Following Donald Trump’s election victory last week, Joshua Eyre spoke to some LSE Masters in Public Administration students to get their perspectives on the result and its consequences for politics, policy and international affairs.
I said so many times if Donald Trump was elected I would never go back to America. But beyond complete disappointment and devastation, I feel an overwhelming sense of patriotism to return to my country and do what I can to make it the place I want it to be. I know we can do better than this and I know we will.
Lauren Cuscuna, LSE MPA candidate, U.S.A.
America’s foreign policy is determined by both domestic and foreign issues. The most pressing issues on the agenda are immigration and the refugee crisis. During his campaign, President- elect Trump vowed to promote and prioritise American national interests, while advocating for non-interventionist foreign policies. In light of the direction future US foreign policy is taking, it’s only natural that nothing has yet been mentioned on the aspirations of the new Trump administration for the African continent for the next four years, and especially for the electoral turmoil in the DRC. Will he follow in President Obama’s footsteps with political sanctions towards high-ranked Congolese officials and support the opposition? The U.S have historically played a part in democratic processes in the Great Lakes region, and have various economic interests in DRC (e.g. mining). Or will Trump break with the tradition and give up US influence in the region altogether?
Okako Djamboleka, LSE MPA candidate, Democratic Republic of Congo and Belgium
The Trump election calls on all journalists, professors, politicians and most importantly citizens themselves to define radically new ways to apprehend politics. Just like any other social setting, ‘doing’ politics is subject to change. Relationships between politicians, voters and institutions are not static: they must be renewed to convey new messages in innovative ways. Issues and struggles evolve from one time period to the next. So must their responses, and the narratives used to present them to the electorate. We must learn to ‘speak’ politics differently. The complexity today lies in progressives’ ability to change their approach to politics to better understand and answer people’s needs, while ensuring that their answers do not fall into political extremes.
Théo Bourgery, LSE MPA candidate, France
As the president elect slowly reveals his trump cards, disclosing who will exert power in his cabinet, it seems he has taken the term ‘White House’ literally. Surrounding himself with Washington lobbyists and alt-right moguls who vowed to “destroy all of today’s establishment”, the reassurances we heard that once in the President’s shoes, Trump would become the face of a more enlightened cabinet are now being questioned. It is no secret that Trump is a divisive political novice, and that his four years in office will destabilise the already fragile diverse social order in the United States. While history is ‘bumpy’ and –as the American historian Vann Woodward noted in the 1950s— upheavals shocking the order of power and privilege are a “necessary therapy to the health of our democracies”, the Trump phenomenon is a sign that American democracy has caught a dangerous virus. Instead of a more progressive therapeutic solution to America’s divisive woes, it seems that what the president elect is offering is a more destructive electric shock therapy for the nation. How it will come out of that is hard to tell – hopefully it won’t go down the same path as Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In a more positive light, Trump’s presidency could act as a wake-up call, a way for people to realise how polarised and distant they are from one another. It could be an opportunity to unite behind a standpoint of tolerance, progress, and as Obama put it so well in 2012: hope. Let’s hope the latter scenario prevails.
Felix Keser, LSE MPA candidate, France / Netherlands
As a candidate and now as president-elect, Donald Trump has consistently bucked precedents. His lack of political experience, shifting positions and erratic behaviour mean no one knows what his actual policy positions will be. But, regardless of whether and how much he backs down from his rhetoric on the campaign trail, he’s already given plenty of clear signals that he does not feel constrained by democratic norms and that he does not give much deference to institutions. The American electorate decided to elect an authoritarian demagogue during a time when US institutions are particularly weak. Thanks to an obstructionist Republican-led Congress, the Supreme Court still has only eight judges on the bench. Given an incomplete Supreme Court and a Congress led by Trump’s party, what major check on executive power is left? It is uncertain about how much we can turn to journalism to hold the new administration to account. The media is undergoing a transition, as newspapers cut staff and cable networks fill airtime with polarised pundits in a misguided attempt at ‘balance’ that only provides a false equivalency. Against this backdrop, the role of civil society to hold government accountable has never been more critical. Given the surge in donations to Planned Parenthood (a large amount of which were given in honor of Vice President-Elect and anti-abortion advocate Mike Pence), it’s clear that many Americans understand this. The strength of our democracy depends on it.
Chelsea Phipps, LSE MPA candidate, U.S.A.
I don’t think my thoughts on the US election is going to be of any use to anyone. Actually, this is the kind of initiative that leads us to where we stand today. People privileged enough to be doing their masters in a top university trying to figure out why it came out as a surprise (to them) that the rational choice failed (them). How many Trump voters read public policy journals and blogs?
This election result came from a desperate need for change, a need to reconcile the US population. Politics is the process for making collective choices, but where is the collective dimension today? You want to know why people did not vote for Hilary? It is presumptuous to think that passive, a posteriori reactions could actually explain it. To understand, you need to get involved. To get involved you need to engage. Leave your screen / office / metropole and engage with the ‘real’ people. Not the pollsters, not the journalists, not the ones that think like you already. Facebook statuses don’t matter. It might make you feel better about your political engagement but it won’t stop anyone getting into office. I was asked to share what I thought about the elections. However for me this is the worst possible reaction. The ‘elite’ keeping setting itself apart from the rest.
So, the morning after the US election, I joined a political party in my home country in the run up to the next presidential elections in 2017. It’s a small step, but this is where progress starts, not by writing on the internet.
Aloïs Angebault, LSE / Sciences Po Dual Degree Programme, France
The 2016 elections brought about a whirlwind of emotions and greatly polarised both sides of the political spectrum. ‘Democracy’ has spoken, and evidently half of America is ok with a racist, misogynistic, inept individual to lead not only the Republican party, but the country. Progress has been set back greatly as fringe radicals are now emboldened to carry out their agenda with less care and more ferocity. We must hope that Trump can be checked by the legislative and judicial branches, or else we have ourselves a situation that does not bode well for the security of any country on earth.
Geoffrey Si, LSE MPA candidate, U.S.A.