How you read what just happened? And BTW, what do Americans want? Trump run against unpopular Clinton but still. Americans just elected Republican and confirmed GOP Congress in the situation when sitting Democratic President Obama is quite popular and GOP-led Congress very unpopular. Read few comments.
Russell Riley, Associate Professor and Co-chair of the Miller Center’s Presidential Oral History Program, University of Virginia
My own reading of the election is that it was a combination of forces creating a powerful momentum for change. The two most prominent were, first, a conservative backlash against eight years of progressive Democratic rule, aided in some measure by white voters chafing under the leadership of a black president. Second, there was added to these impulses a broad and powerful revulsion to Washington’s inability to accomplish anything–allowing Trump to claim as an outsider–a tribune of the people–he would come into town and clean up the mess. The two are closely interrelated and hard to separate. Moreover, the idea of change is always a powerful notion in American politics–and certainly was this year, as well. Accordingly, Mrs. Clinton, who has been in the public eye continuously for 25 years (longer by my count than any successful presidential candidate), was not somebody who could easily claim to represent change–notwithstanding the prospect of her being the first woman elected to the presidency. The email scandal I think was ultimately her undoing–partly because it just represented more of the same old stuff for voters tired of the Clinton scandals, if not the Clintons.
As for Congress–it’s an old saying in American politics that voters love their congressman but hate Congress. Still true. That creates a dynamic that perpetuates the party in power. The real question is going to be how unified the Republicans will be in support of “their” president. With the House Republican caucus still made up of varied factions, and the Senate unable to act without 60 votes, the new president may have real trouble on his hand gaining legislative action. We will see.
Diana Carlin, Professor Emerita of Communication, Saint Louis University
It will take some time to process the outcome after having more specifics on who voted for whom and who didn’t turn out as expected. That said, this election represents, in my opinion, another example of the clear divide in the US (BTW, Clinton won the popular vote. Our Electoral College system does make a difference in a country as divided as ours). It is geographical with rural areas and non-coastal states becoming more conservative with major philosophical differences based on education and race. The composition of the Supreme Court in regards to issues such as abortion and guns was as important as economic issues for voters in the the Rust Belt and some farming or oil producing areas that are not experiencing the recovery as other sectors are. Announcements near election day about rising insurance rates likely affected many voters since Obamacare was supposed to make health insurance affordable. Trump said he will repeal it and with a Republican Congress, it is likely to happen. Clinton wanted to improve but not replace.
The best explanation for returning Congress is that voters may think that having Congress and the Presidency in the same party will end gridlock. There is now a huge burden on Congress and Trump to produce quickly.
One reason the polls may have been off is that Trump attracted disaffected citizens who were unlikely to have voted in the past few elections and who weren’t surveyed proportionately to their turnout. While many voters were voting against a candidate, Trump had a base that was for him and they were passionate. They trust him to act and there is a lack of trust in Clinton that is longstanding.
It is difficult to say what American voters want because we are diverse and there is no single answer. The Obama ratings may reflect the continued support of the coalition that put and kept him in office. Once again, those numbers may not include those who represent Trump’s base.
Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Texas
This is all very unexpected. Obama is popular, the economy is doing relatively well, but there was an overall sense of unease about the economy, the direction of the country and, apparently, the trustworthiness of Trump’s opponent. In all, Clinton was likely to win. But Trump tapped into a sense of anxiety about good days gone by (whether imagined or real) and more or less promised to improve the livelihoods of working class Americans. The real trick is not in saying these things, but rather ensuring that they will happen. That is the big question, and only time will tell if Trump can deliver. As it is right now, about 47 percent of Americans believed him. It’s clear what his supporters want. It’s not clear that he can deliver on what he promised, or whether what he promised is even possible.
Robert Busby, Senior Lecturer in Politics, Liverpool Hope University
Trump proved to be very good at getting a targeted voting block to turn out. At the risk of alienating others, which he did, he was able to make a strong case to groups which felt alienated or marginalised. There were strong nationalist sentiments and a rejection of a global role for the United States which may have a profound impact on its foreign policy. For those who voted for Trump there seemed to be a desire to have some control over the national position and have it play a smaller role in international partnerships. For all the desire to have this type of change it remains unclear just how Trump can get the policies he has advocated into play. Democrats will oppose his every move and he has few real allies within the Republican party. Trump may struggle to get progress on ‘The Wall’ as quickly as promised and this may come to test his credibility early on. However, he could be in a win-win situation. If he makes progress, then he will take credit for making government work. If there is no or limited progress, then he will state that the government is as corrupt and rigged as he suggested during his campaign and that it is not his fault. Trump advanced himself as the anti-establishment candidate from the outset, and it worked. Being the only real person in this position meant that every other candidate who opposed him, from left or right, could be tarred with the same brush, which gave Trump a unique quality that others could not match.
For many voters the representatives they have are doing a reasonable job individually in representing the interests of the state and acting for those in the districts they represent. There also was only a third of the Senate up for grabs, so while there were marginal Democratic gains there were not enough to swing the chambers in the way of that party. It does mean now that Trump might have a slightly smoother ride in getting his legislation through with both chambers of the Congress in Republican hands. I doubt that there will be any rise in approval for the Congress as a whole, but there will be expectations that without partisan divisions between the branches of government that more might get done more quickly.
Mark Rozell, Dean and Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University
This was always supposed to be a “change election”. That typically happens when one party has controlled the White House for a long time. Yet Democrats too easily assumed that they could win because the Republicans had nominated Donald Trump. They never took seriously Trump’s strategy of breaking the blue wall in the upper midwest of the country. Clinton never campaigned in Wisconsin for example. Holding rallies with Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen, Hollywood celebrities, isn’t the way to motivate disaffected working-class voters. Trump spoke to those voters, Clinton assumed she would win enough of them along with a big minority voter turnout.
Steffen Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science, Iowa State University
Americans are mad and Trump had the right message. This is the US version of Brexit! Also the Democrats failed miserably and you can’t win unless your team is as good and powerful as your opponent – in football and in politics.
Obama was not on the ballot and “surrogates” like Obama can NEVER pass on their popularity to the next candidate. Obama failed miserably to build a Democratic Party that could stand on its own. The National Chair of the Democrats Debbie Wasserman Schultz was a disaster who had no connection with voters. She was fired much too late after 2 years of the Democrats losing state elections as well as the House and Senate.