A Change Election?

By Sarah Schroeder

The election of Donald Trump to the office of the Presidency, a republican controlled House of Representatives and Senate, and a majority of state governments turning Republican, is often attributed to American voters desiring change.

Trump is an outsider, the first president-elect with no political or military background. Clinton is one of the most prominent faces of the political establishment, being a career politician married to a career politician.

The election appeared to be a choice between an unpredictable outsider or a stable establishment candidate.

But the election of Trump does not signal the 2016 Presidential election a ‘change election’.

For that to be true, Democrats wouldn’t have picked up seats in the House and Senate, incumbents would not have won reelection, and Clinton wouldn’t have won the popular vote by a substantial margin.

Trump’s campaign was not about change; it was about nostalgia. “Make America Great Again” inherently implies a desire to take our country into the past, to go backwards to an  America of the past.

During our academic session today, we had the privilege of hearing from Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the Century Foundation and American Progress, and John Hudak, deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management and senior fellow in Governance Studies. These two experts on politics and elections discussed Trump’s victory, the notion of presidential mandates, and the challenges ahead for President-elect Trump.

ruy_teixeira_and_john_hudak_panel_dvorak

Ruy Teixeria and John Hudak participating in a post-election panel moderated by David Laute. Photo credit: Zach Dvorak.

Because this election was so widely referred to as a ‘change election,’ I had not previously considered the possibility of that statement being a myth.

The reality, as Hudak said, is the nation was not fighting back against the status quo of government or against progressive ideals, instead the electorate was keeping Clinton out of the White House.

Real change will come (or won’t come) with governance. It is yet to be know how the Trump presidency will play out. Maybe he will bring an era of great change and his administration will utilize a one-party House and Senate, or build bipartisanship and an effort to work with those whom he disagrees. Or maybe his campaign promises will be empty rhetoric that lack an understanding of the power of the presidency.

Yes, Trump is different from other candidates. Yes, no other President-elect has never served in the public sector or in the armed forces.

But Trump’s election is not a desire for something new in Washington, it is the desire to move backwards to a previous time in American history.

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