University News

Blyth, Schiller dissect results of election

Professors link rise of Trump to global populist wave, call for increased engagement in politics

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, November 10, 2016

In the wake of last night’s electoral surprise, Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs and Chair of the Political Science Department Wendy Schiller and Professor of Political Economy and Political Science and International and Public Affairs Mark Blyth gave a post-mortem at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, offering potential explanations for the success of President-Elect Donald Trump and their ideas on what a Trump administration might look like early on.

“I’m a little surprised at the outcome,” Schiller said. “But I’m not stunned.” She added that an inability to call the state of Virginia early in the night made it obvious that it was going to be a challenging evening for former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “Twenty-four years of vitriol and attacks can become a liability that is more difficult to overcome than a lot of people thought,” Schiller added.

“Well, that wasn’t surprising at all,” Blyth said, adding that he had predicted a Trump victory as far back as May. Blyth said he also predicted that Britain would vote to leave the European Union in June. “It’s not because I’ve made a pact with Satan to see the future,” Blyth said. “It’s pretty obvious when you think about things in a more global way.”

Blyth presented a more international perspective on Trump’s triumph, pointing to trends of globalization and economic liberalization as precursors to his rise. He added that the success of a populist candidate like Trump could be predicted based on left-wing parties’ loss of power in Western Europe and the simultaneous rise of right-wing European parties like the National Front in France.

“The people have decided to give their elites notice that ‘We’ve had enough,’” Blyth said. “People have begun to realize that huge amounts of money have been generated by the global economy, but most of it’s gone to a tiny fraction of the population.”

Even after more than a year of a drawn-out electoral contest, it’s difficult to imagine with certainty what Trump might look to accomplish once in office.

“Republicans will fall in line, but it is not at all clear how much they will support what he wants to do,” Schiller said. She added that an early willingness to invest in infrastructure spending may isolate Trump from the Freedom Caucus of the Republican Party. “He’s going to want to do things, and he’s not going to want to wait for Congress to appropriate money,” Schiller said, adding, “By the time you get to February or March, things might go off the rails.”

Schiller also offered what she admitted to be an unpopular opinion: An “unpredictable president with respect to the use of force is not necessarily a horrible thing.” Drawing parallels to President Ronald Reagan, Schiller said that if leaders around the world believe that “he might just be crazy enough to do something,” then, “that may not always be a terrible thing.”

Unfortunately for Democrats, Trump’s election will undoubtedly result in efforts to repeal legislation and other policies pushed by the Obama administration, Blyth said. “Obamacare and Dodd-Frank are gone,” he added. Blyth also predicted that tax cuts enacted by the Trump administration would primarily be focused on the “overwhelmingly well off.”

Concerning foreign policy, Blyth appeared more than willing to give someone else a shot at proposing solutions to the various disputes and conflicts currently embroiling the country. “The neoliberal yet interventionist Democrats have been an absolute disaster,” Blyth said, pointing to apparent policy failures in the use of drone strikes in Iraq and continued antagonization of some foreign actors. “They’ve been incredibly hostile to Russia,” he added.

In closing her address, Schiller pivoted to the many Brown students in the audience, generally understood to take more liberal positions than the average election participant. “If it’s your first major campaign, and you were on the Clinton side, it can be rather devastating to suffer this loss,” Schiller said.

“But you have to stay engaged,” Schiller said. “Don’t give up on the political venue because the idea is not to crawl away and say, ‘Woe is us,’” she added. “You pick yourself up, get back out there and keep fighting for what you believe in.”