Professors discuss implications of presidential election

Nicole Yeager, Assistant News Editor

In the aftermath of the 2020 election night this past Tuesday, many students and other campus members are left grappling with the results and speculating on what will happen moving forward. We reached out to professors across campus, from a wide range of departments and backgrounds, to collect their thoughts and opinions on the outcomes, as well as the process overall. Among those interviewed were Assistant Professor of English Chase Gregory, Professor of Political Science Chris Ellis, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Erica Delsandro and Professor of Political Science Scott Meinke.

 

How do you think this entire 2020 election process has gone? What has been the most important keystone(s) to you? 

Delsandro: “The Trump presidency and the election process has fanned the flames of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia while simultaneously portraying moral leadership and political ethics as indications of weakness. Moreover, the Trump presidency and the election process has revealed stark divides regarding political approaches to the health and well-being of the country as well as the role of science in evidence-based decision making. And from my disciplinary perspective, the Trump presidency and the election process has reinforced a version of toxic masculinity that many had hoped was nearly extinct.”

Gregory: “I think that the election has brought to light a lot of things about the electoral process in general that are instructive: namely, the COVID-19 crisis and the blatant fear-mongering from the President have both turned the volume up on problems that were extant in the system before. I’m glad to have seen so many states increase non-in-person polling options; I’m troubled that these new options are being met with skepticism and impatience.” 

Ellis: “This election has really been a trying one, for voters and policymakers alike. Trying to do this in the middle of a pandemic, with lots of states changing the way that they receive or count votes, and our national polarization, has just made this process hard. I think that the biggest lasting change will be the number of people who vote early or by mail.”

 

What do you predict for the results? Are you surprised by the results? What do you think will happen next? 

Delsandro: “Unfortunately, I do not think we will have definitive results right away. And even when we do have results, chances are that they will be contested. We are entering into uncharted territory.”

Gregory: “The most surprising thing to me, honestly, is that voting went relatively smoothly (except for unconscionable waiting times in line) and that there has been relatively little violence so far. I am not very surprised that it is close — there is a lot of hate and anger out there, and a lot of people in this country are still loyal to Trump. When I do get down about the results this far, I take hope from mirage states that I know will originally lean red but will likely flip to blue once mail-in votes are counted. I think in the next few weeks we can expect to see escalating unrest, more lies about the vote being over and a long, drawn-out process.”

Ellis: “One fairly big surprise is how much better Trump seemed to do among nonwhite voters, particularly men. It wasn’t enough to win them, of course, but it signals perhaps a new direction for what the Republican party might look like.”

 

What is your initial response/reaction? 

Meinke: “As of [Nov. 4], it looks like it will be a narrow win for whichever candidate gets the majority, and it could be several days before we have final results. So this is not at all surprising from that perspective. Whichever way the final result goes, the close result is a reflection of the polarization in the electorate and the way that polarization interacts with the Electoral College. Biden will likely win the national popular vote by a margin in the millions.  But the result comes down to a small number of states, especially Pennsylvania, that are very evenly divided, making the election competitive. On another note, I’ll add that I think it is very dangerous for a candidate to claim victory or treat the count as fraudulent when a good deal of the vote in key states remains to be counted.  It is crucial for democracy that we allow the votes to be counted, and it is necessary and expected that states will follow their rules and processes to arrive at a final count.”

Gregory: “In some ways, relief, weirdly, because I’m relieved that things appear to be relatively calm in terms of violent voter suppression. Hope that all votes will be counted and a Biden victory will be incontestable in court. Disappointment that local elections failed to go blue, certainly, after a good fight. Outright anger at my home state of California for passing Prop 22. Mostly feeling numb as we sit in limbo, but very willing to sit here as long as it takes.”

Ellis: “My initial response is just ‘Wow.’ I honestly did not expect the presidential result to be this close. The polls were ultimately off more this year than they were in 2016, and the next few weeks will be an autopsy of why that was the case.”

 

Do you think this 2020 election is especially important? Why? 

Meinke: “The 2020 election is critically important.  The two parties and their candidates present starkly different visions of how government should work, of our role in the world and of what American society should look like.”

Gregory: “I do. America has always been an unsafe and deeply unequal place, but the past four years have felt different. The people in power have adopted the rhetoric and mentality of fascism, rather than the neoliberal modes of oppression we are used to. This shift registers in this administration’s additions to an already abhorrent immigration policy, in the people this administration hires and nominates to the court, in its stance on healthcare, in its violence against protestors, and in its explicit appeal to groups like the Proud Boys. To me, this election is a choice between a genocidal, reactionary logic or a conservative, centrist logic. Both have a long history of oppression, but the latter at least feels fightable. I am not sure democracy can happen again if we disregard it this election.”

Ellis: “Given what happened, I think the next few years in the United States will be a time that almost nothing gets done. A Biden Presidency with a Republican Senate basically means everything Biden wants to do is dead-on-arrival, and Trump would have to contend with a Democratic House. This election was important stylistically, but it ultimately won’t make that much difference in terms of policy,” Ellis said.

 

What do you think is the most important thing for students (and others) to recognize with the results of this election? 

Delsandro: “I think it is paramount that students realize that politics do not just that happen ‘out there’ in the ‘real world.’  Rather, politics are everywhere.  They are the sea in which we swim. We are impacted by policing, healthcare, immigration and tax law.  We are shaped by narratives vying to define patriotism, the American dream, liberty and freedom.”

Gregory: “I think it’s most important to realize that it’s going to take a long time to resolve, and that even after this election, the fight is far from over. Thinking of this as a lifelong marathon, and not a sprint, is crucial. Recognizing this means also taking breaks to care for yourself and others. I also hope that students really recognize the stakes here — we are at a turning point in our history, and the arc can bend toward something revolutionary or something from which there is no turning back.” 

Ellis: “The most important thing is that we’re a very divided nation, and that’s made worse by people trying to demonize or villainize the ‘other side.’ I don’t know if I’m optimistic about this, but I think it’s important for students to realize that periods post-election are times to heal and come together. I hope we can still do that, because at the end of the day, there’s more that unites us than divides us.”

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