Political journalist Amy Walter joined students, faculty and members of the Brunswick community in Morrell Lounge to discuss the upcoming presidential election in her lecture titled, “The 2020 Election with Amy Walter—The Fundamentals of What You Need to Know.”
Tuesday’s talk was sponsored by the Tom Cassidy Lecture Fund, Bowdoin Public Service, Bowdoin Student Government, the Sexuality, Women and Gender Center (SWAG) and Student Activities. Walter, the National Editor of the Cook Political Report and a former political director at ABC News, provided insight on a range of topics including President Donald Trump, swing states and the Democratic delegates.
“It is easy to get caught in the weeds,” Walter said. “It’s easy to get caught in the drama and the tweets and the nonstop outrage that is generated on cable and social media and everything, and it is really hard to see what’s really going on.”
Walter engaged the audience in a discussion of the deciding factors of the upcoming election using her wit and political expertise.
“I look at the fundamentals, and strip everything away and just go down to the studs,” Walter said. The fundamentals include the “political health” of the president, which voters are going to turnout and what their view of the president is and who the alternative to Trump is.
This election seems different than past ones, Walter said, for several reasons. For one, Trump approval ratings have been practically unaffected by traditionally telling factors like the economy. She also pointed out how swing states have shifted in the Trump era which has prompted political analysts to focus on different areas in their electoral calculations.
“What’s changed isn’t so much about the candidates—what’s changed is the people that live there. It’s the coalitions that make up the Democratic and Republican part[ies] that have changed pretty substantially,” Walter said. “And while this movement has been happening over the last 20 years, it got supercharged in the Trump era.”
This political realignment is partially influenced by an emerging disparity between voters with different educational backgrounds.
“The divide that has cropped up in the last few years … is the diploma divide—the divide among white voters with a four-year degree and those without,” said Walter.
Walter also spoke about the Democratic primary, and although she acknowledged the momentum of Sen. Bernie Sanders, she cautioned against assumptions that any candidate could easily beat Trump.
“Regardless of who the nominee is, this is going to be a really close race,” Walter said. “There are no landslides anymore—that’s not the political environment that we live in.”
Earlier in the day, Walter attended a Q&A at 24 College hosted by Bowdoin Public Service and SWAG to answer questions from students in a smaller setting. Associate Director of the Sexuality, Women and Gender Center Rachel Reinke emphasized the value of bringing people who identify as women or LGBTQ to campus.
“I hope students walked away thinking that they get to have a say in political discourse as much as anyone else, and it is possible to have a career in political journalism or politics in a really meaningful way,” Reinke said. “Somebody who is a woman, somebody who is queer is not always who we see as a CNN commentator or as a political journalist. So anytime you can see someone doing that, it’s really affirming.”
Director of Student Activities Nate Hintze also emphasized the merit of inviting Walter to campus at such an opportune time.
“Especially with it being a week out from the Maine primary, I think it just ended up being super timely for students,” Hintze said. “I know that students get focused on their academics … and to have someone come into campus … gives them a chance to hear about things and hopefully make sure that everybody’s fully invested in voting this year.”
High attendance at Walter’s talk demonstrated the Bowdoin community’s interest in Walter’s perspective, even when it struck a pessimistic tone. For instance, Walter also warned that the upcoming election will not be the unifying force many claim it will be.
“I think this is going to be an intensely polarized election, and we will leave as divided if not more than we already are,” said Walter.
She ended the evening on an optimistic note, finishing her talk with an excerpt from John Meacham’s book, “Soul of America.”
“For all of our darker impulses, for all of our shortcomings and for all of the dreams denied and deferred, the experiment begun so long ago, carried out so imperfectly, is worth the fight,” Walter quoted. “There is, in fact, no struggle more important, and none nobler, than the one we wage in the service of those better angels who, however besieged, are always ready for battle.”
In her own words, Walter concluded, “We are still better angels, we are still here, we are still resilient and we are still gonna be just fine.”