Believe it or not, political science is not the only discipline within our school that offers insights into the 2016 election. Because many of our 170 faculty have interdisciplinary research interests, our school has a lot to say on a range of important topics. So, we’ve asked our faculty to draw from their specialties to help inform discussions about the upcoming election and future of American politics. Read what they had to say.
Lisa Covert: “Many observers have despaired that the rhetoric in this election cycle resembles something from a third world banana republic. Students in my Latin American history classes would not find this surprising because they know that if the so-called banana republics have a reputation for corruption, repression, and strong-man politics, it is in part because outside interests, including the United States, have frequently intervened to keep them that way. When viewed in the context of our long history of U.S.-Latin American relations then, this election is not so much an anomaly as it is an unveiling of what has long lurked beneath the surface.”
Adam Domby: “As much as the election is all about the future of America, it’s also about the nation’s past. In some ways, the Donald Trump phenomenon is uniquely new, and history provides few comparisons (at least from the United States). In others, Trump is a continuation of old trends in American history. But overall, most historians, both conservative and liberal leaning, seem to agree that Trump is an existential threat to the nation, combining the very worst elements of our past and ignoring those things that have kept America a stable republic. I would also argue that he is a product of America’s own troubled history.” This was taken from a recent Huffington Post article written by Dr. Domby. Read the full article here.
Rachel McKinnon: “I work on what we say to each other, some of which involves the nature of lies, bullshit, and propaganda. Bullshit is when one says, roughly, what one thinks one’s audience wants to hear, without any regard to whether one thinks the statement true or false. This election season, in particular, has been a rich source of examples of bullshit, often involving candidates or their surrogates making contradictory assertions.”
Gibbs Knotts: “Political scientists have a number of tools to help understand the current election. Quantitative researchers analyze polling results to identify trends and develop projections of the characteristics of people who will vote for Trump, Clinton, Johnson, and Stein. Political scientists have also developed forecasting models, often using just a few variables, to predict election results. Qualitative researchers conduct focus groups and in-depth interviews to gain insights about the current contests. They also gauge reactions to campaign advertisements and other decisions about candidate messaging.”
Jordan Ragusa: “It sounds simple, but this election confirms one thing: party identification is an exceptionally strong factor in one’s political beliefs. Even though both candidates are deeply unpopular, it’s remarkable that only 10% are “true” independents and the vast majority have lined up behind their party’s candidate.”
Claire Wofford: “Long after the drama and and divisiveness of the 2016 Presidential election have faded from our daily lives, the impact of the election itself may last for decades, if not generations. The next President certainly may shape national policy through executive orders and Congress, but it will be in appointments to the Supreme Court that the most substantive, and long-lasting influence will occur. The Supreme Court may not seem as exciting as scandals, but that is the institution over whom the next President’s influence – and policy choices – will be most profound.”
Chelsea Reid-Short: “We should all be aware of our own biases. Social psychology teaches us that we tend to interpret information and other people in ways that are consistent with our existing beliefs rather than look at information in an unbiased manner, and we engage in cognitive processes to justify our behaviors and attitudes even when they are inconsistent. This is part of being human, but we should try to overcome these biases, particularly when making important decisions like voting for a presidential candidate.”
Related: Chelsea wrote an article titled, “Are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Ruining Your Relationship?”
Elijah Siegler recently wrote an article titled “Trump’s Magical Appeal: A Dated Anthropologist Offers Clues”. Dr. Siegler notes that political identity is much like religious identity. “As more and more studies are showing, politics isn’t just about policy. It’s also about identity, community, meaning and belief—in other words, the domain of religion and religious scholarship,” he states. In the article, Dr. Siegler looks at religious scholar James Frazer’s theory about the vitality and magic of kings and compares it to 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump. Because, as history shows, citizens have the ideology that a strong ruler represents a strong society. Read more.
Tracy Burkett: “Political sociologists are concerned with the organization of political and social power, especially how these are unequally distributed according to demographic characteristics such as age, race, gender, class, and education. During this election season, adopting a sociological viewpoint can help illuminate the social processes that heighten competition among social groups, govern patterns of political association, and drive political participation.”
Related: Join the School of Humanities and Social Sciences on November 19th for our 25th anniversary event “Ballots and Brunch: A Review of the 2016 Presidential Election and Future of American Politics.”