University of Idaho's Whitewater Room was filled seemingly beyond capacity Tuesday afternoon as a faculty panel gathered to discuss last week's presidential election and what led to its unexpected results.
Students and community members sat on the floor or stood at the back and sides of the room after additional chairs brought in for the event were quickly taken.
The event, a Malcolm M. Renfrew Interdisciplinary Colloquium titled "Making Sense of the 2016 Election," placed UI Faculty Secretary Don Crowley, political science professor Juliet Carlisle and visiting law professors Benjamin Cover and Aman McLeod at the head of the class.
The primary question - and one discussion leader Kenton Bird, associate professor and director of general education, supposed was on the minds of many - dealt with President-elect Donald Trump's surprise victory.
Explanations could be many and deal with a variety of attitudes and occurrences, including the electoral system, the votes of those who wanted nothing more than change and the simple explanation that it's historically difficult for the Democrat Party to hold on to the presidency with a candidate change, the panelists noted.
Crowley was quick to point out that while the president-elect is not the one most expected, the polls were not entirely wrong.
"Although it doesn't matter, Hillary Clinton is going to win the popular vote," he said. "Hillary won the urban areas by massive amounts - she won Philadelphia by over 400,000, Detroit by 300,000 - but lost both of those states because the rural areas voted in significantly higher numbers. This is the second time in the last five elections that the person who won the popular vote did not win the electoral college."
The first of those was in 2000, when George W. Bush received 50.5 million votes and won the presidency, although Al Gore counted out with 50.9 million votes.
A simpler answer, Crowley said, was what he called the "change vote," as 39 percent of those in exit polls said the most important factor for them was change. Some 80 percent of those people voted for Trump.
"In that simple sense, the change vote matters," he said.
Carlisle said while the Democrat Party has found it challenging to hold on to the executive branch for more than two terms at a time, racism and sexism have also been factors in election results.
"The lack of ability of a woman to succeed despite all of her credentials, despite her experience, the lack of attention to issues, to important matters," as well as the criminalization of Clinton, were all factors, she said. "The perception for many is that she, Hillary Clinton, is a criminal."
Cover said the 2016 election was also the first president election since the Supreme Court partially invalidated the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which previously prevented some Southern states from changing their election laws without approval from the federal government.
"Since that time there's been a very large number of states passing laws making it harder to vote," he said.
Cover noted some of those states also saw a decline in voting this election.
McLeod said there is change happening in a global sense.
"Something's happening here - what it is ain't exactly clear," he said. "It's not just in the United States. In June we saw the British people vote to leave the European Union; a far right candidate got into the final run off in Austria. ...," he said. "In Poland you had a party there that was elected that was extremely populous. A far right candidate has a decent possibility of winning the presidency in France next year."
The panelists agreed Trump voters are unlikely to see the results they hoped for.
"They were voting for economic change," Crowley said. "I do think they felt left out of the global economy and they were reacting against that. Hillary Clinton's economic proposals would help them more than Donald Trump's economic proposals, but that's irrelevant."
Crowley said the deciding factor was a type of cultural resentment that mattered more in the rural areas than urban.
"They were clearly voting against globalization, they were voting against free trade, they were against immigration, they were against Black Lives Matter, they were against gay marriage they were against a lot of that," he said. "Donald Trump appealed to that. They were able to overlook the sexist, racist, anti-immigrant comments because they felt they wanted to send a message to the elites. Trump expressed that cultural resentment extremely well."
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