Shyama Venkateswar Distinguished Lecturer, Hunter College and Director, Public Policy Program, Roosevelt House

Posted on November 11, 2016 · Posted in Frank Friday

The bitterly fought 2016 presidential election campaign ended with Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory over Hillary Clinton, which highlighted a deeply divided nation along race, class, and gender lines. It was the United States’ version of the Brexit vote: various analyses of the unexpected outcome have pointed to the support that Trump received from rural, white working-class voters who have been affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs outsourced to other countries, and who have been left behind by the country’s cultural and demographic shifts. With his unorthodox campaign, Trump tapped into what many have referred to as “a white populist rage.” Casting himself as an outsider to the insular world of Washington, D.C., his electoral strategy focused on immigrants and trade deals, which resonated with voters in districts where “the coal mines are gone, the steel mills are closed, the drugs are rampant, the towns are decimated and everywhere you look depression, despair, fear.“

The Democratic Party, some have argued, was out of touch with the alienation white working-class voters felt which transcended gender lines. Even though 94 percent of black women and 68 percent of Hispanic or Latino female voters chose Hillary Clinton, an astounding 53 percent of all white female voters – who were thought to be firmly in Hillary Clinton’s camp – chose Trump. Adding to the challenge of Clinton not being able to connect with a segment of the white vote is the fact that there are 868 fewer voting stations in the country as a result of the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision. Clinton’s losses in key states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan made it impossible for her to secure a path towards the requisite 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.

Trump has made building a wall on our southern border, deporting illegal immigrants, requiring Muslims to be registered on a database, rolling back LGBTQ rights, and canceling the Paris Climate accord key elements of his campaign promises. Even as anti-Trump protests take shape across the country, the ACLU has warned that his campaign promises are unconstitutional and that the civil liberties organization would see him in court were he to follow through on these actions.

Trump’s promise to focus on infrastructure – to build roads, highways, bridges and hospitals – is a start towards an economic plan which might help give much-needed momentum to the still struggling economy. However, with the current political polarization – which has only increased following his victory – he has his work cut out for him to bring the country together. Yet, despite the current national mood, one thing is clear in the post-election landscape: Americans will fight fiercely to defend civil liberties, to uphold Constitutional protections, and to maintain the rule of law. Tolerance, inclusion and justice are values that Americans have been proud of, and a Trump presidency is not going to easily divert those commitments.

The writing and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute or Hunter College.