Insight, Hindsight and Foresight: A discussion on the presidential election, pre- and post-November 8

Chrissie Cheng | Editor In Chief & Joshua D. Guilas | Staff Writer

In our November issue about Strange Things, we discussed the peculiar politics behind the 2016 presidential election––from the nomination of a candidate with no political background to a candidate who once held the title of First Lady. As the country’s been in large conversation with predictions and opinions this past year and month especially, Collide wanted to gain pre- and post-election day insight from our own APU community.

We interviewed Dr. Daniel Palm ,Chair and professor of the Department of History and Political Science, author and expert in subjects such as American Political Thought, Civil and Religious Liberties and Political Problems in Developing Nations, Dr. Jennifer Walsh, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of political science, author and expert in subjects such as California Politics, California Three Strikes Law and First Amendment “Establishment Clause” Jurisprudence and Cole Mizel, Student Government Association President, senior business major and psychology minor

PRE-ELECTION DAY

How important do you think this election is in determining the direction of this country?  

DP:  They’re all important. I’d say that this one is maybe especially important because we have a kind of a turning point––we’ve had eight years of President Obama and so there’s a big question down the road of what policies will be reinforced or whether we turn away from those in another direction…It’s not unusual for a party to hold the White House for two presidential terms. If it goes more than two terms, it means the country is significantly turning a particular direction, but what we see is a back-and-forth to the right for awhile and a back-and-forth to the left for awhile…It’s interesting to see if this country wants to go the party’s path or if they’ll choose another path.  

What’s the most significant change you’ve seen in American politics over the last decade or 20 years?

JW: The increased partisanship has really been the most influential change because it’s really shaped not only how our government functions, but really how citizens think with one another and relate to one another. When I was a first-time voter, which was a while ago now, it was not uncommon for Democrats and Republicans to really unify around common themes that matter to the average citizen…I think there are still common concerns, but rather than looking at the difference between how a Democrat and a Republican would address those concerns, we’ve really almost demonized and vilified the other side because they think differently than us or they have a different strategy for achieving the same goals. And that’s unfortunate because at the end of the day, we’re all Americans. We really ought to think about one another as partners.

What has this election season been like for you, especially as a young voter?

CM: This election season––more than any other I can recall––has caused me to reflect upon where I place my trust; is my confidence and hope more rooted in man or in God? A faith perspective, the reality that the tomb is empty, changes everything. Nothing will happen going forward that He isn’t actively allowing. We need to be reminded that He is God and we are not…We say we believe that God is in control, but do we actually believe it in our hearts? Is it actually internalized to affect how we think, speak and act? And if not, then why not?

What do you predict the outcome to be for this election?

JW: I think Clinton is going to win. The polls are tightening up, which is surprising to me this close to the election. But I do think in the end, she will come out ahead in the key states where she needs to win in order to get an electoral college victory.

DP: I think Hillary Clinton enjoys the broad support of large states considered progressive. Large urban populations. I think Hillary Clinton goes into this election with a virtual guarantee that she owns the electoral college votes of California, Illinois and New York…The interesting thing is that states do change their political character over time. All states have to be aware of the gradual changes that take shape in states, especially in medium-sized in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. That those states would lean highly to one party, that could gradually shift over time and that they would shift over to the next party. There are changes that are inevitable in American politics.

What do you believe should be the perspective on a Christian campus going into November?

CM: That God is not merely a class we take or a topic of chapel, a worldview or a book we read. He’s a person. And He’s a person who is very much present and fiercely passionate about loving us and reconciling us to Himself. God sees us right now. He’s making eye contact with us, and will not forget us.

JW: This is a good opportunity for Christians to remember what they do not know. They do not know the outcome of the election, they don’t know what that means for them personally, or for the country. But what they do know is that God’s sovereign. We know from human history that it doesn’t mean that He’s not willing to allow pain and suffering to come in. We’re not guaranteed any stress-free life––that’s not the life of a Christian. Regardless of who wins the election, Jesus said you’ve got troubles. Don’t worry about tomorrow’s troubles, worry about today; today has enough troubles of its own.

POST-ELECTION DAY

What are your thoughts on the result of the election?

DP:  I thought the polls around this country were pretty much in agreement that Secretary of State Clinton would win. I thought that she would probably win by not a lot, but some small margin of some electoral college votes, and it turns out that she did not. I guess the most interesting thing to me is how [pollsters] conduct their polling….So many of the polls were off by such a significantly large margin.

Why do you think the polling data predicted incorrectly?

JW: Polling data is dependent on people telling pollsters the truth. Not to say people weren’t being honest, they may’ve truly been undecided or changed their mind last minute, but I think there was enough social pressure to not be supportive for Trump. It’s possible that people didn’t want to admit they were voting for him, and that’s actually a thing we saw in the primaries, that Trump, what we call, overperformed his polling results in the primaries and to some extent, the models tried to anticipate that as well, that he would do better with certain voters than the polling data would otherwise suggest…He had a clear electoral college win and picked up states that haven’t voted for a Republican since the 1980s, so that was rather remarkable.

What do you think college students could learn from this election cycle?

DP: For a lot of students in college today, this is their first experience with how the electoral college works and a chance for students and everybody who pays attention to the election to remember the beauty of the electoral college…It reminds us [of] the importance of the power of the states in American politics. We live in a time that emphasizes democracy, but Founders wisely gave us an election system that reminds us that the states have an important role in our presidential politics as well as individuals.

For those disappointed with the outcome, how do you think they should move forward?

JW: The important thing to remember for this country is that our strength comes in the fact that our constitutional system does not hinge on any one person. It was intentionally designed this way. We rebelled from an all powerful king and set up a system with checks and balances and a diffusion of power to ensure that a single personality could not dominate the system. We have to remind ourselves even though a candidate won, it’s not the end-all-be-all, and they still have to work well with others in order to accomplish a portion of their agenda.

What do you hope the church learns from this election cycle?

JW: For the Evangelical Church, this is a moment to really examine themselves because in some cases, there was some hurt that was inflicted by leaders who came out unabashedly supportive of candidates who many voters thought did not represent them and did not represent virtuous behavior or Christian values. I think it’s an opportunity for the church to exercise some humility, for leaders especially, on how they represent the Gospel to people who are not inside the building, because that does ultimately make a difference if you have a kind of insensitivity to people’s true fears and needs. If that’s not handled well, there could be some negativity cast upon the Church and on the Gospel as a whole.

How should our campus of young voters press on from here?

CM: Let’s be “quick to listen and slow to speak” in the weeks ahead. We must seek to understand before we seek to be understood. The current presidential selection raises a lot of questions. What do these results mean for people of color, for women, for people with disabilities? Our God is the God of the marginalized, so while trusting God’s sovereignty and control, may we stand firm with those who fear for their future, willing to fight for of the Imago Dei, the image of God that exists equally across all of humankind.

As Christians who believe that Christ is sovereign, how can we encourage non-believers who are fearful of what’s to come?

JW: I listened to Clinton’s concession speech and she quoted Scripture…“Don’t grow weary of doing good, for in due time you will reap a season of righteousness.” In life, you’re going to have successes and defeats. The key is to persevere and continue to do good works as Scripture commands us to because in the end, that’s what’s going to make a difference. Whether it’s doing good in your own private sphere or inspiration to run for office, or even doing good in a broader level, each one of us has an opportunity to make a difference. And to quote John Kennedy, each person should try. I think for people who are fearful, it’s an opportunity to turn that fear into action, thoughtful action, appropriate civil action…We are a system where the average person can make a difference…We are a unique country for that reason, so I would encourage people to channel that fear into action and to do what you can to make this world a better place.

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