Republican strategist discusses national politics with Michelle Obama’s former communications director

Republican strategist Ana Navarro and Michelle Obama's former Communications Director Maria Cristina González Noguera (LA '97) discuss bipartisan politics and the midterm election in ASEAN Auditorium on Nov. 15. Julia McDowell / The Tufts Daily

Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist, CNN commentator and co-host of “The View” (1997–), and Maria Cristina González Noguera (LA ’97) discussed the 2018 midterm election results, the state of the major political parties and predictions for the presidential election in 2020, as part of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life’s Distinguished Speaker Series in the ASEAN Auditorium on Thursday night.

Noguera, a former special assistant to Barack Obama and former communications director for Michelle Obama, moderated the event, asking Navarro questions before the audience posed their own in the last half hour of the event. The duo began by discussing the circumstances of President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, and the unique circumstances which influenced the Republican and Democratic parties.

Navarro said that a variety of factors — and not any of them individually — explain the election of a deeply unpopular candidate.

“[Donald Trump] had the name ID of not only a mere mortal politician,” Navarro said. “But despite being a Manhattan billionaire, he had the pulse on how the parties had shifted.”

Navarro added that core institutions of American culture and government have begun to change as a result.

“In two short years, this man has redefined the Republican Party, redefined the office of the President and redefined America,” Navarro said.

Noguera responded, sharing her observance of the difference between the presidential campaigns of 2008 and 2016.

“I think about the ’08 election and how it was built around a message of hope,” Noguera said. “I just think that the forces surrounding the Trump presidency could not be more different than those that brought about the Obama presidency.”

Navarro gave her predictions on the presidential field in 2020, emphasizing the need for the Democratic party to nominate engaging candidates.

“The Democratic party really struck upon something with [Stacey] Abrams, [Beto] O’Rourke, and [Andrew] Gillum,” Navarro said. “They inspire people to vote for something, not just against Donald Trump.”

One attendee, Alexander Jaramillo Burgos, (LA ’18) asked Navarro why she still identifies as a Republican though she criticizes the party and its leadership regularly.

“We need parties that are competing and courting for our vote,” Navarro said. “And I feel that if all the Republicans … feel that way, it’s much harder to get back to having two functional parties that earn our support.”

Navarro then responded to another question from the audience, saying that she hopes to help reshape the Republican Party in a more positive form.

“I confront Republicans who I know are compromising their principles and have sold their spines to science,” Navarro said. “When I voted for a Democrat, it’s because I feel that Republicans have abjectly failed in their duty in Congress to provide a check and balance on the president of their party.”

Navarro added that there is a need for youth voters to participate and engage in the electoral process.

“When you look at how close these races are 10 days after the election, it sends a message that every vote matters,” Navarro said. “There’s races that are razor-thin, and if that doesn’t drive home the point, I don’t know what would.”

Tufts Republicans President George Behrakis welcomed the inclusion of a Republican speaker among the Tisch College’s speaker lineup.

“Tisch [College] has made an effort since I’ve been here to [have] at least one big-name Republican speaker each year,” Behrakis, a junior, said.

Behrakis said that the presence of Navarro and other speakers of recent years was a step forward for the Tufts community.

“It’s important because it allows students to engage with ideas that they might not share and [that] they don’t get to hear,” Behrakis said. “The fact that Tisch College makes a conscious effort to do it is an important thing.”

Jaramillo Burgos, a former co-leader of Tufts Cooperation and Innovation in Citizenship (CIVIC), felt that the inclusion of Republican speakers among the Distinguished Speaker Series indicated a response to the change in the national political atmosphere.

“I think it’s part of the post-Trump blowback among liberal populations,” Jaramillo Burgos said. “I think it’s healthy for our democracy as whole in order to understand the other side.”


COPYRIGHT 2018 THE TUFTS DAILY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.