Last Monday, Eagle Political Society and CAB partnered with three political science professors to host a discussion about the results and consequences of the recent US presidential election. A combination of pizza and politics drew in a crowd to the Vanderslice Cabaret Room as many students waited anxiously to hear the perspectives of those better versed in American politics. Professors Kay Schlozman, David Hopkins, and R. Shep Melnick each provided personal statements on their views of the election's outcome as well as on several notions that may have slipped mainstream coverage.
Professor Schlozman, who teaches a class entitled “Parties and Elections in America," set the stage for her colleagues by closely analyzing the results of the election. Schlozman urged students to not “make the classic Wednesday morning quarterback mistake, and assume that everything Clinton did was wrong and everything Trump did was right.”
Rather, Schlozman urged students to look at the fundamentals of the election before making rash judgements. These include the current rate of presidential approval, the state of the economy, and our position in the election cycle. Schlozman concluded her talk by drawing particular attention to the historic lack of women in higher elected office by noting that “the number of women in electoral office decreases as we move from local to state...from legislative office to executive office.”
In the end, Schlozman was left with questions over whether or not we as a nation would choose to normalize the unusual circumstances of this past election.
Professor David Hopkins, a frequent commentator on American politics for news outlets such as the Boston Globe, Vox, Washington Post, and NPR, built upon the framework established by his colleague. His discussion focused mainly on the group of people that will come to dominate both federal and state governments for the next two years: the GOP.
Hopkins began by detailing two trends that have defined the Republican party since Obama’s election: unity in opposition to the Democrats and internal division over policy matters. Hopkins then walked the crowd through the last eight years of Republican opposition, closing the detailed history by asserting that all this culminated in Donald Trump snatching the presidential bid.
Nonetheless, Hopkins claimed that electoral victory may not be indicative of party health. “We have lots of reason to believe that the oppositional nature of Republicans will not transition well into governance,” Hopkins noted. As a whole, Hopkins asked students to pay attention “to what extent the norms and institutions that have persisted in American politics continue to be sustained and to what extent they change.”
Professor Melnick, the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. professor of American politics, prefaced the evening's final segment by saying that he doesn't usually take as partisan of a position as he did this election, hinting at the polarizing nature of this cycle. Melnick maintained that his frustration stems from the presumption that “[Donald Trump's] understanding of what a president does is very different from what he will experience.”
Melnick followed this statement by encouraging to students to follow his four step post-election plan: 1. Don’t Panic, 2. Don’t engage in cataclysmic thinking, 3. Don’t question the legitimacy of the election, and 4. Watch what you do, not what you say. Melnick continued to reassure students by comparing the anxiety of the 2016 presidential election to that of the 1980 Ronald Reagan election, remarking that things turned out alright contrary to popular speculation.
Melnick launched into his real critique, however, when he argued that Trump will find it difficult to follow in that trend without clarity in principles and a dense network of people who are willing to help him. Furthermore, Melnick critiqued Trump’s cabinet choices and his false promises to the Rust Belt. Finally, Melnick implored students to watch the conservative impact on the courts over the next four years.
The meeting ended with a brief period for questions, which students took advantage of. The three professors were barraged with questions regarding realignment of party ideals, the context of the global economy, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, climate change, and the future of the Democratic party. Thus, by the end of the event, students left Vanderslice with more clarity surrounding the results of last Tuesday’s election and the future that has since been laid out.