On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election and became the 45th President-elect of the United States, beating Hilary Clinton by 306 electoral votes. Trump became the fourth U.S. candidate to win the Electoral College despite receiving fewer votes.
Last week, a panel consisting of UTM’s political science professors was held in order to reflect and promote a healthy discussion on what had occurred.
The panel, moderated by political science professor Ed Schatz, tackled different aspects of the election, such as analyzing the voter turnout, why people voted for Trump, Trump’s campaign rhetoric in regards to gender and race, Trump’s take on climate change, and the international and domestic implications of this election outcome.
Professor Randy Besco stated quite candidly that the election was so typical and standard when compared to the past U.S. elections that no one should have been surprised by the results. Almost all the Republicans voted for the Republican candidate and vice-versa for the Democrats.
And yet the reality is that we were all caught off-guard.
The reason behind such a paradox was not the election itself, but the candidates running. Trump was a unique candidate: he had never held political office before, declared bankruptcy several times, had no policy agenda, and was the first Republican candidate that was not endorsed by any of the previous living Republican presidents (which is unprecedented in U.S. election history).
As for why Trump won the elections, the panel stated that the turnout for white, working-class voters was higher than usual. This demographic refers largely to individuals in the service industry, who often do not have college degrees and had lost their jobs due to a decline in the rate of manufacturing in America. What was different about this election was that Trump energized parts of white, working-class Americans that other elections did not. In comparison, the number of voting African-Americans declined this time, while the exact number of voting Latino-Americans has currently not been agreed upon.
The deeper motivation behind voting for Trump, all the panelists reiterated, was that he appealed to economic anxiety present within the working-class, by offering them jobs they had lost. An interesting facet of Trump’s appeal was that it contained an element of nostalgia. The working-class people who voted for him were not all from low socio-economic backgrounds, but those who used to be better off than they were now. Trump’s appeal was based on “how things used to be,” as he promised to bring those elements back into their lives that were stolen by “others.”
Professor Erin Tolley mentioned that there was a lot of talk about gender in positive terms by the possibility of the first female U.S. president. But gender was also talked about in a negative manner with Trump’s misogynistic remarks, fat shaming, and sexual scandals.
But when we look at the election results, race seemed to matter much more than gender in the end. Overall, Clinton did win a majority of the women’s vote, but a demographic breakdown shows that she did not attract a majority of the white women’s vote—many supported Trump due to their partisan-identification with the Republicans. So, what we saw in the results was that partisanship and race were a much more salient factor for the female voters as compared to gender. A message that we get from Trump’s victory is how women who voted for Trump prefer a maintenance of traditional gender roles—there’s a discomfort in seeing a woman in the White House. Tolley further stated that this election proved that when both male and female candidates exhibit similar behavior, while both candidates do get punished, the female candidate tends to be punished more severely by voters.
Professor Mark Lippincott remarked on some of the issues within the Trump campaign, where the most serious was the extent of lying that had taken place. On November 2, the Washington Post-ABC News Tracking Poll found that on the issue of honesty, the American population viewed Trump as the more honest candidate by eight points more than Clinton. Having said that, in the previous seven weeks, one fact-checker found 490 lies issued by the Trump campaign.
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