How Election 2016 measures up historically

A Denver professor compared past elections to this one - which at least seems to be history-making.

We always hear how historic this year’s election appears to be, but is it really?  We took our questions to University of Colorado Denver history professor, Greg Whitesides.

Professor Whitesides is an assistant professor who teaches several classes including U.S. foreign policy, American history and several war history classes. He says it’s easy to call this election historical, because we’re living it, but it will take time to see what the impact of it all will be in the history books.

Whitesides says there are some parallels between these candidates and those in the past, however the political discourse we’ve seen in the debates is something new:

“I do think these have been a bit different, if you look back to the last 30 to 40 years of debates, I think the level of decorum and civility has dropped considerably."

He thinks history professors in the future will be talking about the role the media has played in this particular election:

“I think what people will really take away from this is the role of the media, and I mean not just with the internet hacks with Russia, with the previous tapes that have been released of what people had previously said, with information about candidates previous speeches…potentially what is happening in the 2016 race is that a lot of this discourse that is really common on the internet but was not very common in political life.”

The involvement of the internet in politics is a new thing and has filtered into the race, in Whitesides' opinion:

"I think we’ll be talking about this long term, one will be structural, about the Republican Party, and what happened to the Republican Party after this because it isn’t clear exactly which components will pull back together and how that’s going to happen. And I think another major point will be the roll of the media, to what extent foreign governments may have participated in the American media, the way social media and social networking has affected this and in particular -- really the types of conversation.”

When compared to past elections, Professor Whitesides says the time period that comes to mind is the 1960s.

“In the 1960s you’re having a series of civil rights movements and movements toward individual liberties for many people, Barry Goldwater’s campaign was seen as moving the United States back quite a bit, particularly in terms of society. I think many people today who are threatened by Donald Trump, would make the argument that many of his arguments are threatening to where they see society is at today.” 

Copyright 2016 KUSA


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