Trump’s impact on American politics

Read few comments.


1. Even if Donald Trump will be unsuccessful in clinching the nomination, how much and how he has changed the race, or maybe even American politics?

2. Not sure if you would like to answer this one: But who is going to be next US President, and why?


Diana Carlin, Associate Vice President for Graduate Education & International Initiatives, Professor of Communication, Saint Louis University

1. Trump’s major impact on the race, from my perspective, is that the emphasis shifted from the “traditional” politicians and familiar political names to true Washington outsiders along with Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. The debates have more attention this cycle than primary debates usually have. The traditional politicians don’t seem to know how to strategize to neutralize Trump’s impact–neither attacking nor not attacking him seems to reduce his standing. Trump has made brash and controversial statements that represent what a segment of the American electorate thinks. While Ted Cruz is currently gaining momentum, some of it is a result of the agenda Trump has set. Cruz is approaching issues of terrorism and immigration with more modulated rhetoric, but a rhetoric that still resonates with those disaffected with traditional politicians and what is seen as weak or liberal approaches to some of the major issues facing the country.

It is important to remember that while Trump scores well in the polls, we are talking about a relatively small percentage of US voters who support him. Most of the polls are of likely Republican primary voters (those with a track record of participating in primary elections and caucuses). Typically 12-20% of eligible party voters participate in a primary or caucus. A Gallup Poll in January 2015 showed that 26% of registered voters lean Republican, 30% Democrat and 43% Independent. Doing the math, Trump’s support represents approximately 38% of the likely voters who represent 12-20% of Republican voters who comprise 26% of the registered voters. That said, Trump generates media and that makes his strength seem to be greater and possibly, especially to those outside the US, as more representative of the American electorate than it actually is.

The issues that come out of primaries do gain traction in the general election so there will be an impact after the primaries. In some ways Trump, Carson and Fiorina have served the same function as third party candidates (think Perot) in general elections–they focus the debate on a more populist agenda. However, even someone such as Perot, who did change the dynamic of the 1992 campaign, usually doesn’t garner enough votes to even win a single electoral vote. What is said to pollsters in primaries regarding non-traditional candidates reflects gut feelings, but when it comes time to vote, Americans still go with more traditional candidates.

With all of the changes in campaign finance laws, Trump has resources potentially to continue his message during the general election and to require the two nominees to continue to respond. Trump, Carson, and Fiorina have forced even the more moderate Republicans to move to the right, and the Republicans may select a more conservative candidate than John McCain or Mitt Romney. Because the shift has been to a more conservative rhetoric from most of the candidates, it will be more difficult for them to move to the middle where candidates usually need to be in the fall where quieter but more representative voices lie.

2. The election is about 10 months away and that is several political lifetimes. So the best I can do is project based on the landscape today. Given my opinion that the Republican nominee is likely to be more “honestly” conservative, there will be a sharp contrast between that candidate and the Democrat nominee, most likely Hillary Clinton. Clinton has a considerable amount of baggage and many targets on her back, but none are new. The U.S. is divided ideologically and the immigration and terrorism issues will play a large role in the campaign along with the economy–as it always does. Clinton is likely to have an edge with women and younger voters who want to see another historic first and with those who want someone more seasoned than any of the Republican candidates who either lack political experience or lack Washington experience. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, or Rick Santorum have Congressional experience on terrorism and immigration (and they have records). Of those, Kasich and Santorum have been out of DC for a few years and Rubio, Paul and Cruz have limited experience. The world scene that develops between now and November and the US economy will play a large role in voters’ decisions. At this point, polls show a close race for Clinton against all of the leading Republican contenders. This will be a close election regardless of who the Republican nominee is. If the race comes down to experience, Clinton will prevail. If the anti-career politician sentiment continues, if world affairs cause more conservative leanings that would benefit a Republican and if the strength of negative attacks on Clinton are not mitigated, then a fresher face will be in the White House on January 20, 2017.

John PitneyProfessor of Politics, Claremont McKenna College

1. No one has cast a single vote in the presidential nomination process, so any appraisal of Trump’s impact has to be tentative. We don’t know if his supporters are actually going to show up in caucuses and primary voting stations, but we do know that they don’t care whether he is telling the truth. Even by the forgiving standards of politics, his dishonesty is breathtaking. He tells bold lies about Muslims, immigrants, and his own record — and his supporters still applaud. There is no way that he is healthy for American politics. We just don’t yet know the extent of the harm that he has done.

2. The outcome of American presidential elections usually depends on the economy. A good economy favors the party holding the presidency. A bad economy usually means that Americans will vote for a change. So if there is strong economic growth next fall, Hillary Clinton will probably win. If the economy is weak, the Republican candidate will win — unless that candidate is Trump. Add up all the groups that he has insulted — women, Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, and disabled people, among others — and you have a large majority of the electorate.

Mark Rozell, Acting Dean and Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University

1. Trump’s candidacy changed the entire dynamics of the Republican nomination campaign. He has dominated the media coverage, driven the issues agenda, and the other candidates have been building their campaigns around either reacting to Trump or trying to peel off his supporters. In short, Trump has been the singular dominant factor in this campaign so far.

Given public disdain for politics in Washington, candidates often attract mass appeal running as “outsiders”. It used to be a state governor or other non-federal elected office-holder could run as an “outsider” to the political establishment. With Trump attracting so much support, it seems that the definition of an outsider has changed to that of someone never elected to any office. His candidacy shows that there now may be a viable path to nomination for the presidency for well-known personalities with financial resources and no governing experience.

2. I am always hesitant to predict elections. Right now Hillary Clinton appears the clear favorite to win the presidency, but of course much can happen to change the dynamics of a presidential campaign and there are too many unknowns right now.

Steven GreeneAssociate Professor of Political Science, North Carolina State University

1. I think Donald Trump has brought the ugly underbelly (xenophobia, extreme jingoism), to the fore. Even if he does not win (and I still consider that unlikely– though not at all impossible), I cannot help but think this will leave a lasting impression in the minds of many voters. I imagine the residue of a Trump campaign will serve to activate minority voters making them more likely to show up for the Democratic candidate in the general election. On the most basic level, Trump has changed the campaign by pushing the whole Republican party further to the right. Whomever the nominee is will have somewhat further to go to moderate for the general election.

2. Hillary Clinton. Her nomination is a done deal. As for the general election, the incumbent party is favored in a growing economy, and 2016 looks pretty good– though not great. It is hard for one party to win 3 straight and that definitely works against her, but I suspect the economy plus the demographics of presidential elections (young and minority voters turning out at much higher levels than in midterms) will be a big advantage. And a greater advantage than the 3rd term for Democrats is a disadvantage. Also, I think is is fairly likely the Republicans will nominate a significantly sub-optimal candidate (e.g., anybody other than Bush, Christie, or Rubio who can all appeal to more moderate voters). I do think there’s a good chance the Republicans nominate Rubio, which would definitely be the toughest opponent for Clinton.

Matthew Eshbaugh-SohaAssistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Texas

1. Trump has had an impact on American politics, although it’s unclear whether he caused it or whether he is just embodying the thoughts of a small percentage of Americans.  His rhetoric reminds me a lot of what Tea Party supporters have always said; it is just that Trump garners a lot of attention, and so he is able to magnify those ideas through his own megaphone.  The larger question is whether his rhetoric will be embraced by enough Republican voters (Democrats and Independents appear to reject it) to win the nomination.  Nevertheless, he has generated a reliable core of support among Republicans, which is making it difficult for other candidates to build support…at least on the national stage.  The polls in Iowa may be telling us that serious voters do not think that Trump has enough substance to win the presidency, but we will have to await another 40 days to find out for sure!

2. I cannot say for sure.  I see little reason why, however, that the Democratic nominee will not win.  The Republican nominees are moving further and further to the right and, whoever the nominee will be, they will have a lot to do to appeal to non-Republican primary voters.  Of course, there is a lot of time between now and next November, but the demographics would predict a Democratic victory.

Richard BenedettoAdjunct Professor of Journalism, School of Communication, American University

1. Trump has changed elections by showing that the American media are more interested in the cult of outrageous personality, and the latest controversial statements than they are trying to explain to potential voters who the candidates are, what are their qualifications and what proposals for problem solving they have made.

2. It is much too early to make predictions. As I said above, no one has voted yet, but we in the media think we know all the answers. We don’t. Let us see what we are after the fist month of primary voting.

Steffen SchmidtUniversity Professor of Political Science, Iowa State University

1. Trump has forced the Republicans to reexamine their lack of unity and discipline. It will force the party to think harder about what it is. I think Trump has also reinforced the Hispanic voter into the Democratic Party as has all the GOP anti immigrant rhetoric.

2. Today I would say that Hillary Clinton has a big advantage over most of the potential Republicans. If I was betting a million I would put my money on Clinton!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: