Former California Gov. Gray Davis sat down for a conversation with the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics director Bob Shrum at Wallis Annenberg Hall on Tuesday. During his talk, he discussed the upcoming gubernatorial election and the future of the nation’s political climate.
This event marked the third installment in the institute’s semester-long Political Conversation series, which aims to facilitate on-campus discussion with notable politicians, political operatives and policy experts.
The evening began with Davis’ thoughts on the state’s current gubernatorial race. Davis, who served from 1999 to 2003, said he believes the race will be tight.
“The race seems to be pretty close,” Davis said. “It’s going to be a horse race and it’s going to be divided north and south.”
In his talk, Davis emphasized the importance of empathy politics, in which politicians are more focused on the interests of their constituents.
“In politics it’s all about helping you, not helping Gray Davis or Donald Trump,” Davis said. “It’s about helping you have a better life. You’ll be happier, you’re family will be happier, you’ll do better, you’ll be more charitable, your business will hire more people”
Though critical of Trump, Davis acknowledged the administration’s progress in reshaping the federal judiciary but voiced optimism when it came to environmental and state politics.
“The science is strong,” Davis said. “The damage to the climate and the planet is so clear that I think it will be hard for him, serving in a four-year time frame, to win on climate change and I think we have a strong case on offshore drilling.”
Davis predicted that the next U.S. President will be the opposite of Trump: a “humble, respectful, library-type,” who will represent a repudiation of both the character and policies of the current administration.
On the future of the Democratic party, Davis said that every elections race is a referendum.
Through events like Davis’ talk, Shrum said he hopes that students will understand the diligence and commitment politicians bring to their work and that solving these nationwide issues is a task easier said than done.
“Most of what I hope out of this whole series is that students will interact with real political actors from the real world,” Shrum said. “I think that will change some of the stereotypes some folks have and maybe even encourage some involvement.”
Carlo Santiago, a freshman majoring in political science, attended Davis’ talk and felt that it changed his outlook on national politics.
“He made me think that [Democrats] don’t have a candidate to challenge Donald Trump [in 2020], but if there was one that … was inspiring, touches on jobs, appeals to Democratic working class voters, then there’s a chance Democrats could win the White House again,” Santiago said.