning. At the end he said, so
what keeps you up at night? And I said, you know– He says Comey. Well, it goes back to
working for Mario Cuomo and rules he set about
unexpected things in campaigns. And I said to George,
what keeps me up at night is the unexpected, the thing
that you can’t anticipate, that you can’t
know right now that can change the dynamic
with very little time. And I think that
what that did is I think it stalled the momentum
of our defectors coming back to us in enough numbers. And I think it helped to
animate his defectors more. And I think that was part of– [INTERPOSING VOICES] Let’s say had there
not been emails, there would not have
been a Comey story. But here’s the reality. That story first comes
out in March of 2015. And on October 19, 20, and 21,
and after the third debate, we are winning this campaign. People had made up
their mind about emails. I hear you on that. One more thing on
emails, though. Where was her on the
day that the email story broke– where was her
favorable rating among voters? Oh, I don’t remember. But was above water. It was more positive
than negative. Yeah. It was above water. And it sunk below at that point. No, not right away. It took a bit of time. And it was hammered away at by
Republicans and the Republicans in Congress. You also forget that, as I
say, people made up their mind. People go to their partisan
corners a lot on these issues. So this really was about
what Comey did at the end in a way that was unprecedented. He was condemned by
Republicans and Democrats for taking an action that
was against all the rules and principles in the FBI. And you could see the effect
on momentum at that point. One other factor
in this campaign, obviously, was the
hacking and Wikileaks. You yourself, you made a few
stories on this Wikileaks thing, because you were giving
candid advice that you thought was private advice, as
everyone in campaigns do. I’ve always said,
no campaign could have endured being
hacked in that way, because you don’t have
private strategic discussions with a mind toward
it being made public. How much impact
did all that have? Well, I’ll tell you
that the challenge is that– and we
said repeatedly we weren’t going to authenticate
any of those emails. And the reason for that is
because every one of them are subject to manipulation
by the hackers. They can change order of things. They can move things around. They have them. We don’t know what they
have at that point. You know, we’re not
going through them. Look, I think– It’s also a good
place to rest if you don’t want to comment on them. Well, I commented on some
during the course of it. But look. I think the problem is the
challenge with that was simply that it just put
the email– people, voters were just conflating it. It was just more email stuff. And so during that period, it
was just simply, as I said, people who had made up
their minds about it had made up their
minds long before it. And it was an annoyance because
think about how much attention those emails got because it was
so titillating to the press, instead of covering what
was actually going on in a meaningful way
about people’s lives and the campaign, frankly,
which they abandoned to write about the next John
Podesta email, or whatever, or mine. You were quoted
in one of those– and this goes back to the
question I asked earlier. You’re sure it wasn’t
one I sent to you, right? I would never quote those. You emailed to the group–
the strategic group– do we have any sense from
her what she believes in, or what she wants her
core message to be? What did you mean by that? So only because I addressed this
inadvertently on TV once before will I address it again. This is a perfect example of why
you don’t authenticate things that could be manipulated. That was in relation to
a very specific speech. And if I go back to 2008
or 9 or 12 with you, or Grizzalano, who’s sitting in
the front row, my other brother in wars here, we would
have had that discussion about a specific speech. What does the
President want to say? What did Senator Obama
want to say in his speech? OK. Fair enough. And we were talking about a
very specific speech there. Let me ask you about
one other thing. And it leads into the discussion
about Bernie Sanders, who obviously also didn’t take
to heart the talk about how running for president
is for people under 60. But how much damage did
his campaign do to Hillary? And specifically the
issue of her speeches to Wall Street, which he
hammered relentlessly. So can I talk more
broadly about this? And I’m going to
quote something you said to me about when you put– No. You can’t quote me. No, no. That’s not fair. I think it is fair. OK. I think in this
case you won’t mind. All right? OK. I asked you at the start of
the Hillary Clinton campaign, when you put the team together
for then-senator Obama, Axe always had this
great thing the day after election day in 2008. He had all the guys and
women he brought together to put this team together. And we had this brunch. And he said, you know,
when Barack Obama called me and said, go do this, he
said he felt like Danny Ocean in Oceans 11. And he could go put
the best team together with the best people
he knew and trusted. And I called Axe when I
started the Hillary campaign. And I said, so when you
put the team together, aside from all of that,
was there anything else you were looking at? And he said, yeah. He wanted people with
an insurgent mentality, because we were going to
be an insurgent campaign. You don’t mind me
quoting that, right? Not so far. And I’ll tell you something. And I think when you
look at the history of presidential campaigns,
and you go back, people who have been
the insurgent– maybe this goes to us
being a young country and really a country that took
on the most powerful force on Earth in 240 years
ago, the King of England, who is an empire–
I think there’s some appetite for an
insurgent over and over again. And I think it’s the outsider. I think it’s something that
people may be gravitating towards in a way that
I wasn’t fully thinking about in the beginning. And I think for Sanders–
for Senator Sanders– he tapped that in a way with
a very powerful diagnosis about what was still, after
eight years of President Obama, frankly, causing
people distress. A rigged economic
and political system, which he diagnosed very
perfectly and succinctly for people. Now ultimately, we won in
the primaries, I think, because people weren’t
enthralled with his solutions as much. But also because you
had tactical advantages, I mean, in fairness. Right? A very powerful base within
the African-American community, particularly among older
African-American voters in the South. That was very beneficial to her. I mean, it was a pitched battle. Or a pitchforked battle. Look. Obviously, it was very close. We went through every
primary, not unlike 2008. But he was a strong challenger. And he was the insurgent. Did you expect that? I mean, the guy was a
74-year-old Jewish socialist from Vermont, which is
not the sort of portrait of the successful
presidential candidate. But of course, that has all
gone out the window anyway. Yeah. Well, I was once a Jewish
socialist from Queens. And nobody’s voting
for you, bro. Nobody’s voting for me either. Yeah. So. I mean, look. You have to remember the
conversation going back that far. There was a lot of discussion
about would Elizabeth Warren run or not. There was definitely
some appetite for someone who was going to still
take on Wall Street and take on the excesses,
take on corporate greed. So in this context, the
speeches weren’t helpful. They weren’t helpful, Joel. You know, look. David– Don’t make me do
a show of hands. One of the things that
Wikileaks came out with is some of the speeches. Look. You’ve heard me say this. I think you’ve said this too,
that presidential elections are about big things. Not small things. Doesn’t mean small things
don’t or can’t matter. But small things can seem big– They can. –in that they
give you a window. But we won a Democratic
primary not just because of tactical advantages. We won a Democratic primary
because Hillary Clinton represented the promise
of certain things that would make a real
difference in people’s lives. And keep in mind, in New York,
Bernie Sanders came to New York and did an interview at
the New York Daily News, which really raised the
curtain on his own inability to explain how he
would do anything he was promising to people. And one thing people in America
don’t want– or didn’t want, at least in the Democratic
primary certainly didn’t want– was something
that wasn’t real to them. They are hungering for some
real stability, real security. And there was a challenge
in being the less insurgent or the establishment
candidate for someone who had been a Washington
figure for 30 years. But there was also
something that was valuable and desirable. And look. I mean, look. The rules of the game are
the rules of the game. We’re winning the popular vote
by a couple of million here at the end of the day– a
bigger margin than most folks who’ve been in this position
that we’re sitting in right now– because
frankly, her message did resonate with more people. When did you start
becoming deeply concerned about Donald Trump? Well– Presumably not at
8:30 on November 8. At some point in the spring. And I think it’s before he
wraps up the nomination. I think that– and this
goes back to the unexpected. I mean, he is nothing if not
unpredictable, obviously. Yes. He’s unconventional. That’s fair to say. Yeah. Unconventional probably
to a fault for a President of the United States. Or even for a President-elect. Or even for a President-elect. But I think you
realize that there is going to be a whole
different set of challenges that you’re going
to have to deal with here that are not like
anything you’ve experienced before. But you could also go to
school on things that happened in the Republican primaries. I think in the debates,
for example, we were able to– I think
we won the three debates, I think, because
the team we had. And the analysis
of Trump in debates really helped us deal
with him in that setting. But day in and
day out, the thing you can’t control
about him is how he was able to dominate, use,
and manipulate the media. And I’m not using
the word “manipulate” in an insidious way. But if you don’t care whether
anything you say is true or not, and you’re not
being judged harshly for it, well then just keep saying
stuff that’s not true. She’s got pneumonia. She’s got Parkinson’s. Whatever it was. All of which was BS. But– Well, the pneumonia
thing wasn’t BS. Well, no. The pneumonia thing wasn’t. But Parkinson’s. She doesn’t have the stamina. I mean, pneumonia. I mean, she went to the 9/11
thing because she wanted to. Yeah. We don’t have to go there. I’m sorry I interrupted you. But I think if you are unabashed
about saying things that you know are simply not true, Or that you believe are true
at the moment you say them. I don’t think for a minute
he believes they’re true. I do not. Maybe he does. That would be even more
frightening, sometimes. I’ll leave that
to psychologists. But I think there
is a pattern there. And the fact checkers
have documented it. Yeah. The fact checkers are probably
the most morose people in America today. Well, look. This will be a discussion
folks are going to have. And we’re going to be talking
about this next quarter here. Look. And I said this at
some of the panels, and where there were
some journalists and some discussions about this. I said, you know, you can’t
just sign your fact checking to page 26 of the A section
and think you’ve done your job. At some point, when there
is a pattern of behavior that relates to dissembling–
let’s use whatever euphemism you want. Lying. Or lying. Right. At what point does that become
an essential part of the story about the– The question is,
what is disturbing and a point for study is
how much that mattered. I mean, you look
at the exit polls, and a large number
of voters said that they didn’t think
that Donald Trump was temperamentally suited to be
president, including about 20% of his voters. A large number said
they didn’t think he was qualified to be
president, including about 20%– 20% of his voters. –of his voters. So this is a new
paradigm that we’ve got to get our arms around. But nonetheless, he won. And so I would be remiss
having one of America’s most esteemed pollsters here
if I didn’t ask you, what the hell happened
with the polls? Well, so, it’s
interesting, because if you look at the last week
or so of the election. You know, I could
pull out six polls that were between 2 and
5 points, basically. Right. National polls. National polls. Right. Between 2 and 5 points. And that’s where it’ll end up. And it’s going to end
up probably at about 2, maybe a little– But it’s the state polls
that were misleading. Well, look. State polls– and you know the
challenge with state polls. I mean, in terms of
the public polling. Look. We have an epidemic of
polling in this country on the public side. I know. It’s killing me. They are cheap headlines. Well, it’s not killing me yet. It is my business. Right? Although, this time hanging
up the spikes, right. You’re going to hold me to it. Yes. Absolutely. Look. I think the challenge
with state polls is that you now have
almost every university realizes that hey, if we put out
a poll and slap our name on it, we’ll get the name of
our university out there. Doesn’t matter if you know
anything about Wisconsin or North Carolina or Florida. You can do it. And more and more are doing it. And what’s happening is the
probability forecasters– which is another discussion– Nate Silver and others. And they get covered
as tracking polls. I mean, I remember going on
the network you’re on– CNN– and saying, you
guys would do fine if you would only
report on CNN’s polls, and not report the next day
on Suffolk University’s poll as if it’s a tracking poll. Like, you can’t treat
them all as equal– and I’m not picking on
Suffolk or anybody else. I’m using it as an
illustration here. But you can’t treat these
things all as perfect science. Tomorrow’s headlines– Suffolk
University blasts Benenson. I’ve said to people
in the media– people who I worked with, people who
I’ve known for years, as you know a lot of journalists–
you are some of the most inquisitive, dogged people
at ferreting out the truth. But when you get a press release
with the word poll in it, it’s like you go stupid. And you report it without
asking a single question. Well, that’s a lazy way
to cover the elections. And that’s what’s happened. But be that as it may– And so here’s why state
polls, here’s why. In Pennsylvania, in
Michigan and Wisconsin, if you took all
the polls that were taken for months in advance,
the vast majority of them would have had Hillary Clinton. First of all– Let me just finish. There isn’t anybody I
spoke to on either side who thought Trump would win
Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Wisconsin. And I think most people
conceded that Ohio was going to be tough. Iowa would be tough. Yeah. There were a couple of things. Like when you talk about
going back for months, Mark Penn, who I worked with in
1996 on the Clinton campaign, had been Hillary’s
pollster in 2008. He had a phrase when I
started working for him. He said, data is disposable. One of the problems
now all these averages do go back months and months. So I always look at the
more recent averages. But the challenge,
I think, for a lot of these pollsters
at the state level is that it is harder to create
a model of the electorate in each state. We try to have multiple
streams of data in a campaign. We saw some tightening
in some of these states as it was getting closer. There’s no doubt about that. As I said, particularly
post-Comey. But you try to have
multiple streams of data, so you’re always checking on it. But we had the big
battleground universe. We never had in the last
two weeks, last 11 days, never had a very big lead. We were looking at
pretty much around a 3 to 4-point race, at best. And people would ask me where
I thought it would finish. I was saying,
anywhere from 2 to 5. So. I haven’t really studied this. But where among the
battleground states that you were polling,
what was the end result? I think in the 10
states we were polling, we probably ended
up being minus 2, probably because of
Florida and North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Three big states that–
we knew North Carolina would be neck and neck. He ended up winning it
by about 3 or 4 points. I think it was always–
we were plus 1. We were minus 1. That kind of thing. Florida we had felt also
was a low single digit race. We felt obviously best
about Pennsylvania. There seemed to be
three things that I saw in common in the exit polling. One is that she’s a little
bit off among minority voters. A few points off among
African-Americans. More than a few among
Hispanic voters. 7, I think, off of
where Obama was. And Asian voters maybe 10. And then among millennials. And then obviously, this problem
among non-college educated white voters. What happened? Well again, I think
you’re going to think I’m a broken record
going back to Comey. But there are some
overlaps with those groups. And so when you look at
the percentage of people under 40, or under 45, who
voted for third-party candidates at the end, it was
between 6% and 7%. When you look at
the people over 45 who voted for third-party
candidates, it was 2%. There was an overlap there in
minorities and millennials, I believe. I mean, we don’t have
crosstabs from the exit polls yet where those were our
third-party defectors who didn’t come home, who
stalled at the end. And I think that 6
points, you know– I will tell you
that David knows I don’t do a lot of political
races myself anymore. But the last one
I did that I lost was a governor’s
race in New Jersey. And it was a
third-party candidate. It’s the only time in my
career that on election day, when the candidate said, so
are we going to win or lose? I said– it was Governor
Jon Corzine then– I said, I just can’t tell you, Jon. I said, I don’t know. If the third-party guy gets 10%
or more, you’re going to lose. If he’s under 10, we’ll
win by a point or two. And of course, we lost. Or the other way around. I know I want to
take some questions. I’m going to ask you
this last question. Sure. How surprised were you
when the numbers started coming in on election night? And what was the
scene like around you as these numbers came in? You get very nondescript
reports during the day. You’re setting up a microphone. Is that where it’s going to be? Yeah. Great. So if you have a question, why
don’t you make your way over to that wall. And Joel will talk long
enough for you to get there. Right. I’ll filibuster. Take your time. Look. I think you have to wait for
returns to start coming in. So that starts
happening around 8:00. And even if there are exit
polls floating around, you can’t ever bank
on them, because you know they’re incomplete. The networks get them. The networks buy them. You may get bits and
pieces here and there. But you can’t count on them. And I think it at some
point, probably about 10:00, it’s becoming clear
that some of the states were underperforming. We knew early in the day
we had voting problems in North Carolina. You weigh-in decisions
during the day, do you go to court or
not and slow things down. People who had been
voting in the Durham area had never had their voting
machines break down. And they broke down. They had to vote on paper
all day long in Durham, North Carolina. In fact, for a period,
they stopped voting for about an hour and a half. So you had things like
that that were worrisome. But we heard high reports of
turnout in some core places. So you think things
are on track. Which didn’t necessarily
turn out to be true. That there was high turnout? One of the problem
was low turnout in places like
Milwaukee, Detroit. Well, look. I think all the groups–
the demographic groups aside that you mentioned– is I
think that when you look at the numbers, I think
probably where some of this is happening in
exurban counties, not just suburban counties
and rural counties, et cetera. I think we’re going to have
to take a little more time to really dissect the numbers. One thing that kind of
surprised me on election night was I’m looking at the numbers. And I’m looking at a thing
like Macomb County, kind of quintessential blue
collar, Reagan Democrat county that people have been
studying for 30 years. And Obama carried it by 4%. And she lost it by 12. Well, look. There are some anomalies
as I’m watching the returns that I’m thinking
don’t make sense to me. So I’m looking at numbers
at some point in the night when we’re now behind
in Wisconsin and behind in Michigan. And I’m saying, how
is it that we’re only down 9 points in Texas,
6 points in Georgia, and we’re losing Wisconsin,
Michigan, and Pennsylvania? Didn’t make sense to me. There’s some anomaly there. And those are the kinds of
things I struggled with. But you’ve got a long line here. I will. I think part of
the answer to that, because I looked
at that question, is that the percentage of
non-college educated whites was actually considerably
smaller in Texas because of the large number of
minority voters in that state. But anyway. Hi. My name is Matt. And I’m a second-year
student at the law school. People that I know that
spoke with Hillary Clinton during the campaign
privately said that she was really impressive,
had really nuanced policy positions, was very warm. But in public we saw
very little of that. She did very few
press conferences. She didn’t do so many community
meetings or anything like that. If you had the opportunity
to do it all over again, and if she did too,
do you think that she would go for a more
candid sort of approach? So a couple of things. First of all, I think she
did more press conferences in the last 100 days of the
campaign than Donald Trump did. I don’t think he
did any, by the way. And I think press conferences– Not a place to be charming. It’s also not a useful– and
people think it’s a big deal. It’s actually reporters
care about it. It is not an effective way
for voters to really get a lot of information. It’s chaotic. They can’t hear the
questions half the time. I mean, I think you do a
lot of interviews on TV. Look. I think, as I said before,
we ran the campaign we ran. We’re not going to
do a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking
about looking backwards. We think we know what happened
at the end of the race that stalled some momentum we had
coming out of the third debate. And I think, look. In any campaign, you
play to your strengths. In terms of policy positions
and things like that, what gets covered. You don’t control
what’s get covered. And I said, that’s my comment
about Donald Trump’s strength was how he could, and did,
drive– for better or worse, for truth-hood or falsehood–
could drive coverage with tweet storms. And that was like
catnip to the press. He also did some hour-long sort
of open mic night rallies where he sort of– Look. But you asked
about the coverage. And I’m sorry, because this is
off the topic of your question. It goes back to one of yours. I was interested in
the community meetings and just getting her to
be more candid in general. The press conference
was just one outlet. Well, she seemed a
little scripted, is what the young man is saying. Well, look. She did a lot of town halls. More during the primaries
than the general. I don’t know. If you watch Donald
Trump at the end, he was reading off
his teleprompter. And he’s not a skilled
reader off his teleprompter. So let’s not talk
about being scripted. He actually surged then when
he wasn’t speaking his mind. But now I lost my train
of thought about what I– Well, we’ll go on. Let me just say, I’m taking
student questions first. So once all the students
have asked questions, and we have time left, then
others can ask questions. Hi. I’m Andy. I’m a first-year at the college. My question for you is, having
seen how Donald Trump got his coverage with his
tweets, a couple of weeks ago we had his Trump
University case settled. And then the next day the story
was, Trump wants a safe space from the cast of Hamilton. Just a few days ago, the
story was, Donald Trump has conflicts of interest. And today we’re talking about
whether millions of people voted illegally. How over the next four
years is the media going to avoid having that, I
guess, the herd instinct of wanting to get that story
before someone else does, and focus on a story
when there is substance and stick with it for
a week, or a month, or however long it takes. And the way that they did
with [? Humayun ?] Khan, with Lisa Machado, and with
things like Trump University at the earlier stages
of the campaign. Go ahead. I’m not sure what the
heart of the question is. If it’s about how will
the media– what will it take for the media to stay
with a story that’s important? Yep. I think probably of all the
things you’ve mentioned, I think the conflict
of interest story is one that should have been
covered much more diligently during the course
of the campaign. I think his business
enterprises were somewhat known. We’ve also learned– you left
out the fact about self-dealing from his foundation. I don’t know if
you saw that story. Has to pay fines to the IRS
because the forms were finally posted. I think that’s one that
I think has implications for our national security,
for our economic well-being. And I think it’s
incumbent on the media to not let go of that story. It is nonsense that
a president can’t have conflicts of interests. They can. And the media needs
to be dogged about it. I would just say this, though. I agree with all of that. And I think it’s more important
than ever for the media to be vigilant. But Donald Trump’s going to be
President of the United States on January 20. And he’s going to
start making decisions that are going to impact
on policy in a way that affect people’s lives. And in a sense, I
think he would welcome the sideshow of all of this. But what matters
to people, I think, is how things affect their
lives, what kind of decisions are being made in Washington. Now some of it may have to do
with conflicts of interest. But it seems to
me the media also needs to focus on what the
job of covering government is, and making sure that
people understand what the implications of the
decisions that are being made are on the country
and on their lives. Next question, please. Can I go back to the
point I forgot about? Because it relates
to media coverage. Quickly. Do you want me to get
that kid to stand back up? No, no. Let the next guy go
to the microphone. OK. A good example of Trump
and how the media covered him as opposed to Hillary and
the question before about she’s good in this setting
and that setting. The day that Donald Trump was
going to supposedly apologize for the birther lie that he
spread for eight years or five years, if you watch the
network coverage that day, they put a bunch of veterans
behind him on the stage. He had 12 different
people introduce him for about 90 seconds
to two minutes each. And the cable networks
covered every one of them giving their
testimony as to what a wonderful guy he was. He got up on stage. He totally just
conned the media. And they covered 15 minutes
of testimonials to him. And then he gets
up, and he says, Barack Obama was born
in the United States. And he walked off stage. Yeah. And I think one of the things
that has to be grappled with is that you have
a news media that is both a business and a trust. And these things sometimes
come into conflict. And they came into conflict
in a big way in this campaign. And it should be the source
of a lot of soul-searching about what the
appropriate role is, and how do you strike
that middle ground. Hi. I’m Ian. I’m a first year at the college. So there’s been a lot of talk
about how a vote for Trump was a vote against
the establishment. But I’ve seen a lot of
really compelling arguments that based on the results of a
lot of congressional elections and based on President
Obama’s approval ratings that perhaps that’s
not entirely the case. Do you think a vote for
Donald Trump was primarily about the fact that he was
sort of an anti-establishment candidate? Or do you think his base
came from something else? No. I think it’s a
combination of things. I mean, I think that he was the
anti-establishment candidate. I think people are
frustrated with Washington. It’s a legitimate
pain point for people. Washington, we’ve had the most
obstructionist Congress we’ve had probably in modern times. You go back to George Bush,
Democrats voted in Congress with President Bush on several
signature achievements. I think we know
during the Obama years we saw almost none of that. And so I think there
is a sense of well, he may be a bomb thrower. He may not be perfect. But somebody’s got to
shake up that place. And so I think part of that
was his persona probably was demonstrably a
continuation of what they would like to
do to Washington is just shake the place up. Just to underscore this point. In the national
exit polls, which candidate quality that
mattered the most. Donald Trump, he
won among only one of the four categories
they offered, which was, “can bring change.” But he won 83% of
those voters who said they wanted to bring change. And that was the largest single
cohort of the four options that were offered. So he dominated in the primary. And he dominated in the general. That vote among people who
were fed up with Washington and wanted change. And I’m sure among
those people were folks who said he didn’t
have the temperament or the experience. And I think it’s
about Washington, because if you look at President
Obama’s favorable ratings now in the polls
that are out there, they are probably as high as
they’ve been since six months after his inaugural. Even higher than
when he got reelected by a significant margin. Yes. Hi. I’m Taylor. I’m a first year
with the college. So much of the post-election
critique of the Clinton campaign has centered
on a perceived lack of outreach to working
class populations that you touched upon earlier. Especially in rust
belt states, swing states that ultimately cost
her many votes on election day. So I was wondering
if you thought that outreach was there. Was it enough? And do you think the
message was strong enough to reach these populations. And if not, what should
have been done differently? I mean, look. I think it takes a long time. I don’t get over losing easily. But it also takes a long
time to digest all the data. And even the exit polls. David and I know they’re
not fully weighted yet. Takes a little bit of time. And you’ve got to look
at some of the crosstabs. I’m not going to second
guess our campaign. I think we actually ran
a damn good campaign. And I think we were in
a position to win it, and were winning it. And I think obviously I
don’t like the result. There’s nothing good about
not executing it the way– and getting the
outcome that you want. But I think I’m going to do
more digging, not less digging, because it’s the nature
of my personality to fully understand it. But I think, again, there were
some multiple big things that were at play. And I do think an
unanticipated event here, like with less than
two weeks to go. And with two third-party
candidates out there that had– normally third party
candidates fade a lot earlier. I thought after the
conventions they’d fade. They just never faded. And to me, that was also
always a worrisome factor, because that was a dynamic
you couldn’t control as much. The worst thing in the
world is to lose a campaign. And I lost a lot of them. And everybody’s a
genius in the aftermath. I always say, you’re never as
smart as you look when you win. And you’re never as dumb
as you look when you lose. You saying I look dumb? No. This was a big windup
to say I’m sitting next to one of the smartest
people that I ever met. And so I don’t say this by
way of criticism of you, so much as of the body
politic generally, and of the Democratic
Party in particular. There is something
huge going on. And the fact that
it’s happening in not just our country, but
every advanced economy where liberal democracies
are on the run. And right wing populist
candidates are doing better. There’s something
bigger going on. And it has to do with
revolutionary changes in our economy. And trade, I think, is less
of an issue than the fact that we every single day take
steps forward in technology, find ways to eliminate more jobs
that were done for good wages. Auto factories take a tenth
of the number of people to man them today–
or woman them today– as they did 30 years ago. And this is going to continue
at a faster and faster pace. And we haven’t told a
real story about that. And we haven’t offered
compelling answers to it. And we need a national
strategy to do it. Hillary Clinton had a lot of
really interesting proposals. But in my view, there
were a lot of trees. But the forest wasn’t
clearly described. And the challenge wasn’t
clearly described. And until we address that–
and it’s not going to happen. Donald Trump is not
going to bring back plants and coal mines and all
the things that he promised. If we as a country
don’t face this, you’re going to have continued
churning among the electorate. And people are going
to lose confidence in our democracies,
confidence in capitalism. Next question, please. I guess that wasn’t a question. I just gave– We violated
our own rule here. Hi. My name is Akil. And I’m a senior in high school. So my question is about
the Democratic primary. You said– and I read some
leaks earlier– that said that top Clinton campaign
officials thought Martin O’Malley would be a
big threat at the outset. So to what extent do you
think that the competitiveness of the primary was a
result of Bernie Sanders? And to what extent was it just
that any Democratic primary in 2016 was going
to be competitive? And was that Martin
O’Malley who said that? I was going to say,
I don’t remember who thought Martin O’Malley
was going to be a big threat. I don’t recall that. I think that our view
in the primaries was, we expected to get a challenger
from the left, which we did. And obviously it
emerged pretty early on. And it was a year-long campaign
against Senator Sanders. But we’re always
anticipating that more than I think Governor O’Malley. Do you think the
decision to move away from the TPP was
the right decision? Given how strongly she
had embraced it earlier? Yeah. I mean, look. I think there were some
things at the end, which I said on TV over
and over again, in the final deal that were
less than ideal for America’s interests, some of
which are around the nations of origins
provision, which is an arcane thing that would
give China excess power. And I heard a lot of people in
those communities in Michigan and Wisconsin talking about the
origins of nations provision. Well, they may not be. But you know, Hillary
Clinton, you know, the details of policy matter. And she felt the one
thing that bothered her I think the most had to do
with how much power was given to China to actually control
businesses in other countries in Asia, because you only had
to own 45% of the company. Do you believe
that people believe that she switched her position
on that because of the origins of nations provision? You know what? Can I tell you something? I don’t think TPP was a deciding
factor in this election. We campaigned against
a candidate– No. Let me finish. OK. Thank you. Appreciate it. Sounds like one of our phone
calls at 1:00 in the morning. Right Larry can attest to that. Look. We ran against the guy who was
a full-throated critic of trade in the Democratic primary. Right? And she made that
change very early, right at the beginning
of her announcement. And she defended that position. And if you look at the
exit polls by the way, as it happens, most
Americans believe either that trade adds jobs
or doesn’t affect jobs. And what she said was a very
bullish message on America. And I happen to believe
it that we have to trade with the rest of the world. I hear you. My question is, her
biggest liability was this sort of honest
and trustworthy thing that nagged at her. And did this actually
exacerbate that problem? Which was a bigger
problem than trade. No. Again, I’m not going
to second guess a decision that was
made a year ago in June. Well, that’s no fun. Let’s get to the next question. Well, you know. My name is Ponya. And I’m a senior in the college. So this election saw a
greater focus on gender compared to Hillary Clinton’s
2008 campaign in the primaries. However, a lot of women,
especially white women, still voted overwhelmingly
for Donald Trump. And I was wondering if you
could speak a bit about why that may have happened? Especially since the
media particularly thought that very
few women would vote for Donald Trump
given a lot of his more concerning remarks about women. Yeah. Look. I don’t think– you’ll
correct me on the history. But I don’t think
people on a grand scale vote on presidential
elections solely on identity. Barack Obama, when he was
running for president, Senator Obama then, had a
line that I think he said over and over again. That he wouldn’t win the
election because he was black. And he wouldn’t lose the
election because he was black. Again, there are
things that are going to get baked into the
race– the election– that you’re never
going to shake loose. Somebody didn’t want to
vote against President Obama because he was black, they
weren’t going to vote for him. If they wanted to because
he was black, they would. Same thing when it
comes to a woman. And I think that one
of the things for us was that we won women by
double digits overall. I think our numbers
with men are probably not where we wanted them to
be, particularly with older, non-college educated men. But we were always expecting
to perform less well there. But look. Again, you’ve got
this system here that you win the popular
vote by a couple of points. And you lose in a couple
of the wrong states. And you come up short. And that’s what happened. I think all the
way through, there are always going to
be some people who are going to vote
for Hillary Clinton because they wanted the
first woman president, and some people who would vote
against her because they didn’t want a woman for president. And maybe some people
who just didn’t want Hillary Clinton for president. I think ultimately
people are voting on bigger things than that. I think that is probably a
small piece of the puzzle, that as I say, is going to take
a little bit longer than two weeks to unravel from
my vantage point, because I’m going
to spend more time poring over data in the next– But the gender gap
wasn’t what you expected. It wasn’t. But more because of men
voting more overwhelmingly for Donald Trump,
particularly white men. Hello. My name’s Ronan. And I’m a first
year in the college. So throughout the course
of this discussion, you’ve been making
clear that you think that the
reason that she lost was less in any weakness
she had as a candidate, and more in factors
outside of her control, like the third parties and
like the Comey announcement. However, there are
still a lot of people who think that she wasn’t
actually in this cycle a very strong candidate. So what can Democrats
do in the future to be stronger candidates,
given the changing nature of the electorate? Well, there are two things. Let me take the first part of
your statement first, which wasn’t part of the question. Look. Every candidate
comes to an election with strengths and weaknesses. There’s never been
a perfect candidate. Not in my lifetime. Not in any election I’ve
ever seen would you say, this is a perfect candidate. You might have a
candidate who you believe is right at
that moment in time. They bring a set of things
that people are looking for. In terms of the
Democratic Party, I think one of the
things that’s clear here is that we need to rebuild
our party at the state level. I think there are
too many states where in the last– probably
in this century where we have been
inattentive, states where we should be doing better. And I think that
some of those states are states that we
lost in this election where we can’t give up
the fight in those states, because we lose a governorship,
or we lose a state legislature. I think we have to
keep organizing it. I think we have to do
it at the local level. That’s how you build– I
don’t want to say a farm team. But that’s how you build a
real grassroots organization. You have to have committed,
dedicated followers at the state level. Now one of the challenges in
our presidential campaigns now is they’ve
become more national. They have become more national. Again, the changing
media environment makes that possible. You look at Donald Trump. And Axe and I have
long agreed with this. In a national campaign, the
free media, the earned media, has a much bigger role to
play than the television advertising. We spend hundreds of millions
of dollars on advertising. But the earned
media, as we call it, has a huge impact, because
it’s 24-hour cable. It’s 24-hour social media. Now at the state
level, you’ve got to do kind of the nuts and
bolts of party-building. And I think the Democratic
Party has to do that better than we’ve done it. And I think it is
easy to get complacent when you have an incumbent
president who has a fair degree of popularity. And that can hide
some warts and flaws you have in the underlying
structure, because he was such a strong figure to his credit. But underneath the
surface here we’ve got to do more to
build the party now in a lot of these
states that we have to compete in and do better in. Not just in
presidential elections, but year in and year out. We’re running over. But we have two more
students in line. So we’re going to take
both those questions. So lock the door. Hi. My name is Jacob. And I’m a second
year in the college. You’ve obviously
mentioned the media as a factor in this
year’s election. And I know one of the
major critiques leveled against the media,
especially from the left, was drawing a false
equivalency between say, Clinton’s emails and Donald
Trump’s alleged assaults. Going forward as the country
remains incredibly polarized, how does the media remain
unbiased, and yet not draw false equivalencies
necessarily where they shouldn’t be drawn? Look That’s going to
be something, I think, that the major media
outlets– television and print and social media– are
going to have to deal with. I mean, I was at a conference
as I mentioned in California. And people were there
from Facebook and Twitter saying that they have to
come to grips with fake news. And how are they going
to deal with that? They right now do
not curate and edit news the way newsrooms
ostensibly do. And yet these
things are explosive and get hundreds of
thousands, if not millions, of people following
it and propagating it as news. So I think this is not going to
be an easy thing for the media. I think they’ve
probably got a year to figure it out before they go
through some serious elections. We’re only going to have two
big state elections coming up in ’17– governor’s races
in New Jersey and Virginia. But I think there’s
going to have to be an evaluation inside
those newsrooms and TV studios to figure out how they’re
going to handle it. On the fake news
question, Larry Grizzalano has raised a really, I think,
valuable and important point, which is, we know that there
was a lot of it out there. We don’t know that it
changed anybody’s minds. We don’t know who
the recipients were, and whether it
just strengthened– or those people who
already believed, or whether it was actually
converting voters. And I don’t know the answer. And you don’t know the answer. But that’s part of the project
that has to be undertaken. And I think you’re
right about that. And I think this is one of
the things when I say you’ve got to look at some things. And whether it changed
anything, or it just penetrated the ether in a way,
and the environment in a way that polluted views
of a candidate that was just building up. I guess it’s a question of
who was breathing the ether. Anyway. Hi. My name’s Engo. I’m an LLM student
at the law school. I was wondering. You said one of the predominant
themes in this election, again, was the theme of change
and the deep dissatisfaction with the Washington
establishment, which has obviously been similar
in the last two elections. I was wondering if
you see any chance that this will change over
the next couple of years, and that people will actually
like Washington establishment and stability and continuation. So that they will favor
voting for something they know instead
of the unknown. What are the odds on that? Look. There are some
things that– look. We have not really
modernized our democracy in a meaningful
way in 240 years. I think we’ve got some
things in Washington that impede progress. I think we have in the
Senate a filibuster rule that at one point may have made sense
when the country was founded. The ratio of population from the
largest state to the smallest was seven to one. Virginia was seven times
the size of Delaware. Today it’s 66 to 1. And in fact, the electoral
college– that ratio applied back in the
founding of our country. Today, 660,000 people in
California get one elector. In Wyoming, 195,000
people get one elector. I think the filibuster
rule should go. That’s my opinion. I think we ought to be able
to have majority votes. And things should be put on the
floor a set period of debates, so the American people
hear both sides. But they are entitled
to a vote in Congress and their legislature. In the House of Representatives,
there is a rule. Folks in this room probably
know who Denny Hastert was, I’m guessing. Well-named rule. The Hastert rule, which in
the House, the majority, the Republicans
have decided they will not put any bill
on the floor in Congress if a majority of the Republican
caucus doesn’t support it. Well, you might have a majority
in the House of Representatives who might vote for
immigration reform with maybe 40 or 50 Republicans. Why wouldn’t we put
that bill on the floor if you represent a
majority of people? So I think there are things
that we need to look at. I think voter registration
and voter suppression is a serious problem. We are the greatest
democracy on Earth. If American Express can give
you a card with a chip in it, and the federal
government can send every– how many
18-year-olds here got a draft card
on their birthday? Right? My son, when he was 18,
it gets sent to you. Right? If they know when you turn
18 you should get a voter card with a chip, states
should be required to computerize the system. We shouldn’t be voting on paper
ballots and antiquated systems. We want to modernize
the democracy. And in this country, it
ought to be easier to vote, not harder to vote. [APPLAUSE] On that stirring oratory– this
is the theater major coming out here. I want to thank Joel Benenson
for being here today, and for his years of service
in many different ways. And we look forward to what
you’re going to do next. [APPLAUSE] Please join me in thanking
both Joel Benenson and David Axelrod. Special thanks
also to you program team, our speaker series,
communications team, and all of our students who
help us put on these events all quarter. We thank you all so much. We wish you all the best. And we’ll see you
back here in January.

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