During Harvard Law School’s Fall Reunion weekend, David R. Gergen ’67, professor of public service and co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, and senior political analyst for CNN, delivered a keynote address on the 2016 presidential election. Gergen shared his thoughts about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and the state of the presidential election.
“I’ve been around a long time and this election is the most bizarre, unpredictable, volatile, ‘hope-we-never-see-it-again’ election,” said Gergen. While he said it wasn’t yet clear how the election would turn out, he did predict that Hillary Clinton would prevail, citing her “far sturdier” campaign, her poll numbers and her get-out-the-vote effort.
Gergen said that after the Romney loss in 2012 the Republicans did an “autopsy” on the state of the party to determine what it needed to do to regain majority vote. “What they determined was that the Republican Party had gotten itself on the wrong side of history,” said Gergen. “The Republican Party has put itself on the side of groups that are diminishing in size and power and influence, and they put themselves in a position of putting ‘sticks in the eyes’ of people who are growing in influence and size.”
In her introduction, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow said: “David is one of the most outstanding commentators on American politics, particularly the presidency.”
Gergen served as a White House advisor to four U.S. presidents of both parties. In 2001, he published a book, “Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton,” which detailed his experiences as a White House advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton.
Gergen joined the Nixon White House in 1971, as a staff assistant on the speech writing team, and became director of speechwriting two years later. He served as director of communications for both Presidents Ford and Reagan, and as a senior advisor to President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
In a 2012 keynote address during his 45th Harvard Law School reunion, Gergen put the race between fellow HLS graduates Mitt Romney ’75 and President Barack Obama ’91 in historical perspective, analyzed its development, talked about its import. At that time, Gergen predicted Obama would win by a very close margin, which, he said, would mean “tooth and claw politics again.”