Political Science Professor Mark Brewer provided perspective on the 2016 American presidential election last Wednesday, Oct. 19, in the Donald P. Corbett Business Building at the University of Maine.
After Brewer was introduced, he welcomed the crowd that gathered in the lecture hall to hear him speak.
“I had a hard time coming up with at least the broad parameters of what I wanted to talk about, which usually doesn’t happen, but I did have a hard time this time because there’s so much going on with this election,” Brewer started.
He broke the speech up into three sections; “How did we get to Hillary Clinton?”, “How did we get to Donald Trump?” and “Where do we go from here?”
How did we get to Clinton?
Election season began with 23 candidates for president — six Democrats and 17 Republicans. Brewer said that he believed Clinton was a lock until he realized Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders was a serious challenger.
Brewer gave three reasons why Clinton became a nominee.
“One, her campaign was much better organized than Sanders. Two, she did much better with traditional Democrats and other traditional Democratic groups. And three, the Democratic Republic had their thumb down on the scale for Clinton,” he said.
Brewer believes the third reason is what upsets Sanders supporters the most, but agrees that the Democratic Party should have a nominee that they favor.
How did we get to Trump?
Of the 17 Republicans that ran, Brewer described Trump as the bottom of the barrel of challengers. Brewer explained why he believes Trump ended up being the nominee.
“Nobody took him seriously until it was too late. He wasn’t a threat to anyone, they thought of him as a joke that they didn’t have to worry about,” Brewer said.
“Nobody put any resources into stopping him. Another reason is because the media loves him, he knows how to talk to an audience and a crowd.“
Brewer described the two most important reasons why he believes Trump became the nominee, saying Trump was the most effective voice on the Republican side with Sanders as his counterpart and that he was able to tap into real resentment, animosity and fear in the American people.
In Brewer’s eyes, American society is becoming more accepting and diverse, but Trump draws his support from voters who feel vulnerable.
“There’s about 60-70% of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage,” Brewer explained. “So there’s still about 35% of people who disagree and feel backed into a corner. Trump can tap into that.”
Where do we go from here?
“I think there’s a lot of attention, justifiably so, wondering if our representative democracy is under threat,” Brewer speculates. “I don’t think so, I hope I’m right. I know there’s a lot of concern of what might happen given the certain outcomes on Election Day, but I’m not ready to go there yet. I’m not overly concerned about that yet.”
Brewer also spoke about where he thinks the parties will go.
“There are still a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters who are very disgruntled and still very undecided, at least that’s what they tell pollsters, on who they’re going to vote for on Election Day. But, they’re not just going to sit home and not vote,” Brewer said.
How the Democratic Party will address this issue is dependent on if they win or lose in November. If Clinton wins, it’s an easier problem to address.
“The Democrats are not without challenge, but I think they’re better equipped to handle the storm that they’re facing,” Brewer expresses.
The Republicans have made Brewer question how they will handle these different outcomes.
“If Trump wins, the Republican Party under Trump will look very different than what we’ve seen the Republican Party ever before. It will be presumably anti-free trade, relatively authoritarian, and maybe more loose with civil liberty protections. Those are significant chunks of the Republican Party,” Brewer said.
What if Trump loses? Brewer speculates that it’s a possibility that the party could split, but doesn’t believe that will happen.
Brewer ended the talk with the opportunity for audience members to share speculations and ask questions. One member of the audience asked him his opinion on why people support Trump.
“I think some of it has to do with the high level of anxiety and fear that a significant chunk of the American Republic has. I read a lot of social psychology and there’s some work in psychology showing that Americans have become much more afraid with much less reason in a post 9/11 world. That doesn’t apply to just security, it applies to the entire spectrum, and if that’s true, that would help explain someone like Trump.”
Brewer has written numerous books, articles, and academic journals. If you are interested in viewing his publications, you can visit the UMaine website at umaine.edu and search for Mark Brewer.