In the aftermath of the presidential election, many have wondered what the catalysts were for the divisive election results while others speculate what the future will hold.
The UW department of political science held a panel Wednesday night regarding “how we got here and what comes next,” in which four political science professors made remarks and answered questions regarding their insights into the election.
The panel began with professor Mark A. Smith, who explained the results of the election in the context of the Electoral College.
“[Donald] Trump pulled in some people who would not otherwise be voting,” Smith said.
This rise in irregular voters who didn’t have a history of voting was his main explanation for inaccuracies in the polls.
As for Trump’s victory despite Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote, Smith explained, “the reason Trump is president is because of the Electoral College, because he got the right votes in the right states.”
Though there is a “strong, but not perfect” relationship between the popular and electoral votes, in closer elections that relationship is not always kept, Smith said.
Smith then showed that Democrats have a lot more wasted votes, or votes exceeding the simple majority needed to win a state’s electoral votes. These wasted votes constituted a large part of Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead. Trump however was able to maintain slim majorities in battleground states, including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
The panel moved to professor Sophia Jordán Wallace, who pointed to a large difference in the voting patterns of minority groups versus white voters to show that the results could not be explained primarily by economics or class.
When looking at the differences in voting patterns amongst different racial groups, even when accounting for education, a “starkly different pattern emerges,” according to Wallace.
Wallace then moved on to talk about the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case that resulted in the “gutting of the [Voting Rights Act of 1965].”
“This basically is the first national election where we are observing the outcomes and the process in the wake of Shelby,” Wallace said. “A huge amount of what explains the outcome in this election in partially related to voter suppression that happened in different places.”
Some of these vote suppression tactics include voter ID laws, voter intimidation, closing of polling places, attempts to eliminate early voting, changes to polling hours, and providing false information to voters.
Wallace also pointed out an uptick in hate crimes and hate speech as a “normalizing of some of this [racist] rhetoric” from Trump.
“Language from elites does affect public opinion,” Wallace said.
Professor Rebecca U. Thorpe then looked to the future and the extent of the president’s unilateral powers.
Thorpe highlighted President Obama’s use of executive orders in the face of congressional gridlock as a viable path for Trump to exert his executive power. Trump could overturn many of Obama’s executive orders, including those protecting immigrants from deportation while also increasing efforts to deport illegal immigrants.
In other policies, Thorpe sees little ability for a Trump presidency to make hugely unpopular decisions. Regarding other executive orders that extended rights to minorities and the LGBTQIA+ community, Thorpe was more hopeful.
“It’s very difficult to rescind rights that have already been granted,” Thorpe said
On the topic of foreign policy, Thorpe has less strong inclinations as to what a Trump presidency would look like.
“On one hand what he said suggests that there will be reduced international involvement in the realm of military affairs, but he’s also talked about ramping up a war against international terrorism,” Thorpe said. “I expect military spending will increase … In terms of the way the military will be used and the way that we conduct both foreign relations and the scale and scope of military affairs, I think that’s a bit murkier.”
Thorpe was then asked just how bleak the outlook was against climate change.
“The short answer, one word, is ‘very,’” she said.
Professor John D. Wilkerson ended the panel on a slightly different note.
His talk revolved around the idea that Americans are divided, but maybe not as divided as some think. Though there is major animosity between the parties, there is consensus.
“If the sense is that the country is behind this administration, they’re going to be somewhat reluctant … [in] their willingness to support a filibuster or engage in obstruction,” Wilkerson said. “Republicans have a strong incentive to show a unified front … [and] to support the party’s agenda.”
With more Democrats up for reelection, fewer competitive districts, and a midterm turnout that favors Republicans, Wilkerson thinks 2018 “should be a good year for Republicans,” though this is not set in stone.
Reach reporter Michael Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @baywatchbeauty