2016 US Presidential Election:Trinity experts give their views and predictions

Posted on: 04 October 2016

2016 US Presidential Election – Hilary Clinton & Donald Trump on free trade, climate change, race, class and gender

America goes to the polls on 8th November to decide on their 45th President, regardless of who wins, the result will be an historic one, with global implications. Unlike previous elections, both leading candidates, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, are openly hostile to free trade.  Given most Americans benefit in some way from trade, what underlies this hostility? How will the outcome of the upcoming election impact domestic and international efforts to curb the threat of global climate change? And could a "moral collapse" explain Trump's successful capture of the Republican Party's presidential nomination? These questions, along with issues of race, class, and gender, were explored at a public lecture hosted by the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy, in association with Trinity Research in the Social Sciences (TRiSS) last week .   


Trinity economists, political scientists and sociologists spoke on the following topics to a packed lecture theatre:

  • Whose vote counts? Race, class, and gender in the 2016 US Presidential Election
  • Implications of the 2016 US Election on climate change policy
  • Economic trends and the rise of Trump
  • Moral collapse in the 2016 US  Presidential Election

Implications of the 2016 US Election on climate change policy

Assistant Professor of Political Science, Dr Constantine Boussalis, spoke on the politicisation of climate change in the United States as well as how climate policy might be affected by a Clinton or Trump presidency and any changes in party control of Congress:

“The stakes for our planet have never been greater, yet the prospect of substantive climate action by the United States− a significant greenhouse gas emitter −remains heavily dependent on the outcome of the November election. In contrast to most developed societies, a large segment of the American public continues to reject the notion that climate change is occurring, that humans are the primary cause of it, and that action is urgently needed to stop it. Survey data show how this scepticism of global warming is largely explained by political affiliation. Similarly, there is a growing chasm between Democratic and Republican lawmakers in terms of environmental policy voting patterns. In short, the issue of climate change in America is fundamentally partisan.”

Economic trends and the rise of Trump

Assistant Professor of Economics, Dr Paul Scanlon,  explored why both Clinton and Trump were so openly hostile to free trade. He claimed by repudiating free trade, Trump disassociates himself from Washington and establishment policies: 

“Two points stand out. The first relates to jobs and wages.  From 2000-2007, for example, around one million US jobs have been lost through trade with China alone. While in the past, such workers could find jobs elsewhere in manufacturing, this avenue is no longer assured today. Across the manufacturing sector, advances in technology are rapidly replacing the need for workers.  As well as the direct effect on jobs, trade tends to depress wages of low-skilled US workers. Unable to find well-paid jobs, many drop out of the labour force.  The male employment-population ratio is now near its lowest point in US history.  Opposing free trade in this setting makes sense politically. Especially important too is the geographic concentration of the losses.  The costs of trade have been largely concentrated in swing states. In the US, elections are won and lost in these battlegrounds −not in San Francisco or Manhattan. With Trump’s anti-trade narrative resonating in key locations, this election will likely be tighter than many think.” 

Whose vote counts? Race, class, and gender in the 2016 US Presidential Election

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Dr Laura Graham,   looked at the social divisions that have led to the perfect storm that is the 2016 US Presidential Election with predictions for the outcome on race, class, and gender:

“While the two main political parties have always been divided along these lines with African Americans belonging almost exclusively to the Democratic Party since the Roosevelt era, and the top 1% of earners belonging almost exclusively to the Republic Party, this year’s election also highlights social divisions that have come to light in recent times. These social divisions can perhaps be attributed to social movements such as #Occupy Wall Street and #Black Lives Matter, but they are also indicative of important social issues concerning income inequality, race relations, institutional racism, and gender equality. Additionally, the fears of poor, uneducated, and/or rural whites have prompted calls for tighter immigration regulations and deportation of “illegal” immigrants.

 In short, these social issues have prompted a situation that has led to the Republican party nominating (albeit begrudgingly) a reality show television personality/real estate “mogul” as their candidate in the general election, while the Democratic party nominated Hillary Clinton, whose political personality has earned her the moniker of “the bitch,” a title she wears as a badge of honour. “

Moral collapse in the 2016 US Presidential Election

Dr Peter Stone, Ussher Assistant Professor of Political Science  explored a possible explanation for  Trump’s successful capture of the Republican Party’s nomination aided by the work of political theorist,  Hannah Arendt,  ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem: a Report on the Banality of  Evil’:

“Arendt examines the problem of ‘moral collapse’ in Europe. Moral collapse both causes and results from the rise of extremist forces, such as the Nazis. Arendt’s analysis, I believe, can usefully be extended to the rise of the racist far right within the Republican Party—a force that Trump successfully rode to the nomination. This force would not have been possible without cooperation from less extreme Republicans (such as John McCain) and the difficulty of organising a unified response outside the Right. (The residual hostility between Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is an example of this.) Following Arendt, I will suggest that principled opposition can play a larger part in preventing moral collapse than many political observers would expect.”

The event was chaired by Dr Elaine Moriarty, Assistant Professor in Sociology at the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy.

About the speakers:


Professors Stone, Graham, Moriarty, Boussalis & Scanlon.


Media Contact:

Caoimhe Ni Lochlainn, Head of Library Communications | nilochlc@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 4710