Professor discusses democratic field
Up until last week, most individuals were unsure what three of the democratic presidential candidates even looked like.
With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as the two most talked-about candidates during this election so far, many were not aware of Sen. Lincoln Chafee (D-R.I.), former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.) of Maryland and former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who dropped the race as of Tuesday and is considering an independent bid.
Many people are attributing Clinton’s media attention to her biggest donors like Time Warner Cable, which owns CNN, the network that broadcasted the Democratic Party debate. According to the Huffington Post, this could be the reason she was talked about from the beginning.
The media would not even cover Sanders if he did not pick up the traction he did with the millennial generation, said Michael Rossi, a professor in the Department of Political Science.
“The only reason why Bernie Sanders is popular is because no one expected for him to be this popular,” he said. “I think O’Malley and Chafee never got the traction they did because they just see themselves as contenders.”
The “smallest contenders” did not get any attention because they had a small following and had nothing to give attention to, Rossi said.
“The smaller people haven’t gained traction because the media has focused almost exclusively on (Clinton)," he said. "(They were) forced to cover Sanders because of the popularity he has received and only because of that popularity."
Clinton is a big name because she has been such a major player in the democratic game for years, said Danielle Pocock, a Rutgers Business School senior and interim co-president of Rutgers University Democrats.
“Of course the media is going to focus on her,” she said.
The media picked up Sanders due to what many believe are very extreme views, Pocock said.
“That makes for good TV and exciting news,” she said. “It’s the same reason why Donald Trump is on the news every other day. He is an exciting candidate to watch and the media is very aware of this and wants to capitalize on it.”
Clinton and Sanders are dynamic candidates who have the ability to draw big crowds and be passionate about their issues while also having a bigger national profile, said Michael Denis, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and co-president of Rutgers University Democrats.
He said it has been easier for Clinton to be in the spotlight because she’s been in it for such a long time and has served in many different roles in the government, as well as advocating for children and family issues.
“The other candidates don’t have national profiles,” he said. “Two are former governors so they are probably not relatively known outside their states and the other only served one term in the Senate and never seemed interested in the politics of the institution."
Pocock agreed with Denis, and said because the other candidates are removed from the national political stage, it makes it harder for them to "break into the main ring.”
It helps that Sanders and Clinton are able to raise a large sum of money, which increases their exposure for airtime for people to get to know who they are, Denis said.
“When you’re Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, and you are drawing over 20,000 people at a rally with the presidential election over a year away, you grab people’s attention,” he said.
Sanders’ goal is to get to the White House with a different interpretation of what the Democratic Party can do, especially since Sanders refers to himself as a democratic socialist, Rossi said.
“When people hear 'democratic socialist,' they just hear the word 'socialist,' and they think that’s a gateway drug to communism,” Rossi said. “People think Sanders is one of those bleeding heart liberals who will sign the country over to state-managed collective farming or whatever.”
Sanders has resonated with the millennial generation because free market capitalism is not a major issue among young voters who are looking more for a decent quality of life, Rossi said.
“(The) trouble today is jobs are scarce," he said "Jobs are stagnant and millennials are entering the workforce knowing they are exploited by companies that cut corners and have little to no regard for their well-being."
Sanders is the only person who seems to be talking about this and the election is essentially up to the millennials, Rossi said.
“If it’s not this election, it will certainly be a clear sign that the millennials are an electoral force to be reckoned with,” he said.
Rossi said he believes Clinton will win the race because of her money, notoriety and “political savagery."
“(Clinton) knows what she wants," he said. "But here’s the thing: People like Bernie Sanders aren’t going away."
Sanders has tapped into issues that millennials care about and have not been discussed before the way he faces the issues, Rossi said. He expects that if Clinton wins, she will offer Sanders a cabinet position because he is way too popular to just go away.
“I think a good number of people think Sanders really cares about the issues and (Clinton) will just say the right sound bites to get her elected. Sanders doesn’t care about that,” Rossi said.