After Donald Trump pulled off a shocking victory in Tuesday’s presidential election, many people needed time to process the results. The appropriately titled “Campaign 2016 Post-mortem: What Just Happened?” panel was designed to help members of the Elizabethtown College community do just that. The panel took place in Gibble Auditorium Wednesday, Nov. 9 as this week’s “Wednesday at 11” event.
The panel was made up of five professors from Etown’s Department of Politics, Philosophy and Legal Studies: Professor of political science Dr. E. Fletcher McClellan, associate professor of political science Dr. Oya Ozkanca, assistant professor of political science and Asian studies Dr. Dan Chen, department chair Dr. April Kelly-Woessner and Assistant Dean for Academic Achievement and Engagement and pre-law program director Dr. Kyle Kopko.
According to McClellan, the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Legal Studies has offered a panel after every presidential election since the 1980s. The panels are televised on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.
“What makes our panel distinctive is that it comes the day after the election, so the analysis is fresh,” McClellan said in an email interview before the election results came in.
Each panelist discussed a different aspect of the effects Trump’s win could have on the nation’s future. McClellan opened the panel by presenting statistics about Americans’ views of how the country is doing as a whole. Overall, 62 percent of the people surveyed think the US is headed in a bad direction.
Ozkanca talked about how the US’s foreign policy and relationships with other countries may change in the next four years. She mentioned the US’s relationships with Europe and the Middle East and the impact Trump’s proposed foreign policy could have on some of the world’s biggest conflicts.
According to Ozkanca, the Republican Party has usually supported building relationships with other countries and especially the US’s allies. Under Trump, however, the US could become more selective about who it supports.
“Yes, the US is powerful, but not powerful enough to solve all of the world’s problems on its own,” Ozkanca said. “We can’t retreat from the world or try to engage everybody, so we now need to identify the country’s core interests and build a healthy balance based on that.”
Chen also described the international effects of this election. According to Chen, this presidential election has helped authoritarian governments, such as the Chinese Communist Party, show their people that democracy does not always work and that the governments they have are working fine.
Kopko discussed the Supreme Court’s current vacancy and how Trump’s presidential ability to nominate Justices could affect the balance in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is currently split four to four in terms of the number of Justices who lean more liberal or conservative.
Kopko then presented a list of some of the people Trump has mentioned as potential nominees to fill the vacancy. Some of the dozen nominees presented come from state Supreme Courts, which is unusual because Justices usually come from a Court of Appeals.
Kelly-Woessner examined the statistical aspect from the perspective of a political psychologist. She cited an early poll that predicted that Hillary Clinton would win 90 percent of the popular vote and discussed potential reasons as to why the numbers in that poll were so far off from what actually happened on election night.
According to Kelly-Woessner, it has been shown that people care about what others may think of them, even when answering anonymous poll questions. She also said that people want to be associated with things that are considered “socially desirable,” even if they do not personally believe in them.
“Every time Trump said something offensive, it became less socially desirable to be seen as a Trump supporter,” Kelly-Woessner said. “This may have caused people to lie about who they planned to vote for, and these lies changed the early poll outcomes.”
Junior Karissa Swartz attended the panel for one of her classes and to find out what other people think about the results of the election. “It’s just crazy how polarized everything is becoming, not just with Trump, but with politics in general,” Swartz said. “I was watching the results come in on the news last night, and people were already rioting.”
Even with all the negativity and confusion surrounding the results, the panelists still made sure to offer hope to everyone in attendance and especially to the students. All of the panelists agreed that no matter how the next four years go, everyone must work together to take the results of this election and make them into as positive of a part of US history as they can.
“I hope [students] will begin to transition themselves away from thinking of themselves as Clinton voters and Trump voters and Johnson and Stein voters,” McClellan said. “And start thinking of themselves as active citizens who have an important role in addressing our nation’s problems.”