More than 200 people, many sitting on the floor to fit into the space, assembled Wednesday at the Ford School of Public Policy to listen to a panel of five professors and politicians analyze the results of the election and give projections on how future policy will be affected by President-elect Donald Trump.
The panel also answered audience questions on the social implications of Trump’s rhetoric and reasons for the election’s outcome.
Ron Weiser, former U.S. Ambassador and newly elected member of the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents, began his speech by saying he was just as shocked by Trump’s victory as everyone else. As a Republican on campus, he said he felt he was viewed in a different light by students.
“Yes, I’m a Republican, and yes, quite often on campus I feel unwelcome,” Weiser said. “I was surprised with the outcome, as most of the people in this room were.”
According to a Michigan Daily poll, 19 percent of students identify as Republican.
Speaking to the months to come, Weiser said he thinks there are positive outcomes of a Trump presidency. He added that he has seen a lot of political campaigns, and candidates say things that they don’t usually follow through on.
Following his remarks, multiple students directed questions toward Weiser regarding Trump’s controversial rhetoric throughout his campaign. Weiser said he had been accused of “Trumpism” in the past, adding that he finds those views despicable. Clarifying his views, Weiser said he supports Trump's economic policies but does not agree with all of his rhetoric.
“We all make choices, and I’m an economic conservative and I think that some of the things that I believe in are fundamental, and I don’t believe that they’re being promoted in order to take advantage of the disadvantaged,” Weiser said. “I spent most of my life trying to help the disadvantaged, not take advantage of them.”
Former U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a panelist, said he was optimistic that the country will come together and work for the greater good of the people. He said the United States is still the greatest nation in the world and systems like the peaceful transfer of power between the president and his successor are what make it so prosperous.
“I am hopeful that we will find that those will not be thrown out the window, although Trump has said that he will do away with most of those things,” Dingell said.
The rest of the panel was not as optimistic, with all three female panelists noting citizen frustration as a driving force of Trump’s campaign and election win.
Political Science Prof. Mara Ostfeld, who was part of a research team that analyzed exit polls Tuesday, discussed three trends of the election: female voters, white male voters and Latino/African-American voters. She said 40 percent of white voters, according to the polls, felt that minorities are more privileged than white Americans, marked by a trend of white men shifting away from the Democratic Party.
Ostfeld said she believed that the race angle of these results is notable in analyzing the social identities and types of meaning that the parties are conjuring.
“It is important to contextualize in the Trump campaign that when it started immigration policy was the only policy on his website,” she said.
Ostfeld noted Florida, which went to Trump, was also a surprise in the polls, as analysts thought Democrats had a strong hold over the state due to its Latino voters. She added that, though Cubans moved away from the Republican Party in previous elections, this year was a dramatic shift back.
Public Policy Prof. Betsey Stevenson, shifting from discussing poll results to policies, noted stagnant wages as the motivation behind citizens looking for a difference in voting for Trump. However, she said she was not prepared to speak on Trump’s platform, as she was expecting a Clinton win and thought his policy plans were weak.
“I can tell you it’s not for lack of studying that I don't know the Trump policy platform very well,” she said.
Stevenson added that because Obama focused on mostly partisan Democratic policy, there is a lot that can be undone by Trump. However, she said she thinks Trump is a big talker and likes to tell stories to the American people, but questioned whether he would follow through.
Building on Stevenson’s comments, Public Policy Prof. Marina Whitman discussed international trade policy and said there is a lot of asymmetry in a president's power with respect to trade issues. As a result, she said Trump could tear up trade agreements with little concession from the other branches of government. He has openly criticized NAFTA throughout his campaign. However, Whitman noted that she did not believe he could totally alter all trade agreements.
“Will he tear up NAFTA? I don’t think that omelets can be converted back into eggs,” Whitman said.
Rackham student Harry Wolberg, an attendee, said he was disappointed by the results of the election and thought that the results did not follow a logical process.
“I liked that it was a diverse panel,” he said. “I want to hear people talk more about policies that are going to be involved in the next administration. So there were a lot of questions devoted to that and it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen in the future, but I want to see how both sides respond to using evidence-based research for foreign policy.”