At this point, I am confident that most politics students are aware of at least some of the implications of a Trump victory. However, so much of the academic application of Trump relies on your ability to divide the rhetoric and media coverage from the theory of your A2 USA course. There is far too much that could be said, so below are some of the considerations for each of the topics you study.

The Constitution (Unit 4)

  • The Founding Fathers included the electoral college as a protection against populist democracy; in the case of Trump despite losing by a greater margin than George W. Bush, he still won in the electoral college. Arguably, this is how the electoral college functions.

Elections (Unit 3)

  • Given that he lost the popular vote by such a margin, it is great evidence for the need to reform the electoral college, especially if the US is to claim to be democratic in a liberal or representative sense
  • Trump announced his run for presidency in June 2016 – an 18 month invisible primary. this just seems to keep getting longer!
  • Trump came from a field of 17 – the obstacles to overcome in the primaries are great (finance, recognition, media scrutiny) etc. This suggests on the one hand that Trump has been well scrutinised; on the hand, the overly negative tone of the primaries meant that ‘good’ candidates fell by the wayside.
  • This was an overtly and unusually negative campaign, even by US standards.
  • The Democrats must also bear some of the blame for their loss – in picking a candidate with questionable credibility and whom was part of the political elite, it gave Trump an audience of anti-establishment vote that the Democrats never really seemed to challenge.
  • The role of the polls must again be questioned – right up until the point he won, no one really thought he would; between a lack of policy, negative (arguably racist/sexist rhetoric) and scandals such as the tapes in which he talks about his approach to women, it might have been a reasonable position to assume but ultimately people are getting wise to polls.
  • The cost of elections keeps going up – Open Secrets has 2016 at over $2.5bn; (https://www.opensecrets.org/overview/cost.php) – this would be great for a campaign finance question but of course how can you control campaign donations when so much of Trump’s campaign was self-funded?
  • Votes for third parties tripled from 2012 – 2.4 million then up to 6.9 million in 2016. This is obvious fodder for an electoral college question as none of this was reflected in there, but it also suggests either a growth in popularity for third parties or dissatisfaction with the two-party system.

The Supreme Court (Unit 4)

  • In gaining victory, Trump has an opportunity to fill the vacant seat left by Scalia. Be wary of placing too much importance on this – ultimately Scalia was a strong conservative view; whilst Obama filling this vacancy could have changed the Court, Trump is likely to replace with an ideologically similar Justice. The impact may therefore be minimal.
  • Given Trump’s first weeks in office have been dogged by controversy over executive orders, the role of the Court could be crucial in determining the legality of these actions – having a 5-4 conservative court and his own appointee on their may ultimately serve to benefit him in the long run.
  • On a side note…the other Justices are still old! Will ‘Notorious-RBG’ or Breyer attempt to remain on for the duration of a Trump presidency? If not, having a liberal vacancy occur could be ‘yuge’ for Trump.

Civil Rights (Unit 3)

  • The vote of minority groups is crucial in this election. Often assumed (often wrongly!) to be a safe Democratic vote, Clinton actually lost a percentage of the Hispanic vote against Obama. Indeed NPR comments, “It might be becoming clear that about 3 in 10 Latinos are simply part of the conservative base”.
  • Clinton also lost a share of the black vote compared to Obama. In the NPR article above they suggest in some areas this could have cost her the state.

Parties (Unit 3)

  • For parties, the number one thing missing from most essays is reference to ideology. With partisanship evident throughout this election, the role of ideology (conservatism, liberalism, etc) is crucial.
  • The lack of a credible candidate from the Democrats, the influence of Bernie and departure of Obama (as well as Harry Reid) has left the Democrats somewhat in limbo. They were never able to capitalise appropriately in responding to Trump’s rhetoric.
  • The Republicans are too divided – whilst trump won, he did so with little support from the party elite and there has been a subsequent amount of backtracking from them after the election (for example Paul Ryan’s invite to Trump to meet). These divisions are likely to continue, with McConnell decrying the travel ban executive order despite being Republican.

Congress (Unit 4)

  • Remember, it wasn’t only Trump elected; all of the House and a third of the Senate were up too, as well as a significant number of governorships. The Republicans took the lion’s share of all of these.
  • The Republicans do not have a filibuster proof majority (i.e. 60+) in the Senate; this may prove costly when trying to get confirmations done quickly.

Pressure Groups/Lobbying (Unit 3)

  • The role of PACs/Super PACs continued in abundance in this election (highlighting the continued impact of Citizens United v FEC) – https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/superpac-donors-2016/
  • This article claims that by September 2016 Super PACs had raised over $1 bn collectively for this election – again good evidence for a campaign finance essay.
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