‘Terps Talk Politics’ explains the unusualness of the 2016 election

On Tuesday night, both the old and the young gathered in the basement of Francis Scott Key Hall to discuss the new angles on politics and how this 2016 election has been different from any other.

The event, Terps Talk Politics, was hosted by the University of Maryland’s graduate student chapter of the Rhetoric Society of America and Cheló̱na, and was funded by the University of Maryland’s Pepsi Enhancement Fund. A mixture of undergraduate students, professors, doctoral candidates and local citizens came out to talk about the issues.

“[I came out for] a combination of extra credit and just being interested in politics,” said freshman electrical engineering major Elan Naideck.

More than 130 people attended the symposium, which was divided into 11 25-minute sessions that attendees could choose between, with a one-hour keynote presentation by Georgetown professor Leticia Bode toward the end of the night.

“My goal today is to showcase some of the ways that authenticity gets used in media and in political discourse,” said fifth-year doctoral candidate Thomas McCloskey in his presentation about Political Media Literacy.

Subjects ranged from why Khizer Khan’s speech at this year’s Democratic National Convention went viral to how candidates use social media to reach voters to how intake of political information has evolved.

“I saw it on the campus calendar and I’m interested in politics and this election.” said Peter Wolfe, 78, a retired UMD math professor. “It’s a fun event, I like it,”

The topics covered all aspects of the political race and were not just limited to the presidential candidates. Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty’s viral commercial was discussed and so was Missouri’s 35-year-old Jason Kander, who has seemingly come out of nowhere to create a tight race for the senate seat.

The changing landscape of political communication was also discussed.

“Twenty years ago if you wanted to talk about politics with your friends you would do so over coffee… maybe now you do that on Facebook chat,” said Bode during her keynote address.

While many topics were introduced, the brashness of Donald Trump’s campaign and his uncensored and sometimes uncollected thoughts were the subject of jokes and criticism throughout the night.

“Everybody in my circle is horrified by Trump and I think that carries over to what I see here,” said Wolfe.

One session was dedicated entirely to Trump’s ‘repetitive, vague, and coherence-lacking rhetoric,’ but that lesson, led by English professor Linda Coleman, went on to examine how this style has helped engage a public that has been dissatisfied with the government and politicians.

With the election nearing and many voters still undecided, Terps Talk Politics hoped to bring some clarity to the public, and for many of the attendees, they succeeded.

“[The sessions] have been great, really informative, it’s really brought to light some issues that I didn’t know existed personally,” said junior communications major Jeff Place.

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