Conservative political commentator Reihan Salam spoke at San Diego State University during Politifest, taking on both the fractured Republican Party and the race between two polarizing presidential candidates.

Salam, an author and executive editor of the National Review who often appears on political talk shows, sat down with Voice of San Diego CEO Scott Lewis to discuss the dynamics of the Republican Party and challenges faced by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Here were some key items discussed by Salam.

Monday’s Debate

Salam noted that Clinton has been active in politics for decades.

As the former secretary of state and first lady, Clinton has significant experience when it comes to speaking on a broad spectrum of national and international affairs.

On the other hand, Trump is new to politics, leading to speculation about whether he can convey such awareness of such a range of issues on the debate stage.

While Trump is known for his bad relations with fact checkers, Monday will put his skills on center stage.

Monday will also be a moment for Trump and Clinton to convey their understanding of the lives of voters.

Salam used Sarah Palin as an example. As a working mother, women were able to identify with her. Once a connection is made between politician and voter, he said, a voter will almost see an attack on a politician as an attack on them.

The challenge for Clinton, in particular, will be to help voters relate to her and understand her commitment to their concerns.

Salam noted that when it comes to gaining minority voters, Clinton has underperformed compared to President Barack Obama. When Obama was running for president, he was able to connect with voters and appear to have their best interests at heart. Clinton hasn’t conveyed that message.

Similarly, Salam said, Trump has about 88 percent of Republicans where Mitt Romney had about 92 percent.

If Trump stands a chance of winning, he has to do the same or better than Romney when it comes to Republican support.

The Republican Party and the Welfare State

While the Republican Party depends on working-class voters, there is a disconnect between what voters care about and what people in control care about. In order to appeal to voters, they must identify with that group and their concerns.

One major one: Social Security.

The Republican Party leans more toward “Social security is expensive,” rather than showcasing they care about the program. Salam said they need to show voters that they value the program and are not just concerned about dollar amounts.

Salam believes there needs to be a unifying message, such as “We’re all in this together,” that the political right just hasn’t advanced.

“The Republican Party has been fragmented between four or five different groups of voters. Moderate and liberal voters are still an important part of the primary electorate, maybe 15 or 20 percent…then there’s a group of somewhat conservatives, people who are the biggest group, 35 or 40 percent,” Salam told me after his question-and-answer session with Lewis.

With the various identities within the Republican Party, Salam believes the party will continue to face ideological conflicts.

“One possibility is that you’ll have some people in the party who will say being anti-government and low tax is the most important things and that’s what is going to unite us, and that we have to be for comprehensive immigrant reform,” Salam said.

California and Climate Change

With the ideologies of Republicans, Lewis brought up the relationship between Republicans and climate change.

Salam mentioned the proposed closure of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, which led to members of the audience voicing their dislike by hissing.

Salam believes that shutting down Diablo Canyon would be a mistake, since nuclear power is a zero-carbon energy source.

Salam stated that by 2060, 2.5 billion people will be living in cities. This, of course, means that more energy will need to be consumed to support the expanding inhabitants in cities.

California clean energy policies have emphasized renewable energy sources such as solar and wind over nuclear power

San Diego State University School of Journalism and Media Studies

This post was written by a student in San Diego State University’s School of Journalism & Media Studies who’s...

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