E. Smith, Reporter
Indescribable. Unprecedented. Crazy. These words have been used to describe this year’s Presidential election cycle. And Missouri Western’s own political science professors certainly have a lot to say about the election.
“It is unprecedented in so many ways,” said Dr. Melinda Kovács, who has been teaching political science for 13 years and has spent the past five at Missouri Western.
Kovács feels that the unusual match-up of Hillary Clinton, an establishment candidate who happens to be a woman, and Donald Trump, a candidate with no record of public service, sets this election apart – but her biggest concern is the level that political discourse has degraded to.
“I am convinced that once something enters public discourse, once it becomes possible to say certain things, to behave in certain ways in the course of a presidential election campaign… the next time a presidential election campaign rolls around, those things that were said, those actions that were undertaken, those behaviors that people participated in – all of those will seem plausible again,” Kovács said. “I think that the lasting impact of this campaign was to bring down – way down – the level at which politics is discussed, or what passes for politics.”
While some have questioned whether the media is to blame for this, Kovács compares that argument to the question of the chicken and the egg. She says the media’s role has not changed much, but the strategies of media use – even by the candidates – have grown increasingly unpleasant.
“When you have a presidential candidate who goes on Twitter rampages at 3 a.m., you are using social media in ways in which nobody thought you could or would if you were running for President,” Kovács said.
That candidate and his unusual rise to the top of the GOP ticket have sent shockwaves through the Republican party and brought out some of its darkest flaws. The general consensus among political scientists is that, unless the GOP changes its focus back to a more traditional, center-right conservative ideology, the party itself will become irrelevant and could disintegrate altogether.
“Demography is destiny,” said Dr. Jonathan Euchner, who has three decades of experience teaching political science. “I just get a sense the Republican party needs to lose another big national election before they start figuring out the stuff they’re saying is just not where this country is anymore.”
On the opposite end of that coin, one big story earlier in the campaign was the rise of the highly progressive Bernie Sanders and the support he garnered from millennials, which particularly intrigued Euchner.
“[Young people] didn’t care that he [Sanders] was their grandpa,” Euchner said. “What they liked about him is that he was saying stuff that politicians don’t say. It’s like a breath of fresh air. So young people just went bonkers over Sanders.”
Unfortunately for that demographic, Sanders lost to Clinton in the primaries. Euchner says that he feels most college students – who are largely against the political establishment – will “hold their nose” and vote for Clinton in the end anyway, because they don’t want Trump to win.
“At the end of the day, young people do not want Donald Trump to be president,” Euchner said. “They do not want a misogynist, a person that’s talking about dividing people… he’s just too far out there.”
So where does that leave us? Well, in a word, frustrated.
“What you hear time and time again is that people are sick of the elections,” said Dr. Edwin Taylor, who has spent the past six years teaching political science at Missouri Western. “That feeds into a sense of frustration with the two party system. I think that it feeds into a growing sense of frustration with government in general.”
However, Taylor encourages students to involve themselves in the political process, even if not at the national level.
“Democracy requires engagement in all of it,” Taylor said. “So yeah, you hate Trump, you hate Clinton, so what? Don’t vote on the presidential ballot. But pay attention and vote everywhere else, because that’s where it’s going to matter.”
So what can we expect in the coming weeks, and more importantly, the next four years? All three professors say signs point to Clinton winning the election. Whether or not anything will be accomplished during her administration will remain to be seen. One thing is for sure: whoever wins will have to be willing to compromise and work across the aisle to get things done.
“Americans are just sick and tired of all this dysfunction,” Euchner said. “Politics doesn’t work if you don’t compromise.”