Lebanese American University


Whither America?

Assessing the results of Super Tuesday with assistant professor of political science/international relations Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss.

On Tuesday, March 1, fifteen American states held primary elections as part of the United States’ electoral season, on a day known as Super Tuesday. LAU’s own assistant professor of political science/international relations Jennifer Skulte-Ouaiss tells us about the primaries’ historic results.

What was your first reaction when you saw the results on Wednesday morning?

A real disappointment that [Donald] Trump has done so well across so many different types of states – large, small, conservative, liberal … If anyone still had a doubt, now they can’t deny that Trump has wide appeal to a great number of Americans.  In terms of Hillary [Clinton], the results further consolidate her lead but the fact that Bernie Sanders won four states is really interesting and while it is highly doubtful that he will win the Democratic nomination, he is forcing Hillary to incorporate a lot of ideas from the left than she would have otherwise.

What kind of ideas does Trump actually represent?

He is a populist and a fascist. In populism, you play on the concerns of the general population without articulating how you’re going to actually solve problems. In some ways Bernie Sanders is a populist as well.  But it is no longer hysterical to use the word “fascist” to describe Trump because of the militancy with which he is scapegoating a number of different groups in American society, in a coded language that is white supremacist in nature.

How is the Trump phenomenon possible, in a country that so recently seemed to be becoming more and more liberal on key issues, such as racism and gay marriage?

Among other factors, such as the fact that the country was already highly polarized before Trump came along, it is important to emphasize the lasting economic malaise.  While there are many indicators that the economy is improving, the perception and indeed reality of a lot of Americans is that they haven’t seen their wages go up in 20 years, and that they have lost net worth since the global economic meltdown of 2008. Some politicians, like Sanders, are saying “let’s see how we can change this.” Others, like Trump, are taking advantage of the situation and saying, “it’s not your fault, it’s not the fault of the banks, it’s the fault of the brown people who are taking away your jobs and opportunities, and on top of that there are these Muslims who are waiting to conquer you.”

Given all this, who do you think will win the general election in November?

I think it will be Hillary Clinton. In a U.S. presidential election, it is really important to win delegates from key states, and Hillary is in a strong position to do so. In this election, the likelihood is that minorities will not vote for Trump, while the white demographic is declining (and not all white voters will vote for him either). Hillary would really have to do something drastic to lose the election.

That being said, in those states where the white establishment is really afraid of losing control, they have enacted the strongest barriers to voting access that we have seen in a few generations, all in an attempt to limit voters who would probably vote Democrat rather than Republican. On the other hand, it may come down to local choices, where the question is whether you hate Clinton enough to vote for Trump, or vice-versa.  The Republican establishment itself, for example, is very anti-Trump.

What are the consequences of a Clinton or Trump victory for the U.S.?

Clinton does have strong policy platforms, and some of the leading intellectuals in various areas are advising her. So we know what her policies would be if she is elected.  For Trump, we have no idea what he would actually do.  He changes his rhetoric all the time.

What are the long-term implications of this for the Middle East?

Clinton is a hawk, we know this from her record as secretary of state… and she is strongly pro-Israel.  So there is a higher likelihood of war in the region if she wins.  With Trump, we just don’t know!


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