Former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry on faith in politics
“We have to go to a place where we can put off politics,” Mike McCurry said in his lecture on “Faith and Politics in the Age of Trump,” on March 2 in Caruth Hall.
McCurry served most notably as Press Secretary for President Bill Clinton 1994-1998. He jested about helping run numerable senators’ (John Glenn, Bruce Babbitt and Bob Kerrey) losing campaigns. “I’m a certified world-class loser,” McCurry said.
After his time working for politicians, McCurry served as the Democratic National Committee director of communications. Though his credentials indicate a partisan lean, he told the audience, “If you catch me being overly partisan, call me out.” He then analyzed the 2016 election results to find actions people could take at this time.
McCurry projected a Sept. 2015 poll (WSJ/NBC) showing that no matter which party is in power, Americans think the country is on the wrong track. He worried that bipartisanship in Washington doesn’t exist.
Accroding to McCurry, the U.S. House of Representatives is the part of government that embodies the identity “We the People”– a part that is in disarray.
In 1982, 344 members in the House of Representatives constituted the “center”–people who reached out to the opposing party in decision-making. In 2012, the center comprised only 12 members, and this number is even smaller today.
“When the center doesn’t hold, near anarchy exists.” McCurry said.
This information offered an explanation as to why public trust in government remains near an all-time low. However, America has reached its lowest point in one category.
“Never before in our history have two candidates ever had such strong disapproval ratings,” McCurry said.
Even with this discouragement, inductee and now President Donald Trump won the 2016 election. McCurry shared his expertise as former spokesperson for the executive branch regarding why Clinton’s lost: branding. When Clinton ran for 1992 re-election, his brand positively became his campaign. His time in office would form a “bridge to the 21st century, and this was more than just a slogan. It was an architecture through which he could build out his campaign, ” McCurry said.
Trump’s slogan was “strong and indicative of change,” resonating with nostalgia and aspiration, according to McCurry.
“What was Clinton’s brand?” McCurry asked. Love trumps hate? Stronger together? Fighting for us? I’m with her?
“It never got to a point where she could frame an argument about the future,” McCurry said. Without a strong slogan, Hillary’s major message was lost.
So, America currently faces an unsettled situation. For example, Americans from both parties are losing trust in the media. “If you don’t trust your primary sources, then where do you go for information?” McCurry said.
This is one area where the church comes in; “the church can…point to the honest media that’s out there,” McCurry said.
These viable primary sources are important because they allow the ability to have “rational discussion,” McCurry explained.
The church can also offer “places for safe and civil conversation, the ability to listen and hear opponents, encouragement to be engaged and involved, and facilitate inspired and creative leadership,” McCurry said. He sees the church, or religion in general, as the last possible place in America where people can go and “restore the civility to make rational decisions about our country.”
“It’s the only place where all views are respected,” McCurry said.
“Church can lift up people to treat others how they want to be treated because right now, there’s no golden rule going on in politics,” McCurry said.