Feb. 26, 2015 – The impact of the media on the presidential elections, the Supreme Court, Latino political involvement, and other topics relating to the 2016 presidential election were discussed at a symposium co-hosted by the University of Houston Law Center and College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “Super Tuesday: Analyzing the 2016 Presidential Election” was held Tuesday in the Banquet Ballroom at the Student Center; the symposium, led up to Thursday’s Republican debate on the UH campus – the final debate before Super Tuesday.
The symposium was moderated by Law Center Associate Dean Marcilynn A. Burke and Robert Johnson, the Law Center Director of Continuing Legal Education Programs. Dean Leonard M. Baynes participated in the first panel, “Presidential Politics & Policy.” He was joined by Associate Political Science Professor Brandon Rottinghaus and Assistant Political Science Professor Elizabeth Simas.
Baynes discussed the impact of news, reality television, and social media and how it relates to the presidential campaign.
“There has been an increase in reality-type shows,” Baynes said. “They’re very low cost to produce, and they have changed our culture dramatically. What ends up happening on a lot of the reality TV shows are things that were taboo in a prior generation. The result is viewers become desensitized.”
Baynes said reality TV has focused on conflict, drama, and often mean-spirited competition. These elements have migrated to the presidential primaries.
“News has really become entertainment,” he said. “In some of the debates, there have been name-calling and personal attacks. The debates have had record audience numbers in terms of presidential primary history.”
Law Center Professor Seth Chandler, Assistant Professor D. Theodore Rave, Interim CLASS Dean Steven G. Craig and Assistant Economics Professor Vikram Mahereshi spoke in the second panel, “Supreme Court & Economic Implications of Presidential Elections.”
With the recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Rave shared his prediction on how he sees the process unfolding for appointing Scalia’s replacement.
“If I had to bet, I’d say that the most likely outcome is that the Senate holds lengthy hearings on whoever Obama nominates and then votes that person down, effectively running out the clock so that he won’t have much time to nominate a replacement before the election,” Rave said. “But I could also see a world where a handful of establishment Republicans in the Senate tries to cut a deal with President Obama to appoint a moderate justice while they still have some leverage.”
Chandler added that the next president and the order in which Justices either die or retire will shape the political direction of the Supreme Court.
“If President Obama can get his nominee through the Senate by Inauguration Day 2017, then the new President probably gets just one more pick, maybe two,” he said. “If Hillary Clinton is elected and Ruth Ginsberg, probably the most liberal justice, dies or retires during Hillary’s term, the ideological composition of the court isn’t likely to change much. Conversely, if Justice (Clarence) Thomas passes away or retires, expect a big leftward ideological change.
“On the other hand, if Ted Cruz is elected and Ruth Ginsberg dies or retires, expect a big rightward change in the composition of the court. If it’s Justice Thomas who dies or resigns, Cruz will replace him with someone ideologically similar.”
The symposium concluded with “Presidential Elections & Latino Politics in the U.S.,” featuring Professor Richard Murray and Adjunct Professor Ignacio Pinto-Leon. They were joined by Associate Political Science professors Jason Casellas and Jerónimo Cortina.
Murray said despite two Hispanic candidates in the Republican field – Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio – the Hispanic vote will be more critical in the Democratic primary.
“In terms of voters, the Latino vote is far more important on the Democratic side where you have two Anglo finalists,” Murray said. “As we saw in Nevada, the Latino vote is really important in this race – neighborhoods with substantial Hispanic populations were voting 60 percent or more for Hillary Clinton.
“Clinton lost the Anglo vote, particularly among young Anglos, but she won because she had strong support from the black and Hispanic community. Without that her campaign would be in a terrifically downward trajectory. She survived and has a clear advantage for the nomination and a big part of it is the support she received from minorities.”
Pinto-Leon discussed how it will be necessary for the next president to have a positive, working relationship with Mexico.
“Any U.S. president, regardless of the political party will have to work with Mexico,” he said. “This relationship is crucial for both countries with the shared borders, enormous levels of trade and the number of Mexicans in the U.S., and Americans in Mexico.”