It's been widely described as one of the most divisive and unpleasant presidential campaigns of the modern era. So what happens next? Four Boston College faculty experts share thoughts on how America moves on from Election 2016.
Tiziana Dearing (School of Social Work)
While there is a range of obvious public policy issues we need to tackle (including climate change, middle class income stability, expanding the earned income tax credit, stability in the Middle East, etc.), I think the other serious priority starting Nov. 9 is reconstructing public dialogue and faith in our democracy. Both have suffered devastating blows in this campaign, and we’ll need leadership by example in Congress, public leadership among our remaining trusted intellectuals, and bi-partisan dialogue across the states to begin to rebuild the fundamentals of working together.
Dennis Hale (Political Science)
As I write this, it seems likely that Hillary Clinton will become the next President of the United States; that the election will not be close, either in the popular vote or in the Electoral College; and that Mrs. Clinton may even take office with a pliant majority in the United States Senate. She will have achieved this victory, not on the basis of her own merits as a candidate, but because the Republican Party, having failed utterly to read the temper of its own voters, allowed its nomination to be seized by a man who could do only one thing well: channel the anger of millions of Americans who believe their country is dying in front of their eyes.
Had Donald Trump possessed any other virtues — and just one or two might have sufficed — the election might well have gone the other way. But Trump has no other virtues, so he will lose, deservedly. The Guardians of the Good in the media, the academy and the pulpit will breathe a collective sigh of relief and proclaim his defeat a great victory. But it will be no such thing, because the anger and folly that fueled both the Trump and Sanders insurgencies will not go away, and neither will the people behind them. Nor will the problems that caused the anguish in the first place: tepid economic recovery; turmoil in health care; worsened race relations; the loss of American leadership in the world; chaos and terror spreading from the Middle East to Europe and beyond; corruption on a scale not seen in this country in the lifetime of anyone now alive.
Many have quoted during this terrible season the cryptic words of Benjamin Franklin, when asked what kind of government the Constitutional Convention had devised: “A republic, if you can keep it.” I’m afraid we are about to find out exactly what Franklin meant.
David Hopkins (Political Science)
It’s easy to blame politicians for the divisiveness we see in our politics today, but they respond to the incentives that the voters give them. Americans who yearn for a more elevated style of electoral competition and a more functional party system need to support like-minded candidates in party primaries as well as general elections. Polarization and rancor cannot be reduced without the dedicated participation of citizens working within the two parties themselves to achieve this goal.
Patrick Maney (History)
The country needs to move on but not before confronting the deep divisions brought to light by this election. It isn’t a task we can foist off on our political leaders. Dismissing people on the other side as bigots or sexists or elitists or whatever epitaph you want to apply won’t do. The New Yorker’s George Packer gets it right: “If nearly half of your compatriots feel deeply at odds with the drift of things,” he writes, “it’s a matter of self-interest to try to understand why.” We in academia have a special obligation to engage in this national soul-searching, and to bridge the gap between the educational haves and have-nots – a gap higher education inadvertently may have widened. Bridging it will be our most serious post-election challenge.
-Sean Hennessey | News & Public Affairs