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US Elections: comment and analysis

US Election: Comment and analysis

Published on: 9 November 2016

Following the result of the US election, our experts give their views on the US election and what Trump’s win means.

Newcastle University experts give their views on the US election

Dr Ben Houston, Senior Lecturer in Modern US History:

"My initial thoughts are that a generation of progressive endeavors are directly under threat. I fret about Obamacare and climate change in particular.

"I think that the media's attention to the white working-class backlash is important in terms of voter turnout and mobilisation, disgust at politics as usual etc. But I also think it's papering over the racial dimensions of this victory. In fact, Trump won a majority of white voters with ALL income levels, and in some of the decisive swing states, the margin of victory was far smaller than the alteration in voter numbers produced by the recent changes in the Voting Rights Act and the varied and insidious efforts to suppress voting registration by Republicans--which are usually targeting minorities.

"In the meantime, Twitter is reporting a flood of racist and ethnic attacks across the country, and the jubilant neo-white supremacy movement in the US will accelerate their growth, as they did under Obama.

"Anybody who says they know what lies next is lying--much depends on how the Republicans cohere after the dissension over Trump and now holding control over all levels of federal government. I wonder who is going to stand up to Trump when he realises that governing is far different than campaigning, and that the range of contradictory and indeed impossible promises he made on the trail can't actually happen. What that means for Democrats and Trump's newly politicised base is a separate question, but I wonder if they will have any power to affect any change at that point."

Alarming potential for the US to backtrack on climate change

Chris Kilsby, Professor of Hydrology and Climate Change

"Despite Trump's promise to cancel the US involvement in the Paris agreement on climate change, this would not be immediately possible as Obama ratified the agreement in September, and it would take new legislation to reverse.

"Nonetheless, there is alarming potential for the US to backtrack, which is very disappointing as it has taken decades for them to catch up with the responsibilities of a leading nation. Their example would obviously carry a great deal of weight internationally."


Peter Hopkins, Professor of Social and Political Geography

"Trump’s successful campaign to be elected US President represents a big backwards step in the struggle for gender equality.

"His attitudes towards - and treatment of – women including his mocking counter-claims of sexual harassment and groping, and disapproval of breastfeeding coupled with his arrogant finger-waving masculinity indicate the depth and strength of his sexist attitudes. His election emboldens the need for a strong feminist movement as women continue to be marginalised and objectified."


Stephen Hughes - Professor of International Organisations at Newcastle University Business School

"There is considerable uncertainty over the future direction of US foreign policy and its support for global trade.

"The US, economically and politically, has underwritten the development of global trade since the end of Second World War. It has demonstrated its economic strength by promoting its value to the development of other economies – European, Asian, South American factories export to American markets

"Placing 45% tariffs on Chinese imports, rejecting and renegotiating trade deals as Trump as threatened, will not create jobs for the millions of American workers who voted for him, it will simply push the world into a recession. The deep anger and pessimism that gave rise to Trump and Brexit may becoming entrenched rather than addressed

"The nationalist rhetoric of Trump could start a tariff war and threaten the functioning and stability of global markets and deepen the stagnation in global demand. The rust belt of Midwest USA who voted for Trump will simply continue to rust

"The shadow of the 1930’s is more apparent now than it was in 2008 when the global institutions that the US helped set up and support, and is now in danger of rejecting, helped pull the world back from the brink of depression. They appear to be back at the brink."

US flag
The stars and stripes

The Left has failed

Dr Sara Maioli, Lecturer in Economics at Newcastle University Business School:

"I am not surprised about Trump's victory, if anything the shock result of the Brexit referendum taught me something. The UK and the US have something in common: they are both countries were the principles of neoliberalism have been applied most strongly.

"This is a result that has been built over the last few decades. Behind the facade of economic growth that both countries enjoyed for years, the establishment ruling these countries have not noticed all those who were remaining behind. Or if they noticed, they just applied the same laissez-faire principle that economic growth would have ultimately taken care of them by itself. But when the squeeze started to bite the middle class, the tide of discontent has started to rise. 

"Today's result is also the final declaration that the Left has failed big time. A failure due to being out of touch with the working class, which lost its political representation. This is an effect of neoliberalism too: the shift of the Left towards traditionally right-wing policies. Globalisation and technological progress are all the big culprits that we keep hearing about.

"But what about the failure of politics, the lack of serious industrial policies, the financialisation of the economies (helped by central banks) to the detriment of productive investment, the lack of adequate fiscal policy responses on one side to protect the losers and on the other to reduce the staggering inequality? Probably inequality is something that we should all pay more attention to. It is still not debated enough.

"Propping up private debts to keep consumption going will lead to the next crisis, as many economists expect. We are running out of time. Next year we will probably see the same shocking result in France with Marine Le Pen winning the elections.

"So, today is a dramatic warning to the EU too: either the European establishment quickly learn the lessons or they will be bound to follow the same wiping out as in the US."

The stars and stripes over an image of the USA

Profound disquiet

Dr Alistair Clark, Senior Lecturer in Politics:

"The election of Donald Trump is yet another shock to the liberal democratic political order. After Brexit, this seems like a political order whose legitimacy is being questioned like never before. It certainly seems out of touch with what many voters have wanted.

"These voters are beginning to coalesce into significant electoral coalitions, sparked into being by particular leaders or causes. There will be profound disquiet around the world today as countries try to work out what this result means for them, and how they should react.

"Trump's success is all the more remarkable because it looks like the Republican Party that he has nominally represented will also control the House and the Senate. Assuming he can get leaders there to agree with what he wants to do, he is potentially more powerful than Obama, who has faced a Congress of a different political persuasion which has blocked many of his initiatives. He will also be the President who nominates someone to fill the vacant Supreme Court position left empty by Justice Scalia's passing earlier this year."

Read more here.


Dr James Bilsland, University Teacher in Politics:

"The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States has generated headlines around the world. The general consensus is that this is a result of historic significance. Indeed, during his acceptance speech the new president elect described his as “a very, very historic victory”. In many ways this is understandable. The polls had Clinton in the lead. However, the polls were wrong. Just as they had been with the EU referendum. Trump once again defied the experts. He was not expected to win the primaries and he was not expected to win the presidential election."

Read more here:


Joshua Jowitt, Teaching Fellow in Newcastle University Law School:

"It should be pointed out that – although winning the majority of the votes available in the Electoral College – Mr Trump did not win the popular vote. The latest figures indicate that this honour went to Hillary Clinton who, at the time of writing, won almost 300,000 more votes than her rival.

"Whilst this may seem like an unjustifiable oddity, it is not the first time that the person who gained the most votes failed to secure the presidency – most recently, George W Bush gained fewer votes than Al Gore in 2000, yet took the White House. The perceived unfairness of this result is the driving force behind the protests currently taking place across the country – protests which have sadly turned violent in Oregon, leading the police to declare a riot."


Read more here:  


Dr Joan Harvey, senior lecturer at the School of Psychology:

"Many of us stayed up half the night, waiting to see who would become the next president of the USA. Somehow, the UK, like most of Europe, seemed to see things differently than the US in terms of the relative merits and demerits of the two main candidates.

"Now, we can see that Donald Trump is saying things quite differently to the rhetoric used at the time, being pleasant about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Thus it would seem to have been one sort of rhetoric for the run-up to the election, and another afterwards. 

"There are a lot of levels of analysis we can use to understand the campaigns, for example in transactional analysis terms there was a lot of child-adult interaction, even child-child at some times. Hillary was clearly not used to dealing with child-like yah-boo-sucks responses from her opponent. By being like that, and by upping the rhetoric on policies to make the baying crowds happy, it made it quite impossible for her to deal with this. So Donald in effect took control of the debates at all levels, leaving her in response mode most of the time.

"He was also able to ride out many issues of misogyny, the impending court cases on his businesses, on the “I’m only human, take it or leave it” approach, and his preparedness to go straight into issues too fragile for most politicians to deal with, all contributed to people who felt unlistened to being prepared to endorse him.

"The vote can be seen along the lines of demographics, but also along the lines of relative powerlessness and the feeling that politics just drives along ignoring most people. If you feel alienated in whatever way, someone brash enough to say things no-one else would say might just appeal to you."






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