John Kenneth White is a professor of politics at the Catholic University of America, who has written extensively on the American party system, elections, and the US presidency. His most recent book is What Happened to the Republican Party?: And What It Means for American Presidential Politics. Millennial writer Daniel Petri and editor Robert Christian asked him to share his thoughts on the 2016 presidential election:
What were you thoughts on the first debate?
I never saw anything like the first debate in my entire life! It has been the custom that candidates are civil toward one another, even if they have had serious policy disagreements. What we had here was a major party, the Republicans, nominating a candidate for the presidency who is the most unqualified, inept, and character-flawed candidate ever! The debate was reality television meets presidential debate, and it wasn’t pretty.
How would you place Donald Trump’s candidacy in a historical context?
The most flawed candidate ever. The closest analogy may be when the Republicans nominated another businessman, Wendell Willkie, who had been a former Democrat (like Trump) in 1940. The difference is that Willkie was serious; Trump is not.
Do you think Catholics are going to swing heavily toward Hillary, as some polls suggest? If so (or not), why?
There is no Catholic vote. Catholics do not bring their religious identity anymore into the voting booth. There is an Hispanic vote (thanks to demography) that will swing heavily toward the Democrats.
Will this election continue the demographic trends we’ve been seeing in past elections or create a new dynamic?
Yes, the demographic trends established in 2008 and 2012 will continue, albeit in some modified form in 2016. The shifts in our political demography are inevitable and unchangeable. The only thing that can change is the parties’ response (especially the Republicans) toward them. And by every measure, the GOP is in worse shape on this important factor than they were in 2012 (see the so-called autopsy report–officially named the Growth and Opportunity Project).
Do you have a prediction for election day?