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  • Lea Kapur

The Donkey and Elephant Take Center Stage: Let the Circus Begin

The 2020 election season is in full swing. The Republican Party has put its full support behind the re-election of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The Democratic Party, including those who ran for the presidential office but failed to secure the nomination, has urged the community to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

This election season, the Democratic Party and the GOP have drastically different election strategies.

The Democratic Party is using a platform of hope whereas the Republican Party is capitalizing on the fears of many Americans, of a country without law and order, in an attempt to keep the presidential seat.

We can see the rhetoric of each party in full force at the conventions that took place in August. Both the DNC and GOP have created election strategies in hopes of capturing the hearts and minds of the American people, believing their political rhetoric will lead American voters to the polls — or, in the case of the pandemic, the mailbox — this November.

At the Democratic National Convention (DNC), the Democratic party made it a priority to respect public health and highlight the social unrest in our nation. The Democratic Party held the convention virtually due to COVID-19. While there were some in-person speeches, the event was mostly kept online to send one message: the Democratic Party takes the pandemic seriously.

This goes without saying, but the pandemic has significantly altered our way of life, and while typically a convention would be held in person with a large audience, the party did not feel it would be safe at the time. The DNC is essentially saying that it prioritizes public health and public safety. This is a strong message to send and was a huge risk to take, as large online events can have technical errors and often are not as effective as in-person events.

Furthermore, there was a moment of silence for the Black Americans who have been killed by U.S. police officers. This is a clear recognition of the Democratic stance that police brutality is an ongoing crisis. This moment of silence is a political move: the party wants to highlight that it supports the Black Lives Matter movement. Whether this will lead to real policy change is still up for debate, but the message being promoted is clear.

While the primary strategy for the DNC is using hope, such as hope for a society with no police brutality, some speakers at the Convention drew on fear of Trump being re-elected in their speeches. For example, both Sen. Bernie Sanders and former First Lady Michelle Obama evoked fear when they spoke.

Sanders alluded to the history of Rome: “Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Trump golfs.” In this historical reference, the U.S. is Rome, and Trump is Nero. In case you do not know specific Roman history, this is not a compliment. Sanders is suggesting that while the United States is falling apart, the president is doing nothing but watching the chaos ensue.

Michelle Obama echoed Senator Sanders’ concerns: “They see people shouting in grocery stores, unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe. They see people calling the police on folks minding their own business, just because of the color of their skin. If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me they can, and they will if we don’t make a change in this election.”

The rhetoric used by both Sanders and Michelle Obama clearly tries to evoke fear. The statements later in the conference and the political advertisements released by the Biden campaign signal a different message. On the final night of the DNC, former Vice President Joe Biden left voters with this important message: “And make no mistake: United we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America.”

This message of hope and a positive outlook toward the future is also reflected in a political advertisement called “Imagine.” The advertisement states what the future of America can look like while showing images of beautiful scenery, people being treated in hospitals and children smiling at school. Some of these messages include that affordable health care is a right, that America can lead on climate change and that the future administration has the power to ban assault weapons.

The advertisement closes with: “Vote Biden, Beat Trump.” The remarks made by Biden at the DNC, the “Imagine” advertisement and his slogan of “Our Best Days Still Lie Ahead” signal to the American public to hold out hope that they can have a better future, and that this future can be achieved by voting for him.

This strategy is effective because some individuals living under this current administration are distraught and depressed, so rather than reiterating what some view as a bleak and depressing time, the Biden campaign wants to inspire voters to believe the future will be better, and that they can be a part of the change that will make it happen.

The DNC has a strong election strategy, but so does the GOP. Fear is one of the most powerful motivators and by capitalizing on the fear of an uncertain future, Trump is securing voters for his re-election. The Republican National Convention took place after the DNC, which provided the President the opportunity to criticize the other party’s Convention.

He mocked the virtual event and, in a statement of opposition, held an in-person event where he did not enforce mask-wearing among audience members — shown by video footage of a crowded audience, many without masks. During the event, Trump said COVID-19 will not stop them and referenced the disease throughout the convention as an “invisible enemy” that America will overcome.

While this demonstration of strength is the opposite of fear, the speakers at the convention send a clear message about the dangers of an America under Biden. Sen. Tim Scott said, “Our side is working on policy, while Joe Biden’s radical Democrats are trying to permanently transform what it means to be American.” This aims to rattle voters who do not want a more traditional definition of being American — such as being white or Christian — to change.

Trump continued this rhetoric of fear in his political advertisement “Abolished,” in which an answering machine is heard ringing at an empty police station and the voicemail said: “Due to defunding of the police, no one is here to take your call.”

The advertisements show two panels side by side. One is an image of a protestor with a sign that says “defund the police,” and the other image is the police station with the voicemail in the background stating options like “to report a rape, press 1.” The voicemail lines continue while scenes of violent crimes are shown on a panel next to the telephone.

The advertisement concludes with the statement, “You won’t be safe in Biden’s America.” In a tweet on Sept. 10, Trump stated that if the Democrats won the election, “America’s Suburbs will be OVERRUN with Low Income Projects, Anarchists, Agitators, Looters and, of course, ‘Friendly Protestors.’”

People do not like change and the President is using that to his advantage. Even Americans who support some Democratic ideals may be fearful of a shift in societal values. Many believe there is a value in tradition and if a social revolution were to occur, would old traditions still be recognized?

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, understanding the election strategy of each political party is essential. How a political party wants to capture a vote, the ideologies behind their rhetoric and the values they promote while campaigning is all essential to understanding how you should vote.


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