Here’s a social experiment: go anywhere in the United States, and say “Donald Trump is the greatest Republican candidate America has seen.” There are two outcomes to this scenario: 1. You will be met with raucous cheers, applause and have several rounds of adult beverages given to you by generous citizens or 2. Glares, insults and maybe a few Molotov cocktails will be tossed at you, and you will leave feeling considerably worse than you had before.
“Donald Trump and the US Constitution” was the title of a lecture given Monday evening for the annual constitution day lecture at Union University. Students and faculty crammed together in D-54, eager to hear the guest speaker, but after a few minutes of seeing how many people could fit into a classroom typically reserved for a medium-sized core class, Sean Evans, professor of political science, moved the lecture to D-3, the small presentation room just down the hall. As everyone took their seats once more, an older gentleman with an uncanny resemblance to Bernie Sanders (and the energy to go with it) stood in front of the room, preparing a powerpoint. This man was Ronald Rapoport.
When most people discuss Donald Trump, they like to praise him or poke fun at him. This is not the case with Dr. Ronald Rapoport, a professor at the College of William and Mary. Since the 1980’s, he has researched U.S. Party Activists, especially those that are out of the ordinary, a previous example being those who voted for Ross Perot in the 1992 and 1996 elections. 2016 started out by promising to be a rather boring year, yet another Bush vs. another Clinton, each receiving hundreds of millions in donations, and picking up quite a few sponsors as well. Somehow, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders managed to come out of nowhere, changing the process of the election entirely. “The question that we’re left with is a very simple one,” said Rapoport, “why?”
Primarily, Rapoport believes that Trump and Sanders became real contenders due to a failure in politics, especially the problems of gridlock (important issues that don’t get resolved) and polarization: “not so much the fact that one person is a Republican” said Rapoport, “but more the fact that they are not a Democrat or vice versa.”
“One of our main problems, is that we have a party system not based on our constitution, and we have a constitutional system based on compromise.” he said. If we don’t have compromise in the United States, then we don’t have a constitutional system, and therefore do not have a functional party system.
One of the central ideas of the founding fathers was invented by James Madison and outlined significantly in Federalist No. 10, where Madison discusses factions. These factions were essentially special interest groups, and together they would run the country through chosen electors, forming the basis for the electoral college. The factions must be balanced, argued Madison, or one of them would take over the country. In the modern era, we see that there are two main special interest groups: Republicans and Democrats, each formed by a massive conglomerate of smaller special interest groups. This flies directly in the face of the founding fathers, and is one of building blocks for Trump’s nomination.
The next concept which Rapoport brought up was the idea of purposefully polarizing the political game, as Newt Gingrich began to do in 1994. From 1954 to 1994, the Democratic party held the majority of the house, and the Republicans, believe it or not, were getting tired of this. Gingrich hatched a plan to get Democrats out of the house: get the voters to hate individual congressmen as much as they hated Congress. This was a massively successful campaign, and resulted in a new hatred between the parties, furthering the divide between conservatives and liberals. This same mindset was kept by Mitch McConnell, when he said he wanted to keep Obama a one term president.
“They didn’t say they would pass any good bills for Obama,” says Dr. Rapoport, “but just vowed to get Obama out of office, leading to a lot of gridlock.” This same mindset will happen again if Clinton is elected, with many Republicans already saying that they will impeach her on the first day.
The latter section of Rapoport’s discussion consisted of a couple dozen slides, showing the enmity that exists between the two major parties, demonstrating just how far the people of America have to go before bipartisanship and compromise is restored.
But how are Trump voters justified? To answer that, Dr. Rapoport gave a statistic from FiveThirtyEight.com: “After adjusting for inflation, U.S. median household income is still 8 percent lower than it was before the recession, 9 percent lower than at its peak in 1999, and essentially unchanged since the end of the Reagan administration.” This is shows why a majority of the American people may very well elect Donald Trump to the Executive office in a few months.
“Half of Americans want a leader who’s willing to break some rules if that’s what it takes to set things right,” said Dr. Rapoport. “They also have a desire for simple answers. Who provided simple answers? Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The answer is immigration, and the answer is billionaires. And the beauty of those answers is that you don’t have to do anything.”
We have problems in our community: poverty, racism, and discrimination haunt our streets. It took forty years of Democratic majority for the Republican revolution to take place, so now that bipartisanship has been missing in our country for just over forty years, maybe some things will start to change. The first changes must start in our communities, with people loving their neighbors, and seeing them as children of God, not as red or blue, black or white.