Political science professors say Trump's election was surprising in FAC Forum

Written by: 
Zoe Rounesville

Both students and teachers gathered together to hear BYU-Hawaii’s political science professors discuss the implications of the 2016 Presidential Election in an FAC Forum on Thursday, November 7.

Troy Smith, Brian Houghton, and Randall Blimes, all professors of the Political Science Department, took the stage of the Little Theater to deliberate what happened and what to expect.

Smith began the discussion raising a disputable question: Which political party is elitist, and which is democratic? Smith said the Democratic Party has exponentially become elitist, and Republicans over time have become more democratic.

Smith said Democrats used a number of tactics and stratagems during the election allowing elite Democrats to hold excessive influence and power over the party. He also brought up the WikiLeaks controversy over Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and the potential corruption lying within the Clinton Campaign. At the same time, Smith acknowledged how the Republican Party had been unethical in allowing Donald Trump to run for president, considering Trump’s past as a registered Democrat.

“No Republican candidate attacked Trump,” said Smith. “That’s part of the reason he was successful at the beginning. They didn’t want to come across as the ‘negative person’ or the ‘bad person.’ That was problematic.”

Advertising and donations to campaigns don’t play as vital of a role in elections as most Americans think, said Smith. He brought up how Clinton spent over $609 million campaigning, while Trump spent less than half of that.

Smith closed his lecture with a hypothesis of Donald Trump’s win. He said it was built-up resentment among middle-class white voters at the government for a lack of decision-making, resources, and respect. “They have developed a resentment towards illegal immigrants, towards elites, and towards certain minorities,” he said.

Houghton continued the discussion by analyzing the designs both of the political candidates promised voters once they took office. “If I was going to give a grade to Hillary and to Donald, I would give her an A- because you really know exactly what she is recommending in detail, whereas Trump is very ambiguous. You just really don’t know, even when you read what he says. He says, ‘I’ll make it great again and I’ll increase jobs.’ But the real question is: how? What is the process and what are the decisions that need to be made?”

However, Houghton did say Trump has called for specific changes at times such as renegotiating NAFTA, withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, becoming more aggressive with China, replacing Obamacare, and security screening of refugees.

Blimes closed the discussion by bringing up the importance of voting in an election. He put the effect of one person’s vote into mathematical terms, and created a logical argument as to why each person’s vote counts.

“The likelihood of you casting the deciding vote in Minnesota is 1 in 10 million… about the same likelihood of you getting attacked by a shark,” Blimes said. “But I see a lot more people worried about getting attacked by a shark than casting the deciding vote.”

Blimes continued with his argument, “Let’s say if your preferred candidate wins, that candidate will have a benefit of at least $100 over his or her term, which means $25 per year. Survey data shows pretty strongly that when people vote in the United States, they vote over what they think will be good for the country, and not just themselves. If your candidate wins, that is a gain of 30 billion dollars, which means that in Minnesota, where your chance of casting the deciding vote is 1 in 10 million, your excepted gain is $3,000.”

“In Colorado, where the chance of the casting the deciding vote is 1 in 1 million, your expected gain is $30,000. At least in competitive states, people didn't take into account the fact that the probability of being the deciding vote is very low, but the benefit of you being the deciding vote is huge,” Blimes concluded.

The forum ended with a short Q&A session regarding common questions citizens had about Donald Trump’s new presidency. The overall consensus was that there would be many questions remaining unanswered until President Trump takes office.

Date Published: 
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Last Edited: 
Wednesday, November 16, 2016