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Post-election debrief: Our experts answer all your questions

On November 21 five political scientists from U of T Scarborough held a post-election debrief where they covered a variety of topics relating to the recent U.S. presidential election. 

The event, which was steamed Live on Facebook, invited students and member of the community ask questions about the issues that mattered to them the most about the election.

The following are questions from audience members and those who followed the event online that they couldn’t be answered during the event due to time constraints.


Saravanan SivarajahBased off the results of the election the GOP has a mandate. Is it possible for the GOP to reorient themselves more towards the centre in a post-Trump era?

Renan Levine: Good question. The way I would answer this question is to ponder whether the GOP would have any incentive to move towards the centre. If history is any guide and Trump decides to govern from the centre, the GOP will follow him throughout the new President's honeymoon period which will last into the summer or early fall 2017. After that, many GOP elected officials who were elected long before Trump and hope to have political careers long after Trump returns to Manhattan, will have little incentive to move towards the centre since their own impulses and their constituents will lead them more towards the right.


Manal S. Ali: Is there a possibility for impeachment? I've been wondering since Allan Lichtman made this prediction...

Renan Levine: Impeachment is extremely unlikely. Impeachment is explicitly for high crimes and misdemeanors, but the Republicans would be unwilling to go that route unless the crimes are so egregious that their own supporters demand action. The impeachment possibility I would imagine is a Rob Ford-like scenario where dysfunction becomes the White House norm and President Trump is blatantly engaging in unethical foreign private-business wheeling-and-dealing from the West Wing. 


Christine Cochrane: Hi Dad and experts. I’m watching wondering about the children born from illegal immigrants. Will they still be able to attend school?

Renan Levine: Good question. Children born to illegal immigrants in the US are, like all babies born in the USA, American citizens. While some politicians would like to see this changed, this policy is in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, and these politicians would need to amend the Constitution to change the policy. Doing so would be very difficult because a Constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress (which would require significant support from Democrats) and then must be ratified by three-fourths of the fifty state legislatures. 

The big controversy is over about 580,000 children who entered the country with their parents before the age of 16. President Obama announced a policy in 2012 that will allow these children to be exempt from deportation and be eligible for renewable two-year work permits. As a result, these people can attend school or work. However, President-elect Trump can cancel this policy immediately after he becomes President in January. As a result, some schools have made it clear that these children will still be able to attend without fear, but they will not be able to legally work when they graduate and it is possible that the government will compel the schools to share information with them about which students lack documentation to live in the USA in order to deport them.


André Blais: Question for Chris Cochrane: Why do you think Hillary Clinton lost? Is it normal for there to be so many protests just after an election? Will Trump be dealing with court proceedings while President? How concerned should we be with the types of people Trump is surrounding himself with? Why does he think Kellie Leitch doesn't have a chance in Canada?

Chris Cochrane: My own view is that Clinton lost because this was a "change election” and she is among the most establishment candidates imaginable.  I thought she still had a good chance of winning, given some of her strengths and Trump’s glaring weaknesses. In the end, his supporters were more motivated than hers.  

It is not normal for protests like this to break out after an election.  It is not surprising because of the state of polarization in US politics.  Over at least the past half-century, Democrats have become increasingly hostile to the Republican party, and Republican increasingly hostile to the Democratic party.  It’s not healthy.  

I’m not sure if Trump will be dealing with court proceedings.  It’s ironic that the threat of Clinton being mired in court proceedings was perceived as a real barrier to her potential effectiveness as president, and yet few seem to care about Trump’s legal problems.  The only explanation that I can think of is the change dynamic — a lot of people who wanted change weren’t too concerned how they got it.  

I don’t know too much about these people, to be honest.  

I don’t think Kellie Leitch will win, but she has a chance.  People are falling into the trap of attacking her motives rather than her proposal, which is understandable but I think is a mistake for her opponents.  I agree that she is proposing a Canadian values test in order to appeal to people who are uncomfortable with immigrants in general, or at least certain groups of immigrants, especially Muslims.  I suspect this, among reasons, because she is shouting her values test from the rooftops in the middle of a leadership race, and because she offers no specifics about what those values might look like or how this plan could be implemented successfully.  She’s also very smart, which raises the question of why an intelligent person would propose such a manifestly unworkable and ineffective plan?  Last but not least, Leitch unrolled the “barbaric cultural practices tip line” in the last election, which was widely and rightly perceived as an insult to Muslim Canadians.   

I suspect everyone agrees that values should matter.  But most people also know what Leitch is up to when she talks about this in the way that she does.  It’s unbecoming of a leader, in my opinion.  I hope Conservatives see through it.


@JossyMathias: Was Trump’s victory, in part, attributable to the overuse of labels like “racist” and “misogynist”? Do you believe the media has done more harm than good during the election?

Chris Cochrane:  I think these labels are sometimes overused and it’s to our detriment as a society.  I don’t think overusing these labels weakens racism; I think it emboldens it and expands its catchment area.  In particular, I think we need to distinguish the discomfort that people feel about the unfamiliar, which is widespread, natural, and curable, from the hateful racism that plays on this discomfort.  At the same time, too many people are burying their heads in the sand and denying that this discomfort exists, that it matters, and that it can have life-and-death consequences.  That said, I don’t think the use of these labels figured too prominently in Trump’s victory.  As for the media, the only part that concerns me are the instances where people seem not able to distinguish fact from fiction, let alone fact from opinion. We have a society dominated by information flow.  We need to be equipped with the tools to protect ourselves from manipulation.  The remarkable increase in our capacity to receive information about everything, coupled with a simultaneous decline of liberal arts education, is, in my opinion, a major threat to free countries everywhere.  

Alison Braley-Rattai: ‎Like Prof. Cochrane, I don't believe such labels had much to do with Trumps' victory, even if  his more inflammatory rhetoric has emboldened those with such sentiments. We now have to walk a fine line. On one hand, labeling all his supporters as bigots, is counterproductive and likely inaccurate. On the other hand, we don't want to be apologists for an administration that seems poised to do some very undemocratic things.  

Renan Levine: Good questions! Let me start with the second one: the main evidence that the media helped Mr. Trump is the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and no one got more free publicity than Mr. Trump during the Republican primaries. During the general election campaign this fall, it is hard to argue that the media attention to Mr. Trump helped him as his campaign lurched from one scandal to another. But, there are some who argue that the personal attacks on Mr. Trump failed to persuade many voters who found his take-charge attitude and promises of major policy changes attractive - and worth overlooking his personal foibles.


Iman Mounib: Is there a possibility that the Paris agreement won’t end up like the Kyoto protocol? Is there any hope that when the republicans drop out of the agreement other states will stay committed despite this making goal they agreed to harder to reach without the US?

Matthew Hoffmann: The loss of US leadership will be a problem to be sure. However, the structure of the Paris Agreement is better suited to adapt to a US withdrawal than the Kyoto Protocol ever was. The Paris Agreement does not contain collective measures, it is instead based on individual state commitments, what is called a pledge and review system. This makes it more resilient. However, it also means that other states in the system will need to redouble their efforts because US leadership and US funding was a driving force behind achieving the Paris Agreement and both of those will be lost in the new Administration.

Aisha Ahmad: I agree with Professor Hoffmann that the Paris Agreement is more resilient than the Kyoto Protocol, and it is possible to develop strategies to deal with the fact that the United States will not be participating in this essential global effort. Nonetheless, remember that forging international agreements is very challenging work, and the Paris Accords was the most critical global initiative since the United Nations was forged at the end of the Second World War.

The fact that 190 different countries, rich and poor, all came to a mutually beneficial agreement on how to tackle climate change was a remarkable feat. For Trump to say that he’s going to “tear up” the agreement, without any sense of the science that drove this massive global effort, signals that he has no sense of what is at stake. It also shows that he doesn’t understand how to engage in cooperative international relations, which undermines the stability of the entire system. The post-1945 liberal international order has depended on cooperation and leadership from the United States, as a dominant power in our world. We have now entered an era of hegemonic transition, which is characterized by extreme uncertainty and unpredictability. Staying the course on global climate change policy is essential for the survival of our planet, but we should prepare to weather the storm in the international system that is to come.


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