As an aspiring journalist, UM senior Margot Woll signed up for The 2016 Election Course because she feels she should know more about the upcoming presidential election. But her mind is made up; she will vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Rachel Barrales, a senior from California, wants to know what the candidates’ views are on the economy and education. And Nathan Seidle, a 19-year-old sophomore and supporter of the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, was lured to the course hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Political Science because it is only offered once every four years.
About 270 students signed up for the course, which held at Storer Auditorium on Tuesday nights combines lectures with talks by prominent guest speakers. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was Tuesday night’s lead-off speaker and students welcomed the longtime Republican congresswoman and Cuban-American with loud applause. She urged the students to vote.
“Thank goodness we live in a country where we can elect our leaders,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “It hurts me to say that I cannot vote for my party’s leader. I cannot vote for him, I would not be able to sleep at night.”
Instead of supporting Trump, Ros-Lehtinen plans to write in the name of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two former Republican presidents. Ros-Lehtinen spent half an hour talking about her experience in Congress where she has served for the past 27 years, and took pictures with some of her interns who are UM students, as well as many others who lined up to talk to her.
Political Science Professor Joseph Uscinski, who is one of the four teachers of the course, was not surprised by the enthusiasm in the room.
“Students watch what is going on in the news and all they hear is a lot of nastiness,” said Uscinski. “They are millennials who want to understand fully what is going on.”
UM instructor Fernand Amandi, managing partner of Bendixen & Amandi International, was in charge of the evening’s class, which was a mixture of lecture, stand-up comedy, and instant polling. Using clickers or classroom response devices, students answered questions posed on an overhead projector. The instant poll showed that 50 percent of the class would vote for Clinton, 17 percent for Trump, and the rest would either support the libertarian ticket or are undecided.
“You are all very fortunate to be in Florida and Miami-Dade County,” Amandi told the class. ”You are living history and it is very possible that Miami-Dade could decide the presidential election.”
Amandi spoke about the importance of Florida as a “swing state” in the presidential election. Using TV news clips from most of the major television stations, rock music, and animated videos, he also gave an overview of the U.S. president’s duties and role in a democratic society, the roles of Congress and the judicial branch of the government, and the many variables that can affect the outcome of the November election.
He showed a slide depicting all the available polls, which put Clinton in the lead.
“If the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would win but there are 77 days until Election Day,” Amandi said. “A lot can happen between now and then.”
Other instructors for the class are Professor Casey Klofstad of the Political Science Department and Rudy Fernandez, chief of staff to UM President Julio Frenk and vice president of government and community relations at UM.