The Election of 2016: Brief Reflections on this Deviant Cycle
This semester, I am taking a course on the U.S. Presidential Election; as a co-president of the Political Science Student Organization (PSSO) at UMBC-Shady Grove, I knew we would host an election related event and I wanted to have a better understanding of the process. In addition, I thought it would help me to understand the chaos of the Republican primaries, which we all watched cringing at almost every turn.
Now, mid-way through the semester, I realize that the election so feverishly covered by the media and the ‘deciding moments’ that are endlessly replayed and ‘analysed’ by the media (and everyone else) do not tell as much as one would think about how and why a candidate wins an election. It turns out the process is much more complicated and it is predictable with sufficient examination of patterns from past elections. However, there are deviations from patterns and this cycle provides a great example.
This current election cycle challenges some patterns, for instance we saw unconventional candidates on the Republican and Democratic sides rise to prominence in a political context where parties appeal broadly to a coalition of supporters. These candidates gained a lot of support in a political context that considers their positions to be extreme, too much ‘on-the-fringe’ for both sides—Donald Trump in the Republican Party and Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party.
The socialism purported by Sanders was criticized for being too far-left for the Democratic Party, yet he got overwhelming support, especially from younger Americans. Ultimately, it was not enough support and Hilary Clinton secured the Democratic nomination. Usually a candidate like Trump does not win the nomination of a major political party, he did not set up a strong field organization and he did not organize a fundraising base. Yet he won the Republican nomination, and amassed great public support in the process.
This cycle, beyond the drama and great dislike between the two major candidates, shows the great disaffection Americans have with the current two-party system. Although the full effects of this unusual cycle remain to be seen, there is now a large group of Americans who desperately want to see change in the system and their sheer number and collective disaffection raises some important questions. Will the Republican Party or the Democratic Party be able to absorb and represent the interests of these disaffected Americans? Will this force a reorganization of the parties? If so, will the parties survive a thorough reorganization?
Students at USG, join PSSO on Tuesday, November 8th from 7-10pm in the Green Grove Cafe to learn about the electoral process, the candidates, and see who will win.
Don’t Forget to Vote!