Guest blog post by James Fleury from the U.S. Embassy Youth Council
Fifty members of the U.S. Embassy Youth Council had the chance to learn the finer details of the US political system from Professor Todd Belt, Director of Political Management at George Washington University.
The US Embassy Youth Council has members from across New Zealand’s main centres and despite the COVID-19 lockdown, students continued to meet virtually with successful Americans to explore similarities and differences between New Zealand and the U.S.
Belt, known for his political expertise, has co-authored several books and scholarly articles focused on presidential leadership styles, the impact of mass media on public opinion and presidential campaigns.
The meeting covered the U.S. political system which included the structure of government, state vs national representation and elections, the electoral college, redistricting and jerrymandering, the impact of social media and campaign finance.
Belt took questions from the youth council, who were eager to learn more about the intricacies of the U.S. system and how it compared to New Zealand’s parliamentary structure.
When asked about the impact of COVID-19 on the upcoming 2020 elections, Belt believed campaigning by all candidates would be difficult as there could be no rallies and no door to door advocacy.
Belt said that because unemployment was expected to reach 20 percent, it would be difficult to ask potential supporters for money.
“What that will mean is that issue groups and those with money will have an increased voice.”
Belt believed free media like Twitter and Facebook would be increasingly used by candidates and political action committees.
Another focus of the discussion centred on the importance of swing states on election results and the electoral college system.
Belt said stereotypical swing states were changing and in the next election the states to watch would be Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina.
Youth Council members said they felt much more knowledgeable about the U.S. political system, how it compared to New Zealand’s, and looked forward to following both country’s elections in the coming months.
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