After almost two grueling years of campaigns, primaries and debates, the 2016 U.S. presidential election has finally drawn to a close and the next leader of our country has been announced: Donald J. Trump.
The results were shocking to say the least. The vast majority of political analysts and polls predicted a Hillary Clinton win, and many are still expressing bewilderment in the wake of such a momentous turn of events.
The political upsets did not end at the presidency, however. The Republican Party also won a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, giving conservatives virtually total governmental control.
Reactions across the country and around the world range from jubilation to dismay, and the University of Dallas campus is no exception. Students and faculty members are beginning to examine what the next four years of American politics will look like.
Politics professor Dr. Jonathan Culp explained one aspect of the popular attraction to Trump, while remaining cautious about the prospects of a Trump administration.
“He’s tapped into things that concern a number of Americans,” Culp said. “There’s real discontent, but it’s just not clear how he can deliver. He says he stands for things, but he’s never held office so we honestly don’t know.”
Looking at how Trump will affect foreign policy, Culp referred to Trump’s stated intention to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as a dubious policy at best.
“We can question if it’s a wise policy and if he’s even able to do it,” Culp said. “It just points to one of the many ambiguities of the Trump campaign.”
Senior politics major Christian Huitz also shared his thoughts on the election, explaining a few signals he saw that foretold to the outcome.
“Based on the discontent that I saw, not so much in the mainstream media, but in smaller articles and people I talked to, I saw that change was desired,” Huitz said. “It attests to the fact that the polls are one thing, but you really have to do your own research and get out and talk to people.”
Huitz said that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s speech following Trump’s victory gave him confidence that something positive can come of the situation.
“I think there’s the possibility to make good laws and good changes, and there’s enough good people in politics that there’s hope,” Huitz said. “Trump is far from the ideal candidate, but we have no choice but to have hope. Whether he knows what it means or not, he will be the president and he’ll have to recognize that.”
Politics professor Dr. David Upham shared his expectations for the next four years of domestic politics as the Republican Party takes control both of the Presidency and of Congress. Probable changes include the prompt nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court justice to fill the vacant seat left by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, as well as repealing the HHS mandate and possibly the Affordable Care Act in its entirety.
“The success of [Trump’s] legislative agenda will largely depend on the cooperation, prudence, and firmness of Republicans in Congress, especially the Senate, where the GOP majority will be quite narrow,” Upham wrote in an email. “I think Obamacare will be at least seriously modified.”
Regardless of what changes will be made, Trump’s election to the White House legitimizes the anti-establishment sentiments expressed by the Trump campaign that garnered the support he needed to win. It’s for this reason that many have called this election a populist movement.
“Our government is a popular one, so ‘populism’ in that sense has always been a part of our politics,” Upham said. “Nonetheless, growing economic inequalities — and especially perceived downward mobility by many — have made more voters anti-oligarchic.”
It’s no surprise that Donald Trump is the poster child of many Americans’ political frustrations. He’s been a major voice of criticism toward government for decades, and his popularity despite never having held office seems to show similar opinions in many people.
It is, however, quite the surprise that Trump was able to translate these negative views of modern politics into votes. Although with the high disapproval ratings of both candidates for the presidency, many voters have approached this election as a lesser-of-two-evils situation.
In any case, it’s been a brutal presidential race plagued by controversy and division. All that is left to do now is to hope and pray for a united country committed to progress.
And of course, we will all have to get used to saying the words “President Trump.”
“We may be surprised,” Culp said, “for better or for worse.”