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One Week Later, Past City Club Speakers on the Election

I've refrained from publicly offering my opinion and analysis since the election one week ago. Partly that's because I wasn't sure what I could possibly add to the breathless commentary from the pundits and the mea culpas from the pollsters. The other reason is that I'm not that interested in what I think. What interests me most about this moment are two things: What role the City Club can play in the coming years as politics shifts and new policies are explored and implemented, and what recent City Club speakers have had to say about what happened and what it might mean. Let's look at the latter today. (I'll get into the future in, um, the future).

Senator Rob Portman, who last spoke to the City Club during his October 20th debate against Ted Strickland, hasn't said a ton since the election. The day after the election, however, he tweeted, "I am delighted to hear that Republicans retained the Senate Majority and I am excited to work with President-Elect Trump and VP-Elect Pence!" There's not much to dig in to, but it's a far cry from the distance he had put between himself and the candidate during the RNC. 

And about a week later, Sherrod Brown, Ohio's senior senator and a frequent City Club speaker, offered this with respect to the President-Elect's choice for proposed cabinet member Steve Bannon: 

We cannot bring the country together by inviting into the White House the same bigotry and hate speech that divided us on the campaign trail. This is not about a difference in policy or politics – Steve Bannon has promoted anti-Semitic, racist, misogynistic and dangerous views that have emboldened white nationalist forces and caused some Americans to question whether they can still feel safe in the country we all love. President-elect Trump told us he wants to be a President for 'all Americans' and he cannot do that while empowering bigotry that targets and threatens many of them. Steve Bannon must be removed from his position immediately. 

What truly prompted this particular blog post was something shared by David Figlio of Northwestern University, who presented to the City Club in early July on the impact of school vouchers. After the election, he posted the following to Facebook:

As someone who has been in the business of teaching college students since 1992, I’ve gotten to know thousands of these students, and I’m honored that many of my current and former students confide in me. As such, perhaps I can provide some context that might help you better understand their positions and their emotions about Donald Trump’s electoral victory.

Students I’ve personally counseled over the past few days include:

* A fourth-year Ph.D. student who is worried that her visa might be revoked and her studies ended because Trump promised to revoke the visas of foreigners from countries that do not actively participate in rooting out undocumented immigrants

* A rape survivor who has been repeatedly triggered by the recordings of Donald Trump bragging about sexual assault, and who has been unable to sleep a wink since Tuesday

* A Latino former student of mine (and currently a MBA student at a major university) who was yelled at on Wednesday for speaking Spanish on the phone with his grandmother

* A gay student who is terrified that his rights to marry his fiancé will be terminated under a Trump-Pence administration

* A Sikh student whose family members in Wisconsin have been verbally threatened with taunts of “go back to Iraq”

* A black student whose close friend was one of the entire class of black freshmen at Penn to be involuntarily added to a Facebook “n***** lynching” group

I’m a good enough social scientist to know that all of these events are not necessarily related to the Trump election, but I hope that you can empathize with these people who are feeling threatened by social changes that might come about from the election.

Appearing on WKSU, Case Western Reserve University political science chair Karen Beckwith (who had been a panelist from our first debate watch party back in 2015) focused on the symbolism of Hillary Clinton's run, noting,

Women are expected to map themselves onto a masculine inst but still behave conventionally as women, so in this regard, this means, being caring,  attentive, not too aggressive, but aggressive enough to look on the masculine side, firm, not aggressive enough to fall into negative stereotypes of being shrill, being hysterical and I won't list them all because they're very unpleasant… In any case, it's a real challenge for a female candidate. And there has never been a female candidate until this year. We can't even say, well, there have been several nominees in the past and Clinton's just one in a long line of women attempting to win the presidency… this is really a first start for us. It won't be [the last]. And the groundwork that she has laid will provide a firm foundation for candidates in the future. 

Back in the beginning of October, Democratic strategist Steve Phillips spent his moment at the City Club discussing what the changing demographics of the United States mean for democrats, implying that Hillary Clinton would likely wind up in office. In the post-mortem, he went historical

Since shortly after 1607 when the first English settlers arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, there has been a consistent effort to make and keep America a white country. The United States Constitution defined African Americans as 3/5th’s of a human being; the first immigration law in 1790 limited citizenship to “free white persons,”; Native Americans were driven at gunpoint across the country on the Trail of Tears in the 1830s; Texas and other Southwestern states were violently taken from Mexico through war and bloodshed in the 1840s; a bloody Civil War was fought over whether Black folks were more than chattel slavery; and legal racial discrimination was the law of the land until 1965. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan was little more than thinly-veiled code for “Make America White Again.” It is no accident that his campaign came at the end of the presidency of the first Black president.

On the other side of the political spectrum, there's Hugh Hewitt, who was a crowd favorite during our post-RNC "What Happened?" event. "Lots of Americans are worried now that the Constitution is up for grabs," he wrote a few days ago,

...and while that is foolish it is also understandable when all expectations have been dashed on the left. The desolation of the Democratic Party at every level is almost complete and with the Supreme Court saved at least for a bit, the omnipotence of the regulatory state will be curbed. “Progressives” were very close indeed to having the government govern the people as opposed to the people governing the government, as Hilllsdale College President Larry Arnn likes to say when describing the situation. He was also the first to say, more than a year ago on my show — and he repeated it often — “Fundamental things are afoot.” He was right. Boy, was he ever right. And the left knows it and is deeply discouraged to the point of despair. They shouldn’t be, as just as in 2008 the GOP didn’t despair.

But if President Trump, Vice President Pence, Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell move quickly and purposefully, the country can indeed spring into a new era of “energy in the executive” — to borrow from the suddenly popular Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist 78 — balanced by a renewed Article 1 power in the Congress and a sustained, reasonable and originalist overwatch from the Article III courts, especially the Supreme Court. With one vacancy at the top and 99 below and the “Reid Rule” that ended the filibuster on appointments in place, the courts can recover quickly where just a week ago I thought the originalism movement near death.

Meanwhile, New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Peter Baker (who spoke in 2013 about his Bush-Cheney White House history Days of Fire), offered this analysis of the Trump era outlook for President Obama's legacy.

Suddenly, the progressive, post-racial, bridge-building society he promised has given way to an angry, jeering, us-against-them nation to be led by a new president who relishes reality-show name-calling with racial overtones. In none of Mr. Obama’s worst-case scenarios when he came to office was this the way he imagined leaving.

Since the electoral earthquake that made Donald J. Trump his designated successor, Mr. Obama has consoled his team — and himself — by telling them that they moved the country forward despite this obvious setback. Change does not follow a straight line, he told crying aides. Instead, it tends to zig and zag.

Another occasional voice from the Times, Mustafa Akyol (who spoke in June answering the question Is Islam Compatible with Freedom?), tempered the apocalyptic warnings that others have offered. "The reason we should not panic is that there is always a gap between political rhetoric, especially the rhetoric during electoral campaigns, and actual policies," he wrote in the Turkish daily Hurriyet.

All these facts save me from joining the camp which thinks that an “American Hitler” has been elected and that the world is being dragged toward a colossal disaster. I also see that Trump is more of a pragmatic opportunist than a wild-eyed ideologue.

Yet still, the election of Trump as the new American president will be a major boost for the forces of illiberalism and anti-globalism that have lately been shaking the liberal global order. This first emerged with the rise of the far right in Europe, then with Brexit and now the wave of Trump may take it to higher levels. 

Finally, in the realm of the purely practical, Dr. Lisa Damour, author of Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood, who spoke to the City Club about the way in which we model behavior for young girls, offers this advice for parents of teens engaging with the election results: 

Young people who pulled for Donald J. Trump have much to celebrate today, but they may need guidance on how to do so appropriately. Given the intense divisions surfaced by this election, and the bullying tone that dominated at times, we may need to remind ourselves and our children that victory is best paired with humility. We can point young people to the honorable convention in sports where we celebrate the win with our team, then praise the worthiness of our opponent. Parents can use these lyrics, or let them be the tune that guides their conversations: “Our candidate won. Now we do our part to bring a divided country back together by being kind to those with whom we disagree.”

Children and teenagers who were hoping for and like many, expecting, a victory for Hillary Clinton may need help processing their feelings of surprise as well as their sense of helplessness about an outcome they are powerless to change. With regard to their surprise, we can explain that the instruments we use to take the country’s temperature didn’t work in this election as they have in the past. We will learn more in the coming days about why that is true, and may see fewer surprises in the future.

When it comes to supporting teenagers who feel helpless, we can remind them that America is made up of both its government and its people. When the people do not agree with the priorities of the government, they can point themselves toward the work they feel needs to be done. That may mean taking on new volunteer opportunities, directing their allowances or earnings to programs they care about, or becoming involved, or deepening their involvement, in the political process for the elections ahead.

 

* This post has been corrected to indicate the actual date of the Senate debate, not something the writer made up out of thin air. Typos in Professor Beckwith's comments have also been corrected. The writer is grateful to his copy editor. 

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