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Students, O’Malley Talk Politics, Communication, Campaigning

Of course an Emerson College student asked former governor and ex-presidential candidate Martin O’Malley if he would consider another run for the White House. And for the record, the Maryland Democrat said he “just might be crazy enough to try it again.”

But O’Malley, a former Baltimore mayor who served as governor for seven years before embarking on an unsuccessful run for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, told a packed Bordy Theater on Tuesday, April 11, that right now he’s focusing on helping Democrats get elected to state legislatures and teaching at Boston College Law School.

The discussion was moderated by affiliated Journalism faculty member Angela Anderson Connolly ’90 and sponsored by the School of Communication; the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies; and a number of campus organizations, including the Emerson chapter of the Radio, Television, and Digital News Association, which gave O’Malley an award. Other sponsors were the departments of Journalism and Communication Studies; the Communication, Politics, and Law Association, and the Emerson College Polling Society.  

Students, a couple of whom canvassed for O'Malley in Iowa, peppered him with a wide range of questions about everything from climate change, to campaign finance, to partisan politics in confirming Supreme Court justices.

One graduate student in Communication Studies with an Emerson bachelor’s degree in Marketing asked O’Malley, who dropped out of the presidential primary after the Iowa caucuses, essentially to market himself.

“Could you describe what your brand would be?” the student asked, momentarily throwing O’Malley.

“If I have a brand, my brand is that I believe as a nation we have to be better at creating opportunity for all,” he said, drawing applause.

Two students wanted to know O’Malley’s thoughts on climate change and whether we have failed as communities in addressing the issue.

O’Malley said we have so far, but not irredeemably. Citing places like Hawaii and the Netherlands, which have had great success switching to renewable energy, O’Malley said the United States could both control climate change and create jobs.

“What we have to rediscover as a nation is how to get ahead of the wave of change. Part of the fear gripping the country is that change is happening faster than usual, and government is less capable to do anything [to help us],” O’Malley said.

Another student asked, “Do you feel anything in this country can really change unless we address so-called ‘big money’ on both the Democratic and Republican side?”

O’Malley said he supports public financing of campaigns and thinks Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that established that corporations could be treated as individuals when it comes to political donations, should be overturned. But he thinks people shouldn’t wait until the problem is solved to get involved in politics. “I think we have to change the tires on a rolling car,” he said.

A student asked O’Malley about whether or not Congress should play politics with Supreme Court nominees, and another student asked O’Malley for his read on Congressional Democrats’ futile filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed last week. “What could they gain from it?” the student asked.

“The reality is, [Democrats] will probably lose and lose and lose and lose before we win,” O’Malley said. “It’s important that those losses also communicate what we’re about and what our values are about.”

Connolly, the faculty member and moderator, asked O’Malley how the Democratic Party can attract and keep Millennials, who will be the largest voting age group by 2020.

O’Malley said like Americans in general, young voters want leaders to be honest with them.

“The other very encouraging thing about your generation, I’ve found,” he told the students, “is that you truly understand that diversity is our strength. You see it as an asset…and you’re not afraid of it.”





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