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Political minds meet at St. Vincent

Joe Napsha
| Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, 10:39 p.m.
Political commentators Donna Brazile and Michael Steele are introduced before speaking during the St. Vincent College New Horizons Speakers Series at the Performing Arts Center of the Robert S. Carey Student Center on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 in Unity.
Barry Reeger | For The Tribune-Review
Political commentators Donna Brazile and Michael Steele are introduced before speaking during the St. Vincent College New Horizons Speakers Series at the Performing Arts Center of the Robert S. Carey Student Center on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 in Unity.
Political commentators Donna Brazile and Michael Steele share a laugh before speaking during the St. Vincent College New Horizons Speakers Series at the Performing Arts Center of the Robert S. Carey Student Center on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 in Unity.
Barry Reeger | For The Tribune-Review
Political commentators Donna Brazile and Michael Steele share a laugh before speaking during the St. Vincent College New Horizons Speakers Series at the Performing Arts Center of the Robert S. Carey Student Center on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 in Unity.
Political commentators Michael Steele and Donna Brazile participate in the St. Vincent College New Horizons Speakers Series at the Performing Arts Center of the Robert S. Carey Student Center on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 in Unity.
Barry Reeger | For The Tribune-Review
Political commentators Michael Steele and Donna Brazile participate in the St. Vincent College New Horizons Speakers Series at the Performing Arts Center of the Robert S. Carey Student Center on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 in Unity.
Political commentators Michael Steele and Donna Brazile participate in the St. Vincent College New Horizons Speakers Series at the Performing Arts Center of the Robert S. Carey Student Center on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 in Unity.
Barry Reeger | For The Tribune-Review
Political commentators Michael Steele and Donna Brazile participate in the St. Vincent College New Horizons Speakers Series at the Performing Arts Center of the Robert S. Carey Student Center on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016 in Unity.

The nation's political elite failed to foresee that a television reality star could become the Republican Party nominee or that social Democrat Bernie Sanders could reshape the agenda of his party, two respected political commentators said Thursday.

“The political elites took no time to listen to what the people were doing two, three, four years ago. This storm has been brewing a long time,” since the formation of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements, former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said Thursday during a debate in front of more than 400 people at St. Vincent College near Latrobe.

Steele and Donna Brazile, interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, lamented the state of the presidential campaign during more than an hour of often entertaining discussion about the state of American politics.

At times they took stances that were in line with their political affiliation, but often agreed on the political climate of American and the presidential campaign.

Brazile called it the most “incredible political campaign” she has ever seen, with candidates seeking votes for the past 18 months without substantive discussions of important political issues such as jobs, the Affordable Care Act, climate change and income equality.

Instead, voters are treated to insulting comments, such as the weight of a former beauty queen in a pageant owned by Donald Trump.

“We should have thoughtful conversation about meaningful issues,” Brazile said.

Rather than focusing on two or three important issues as the presidential campaign winds down, Steele said, “no one is getting excited about Hillary Clinton's 40-point plan for the environment.

“The American people have a very different mindset about this election. Americans are in a very different place” than where the political establishment thought the campaign would be.

Both political analysts tabbed Pennsylvania as a battleground state, one of six or seven that likely will decide the next president of the United States.

“You are a pivotal state for a host of reasons,” said Steele, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and analyst for MSNBC. He pointed to the Keystone State's cities, suburbs and rural areas “as a microcosm of what is happening in the United States.”

“They're not excited about this election,” Steele said, when the presidential nominees are described as “crooked Hillary and crazy Trump.”

While scandals swirling around both candidates have caught the attention of the news media, “people are discounting that stuff,” Steele said. “The scandals are a distraction to (voters).”

Brazile, who was a commentator on CNN, took a shot at the news media, saying the cable news shows are “drowning us” whenever there is a “whiff of scandal.”

The voter has gotten to the point where “you can't trust anybody,” including the media and government, Brazile said.

Speaking about the nation's response to terrorism, Steele said that Trump has not articulated a real policy to deal with the terrorist group ISIS. His broad generalities are “eye candy,” Steele said.

Although Clinton comes to the issues with a stronger background, Steele questioned how she can reconcile her hawkish views “with the progressive wing of her party.”

As a prelude to the discussion of the issues, Brazile took a few shots at Trump's recent debate performance, warning Steele she would interrupt him 56 times, but she would not deport him or demonize him.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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