Cornell professors from various departments weigh in on the ramifications of the 2016 election.

Damon Winter / The New York Times)

Cornell professors from various departments weigh in on the ramifications of the 2016 election.

November 5, 2016

2016 ELECTION | Professors Sound Off on Election’s Stakes

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Prof. Enzo Traverso, Romance studies

PROF. TRAVERSO

PROF. TRAVERSO

Donald Trump outrageously exhibits his authoritarianism, sexism and racism. His demagogic propositions and his style have a fascistic taste, but fascism is not reducible to the personality of a leader and behind him there is no fascist movement. Trump is a deplorable TV star, much more reminiscent of Berlusconi than Mussolini. His pretention to oppose the establishment is even more paradoxical because he is the nominee of the GOP, a historical pillar of the establishment itself. Trump’s “program” eclectically merges protectionism and neoliberalism. Classical fascism championed a strong state; he defends individualism. He embodies a xenophobic and reactionary vision of Americanism: the avenger bringing arms, the resentment of a White population that does not accept becoming a minority in a country of immigrants. Trump is a fascist without fascism, but his campaign is a foretaste of what American fascism could look like. This is why we need to stop him.

Prof. Rachel Weil, history

PROF. WEIL

PROF. WEIL

In 1989, Trump called for five black teenagers convicted of raping the Central Park jogger to be put to death. On October 7, Trump reasserted his belief in their guilt, despite their exoneration by DNA evidence. Hours later, the grope tape surfaced. There’s a connection. The demonization of black men as rapists has been used to justify white men’s claim to possess and protect women. That claim is implicit in Trump’s belief that he is entitled to grab p*****s, AND in the chivalrous indignation white male politicians express on behalf of their wives and their daughters when they repudiate Trump’s behavior (though not his candidacy). And it underpins the latest attacks on reproductive rights. Much as I want to talk about the “real” issues — climate change, immigration, jobs, Syria, Russia — it feels like this election is about the control by white men over women’s bodies.

Prof. Durba Ghosh, history 

PROF. GHOSH

PROF. GHOSH

Whether a nation or community is judged to be modern often depends on how women are treated — do women have equal status to men? Are they treated fairly by the law?  Can they serve as leaders?  Americans have long been advocates for women elsewhere: as Hillary Rodham Clinton famously declared in Beijing in 1995 at the United Nations Fourth World Congress on Women, “human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”  Ironically, Americans are heirs of the world’s longest and continuous democratic tradition and yet we have not elected a woman president after 240 years of nationhood. Much younger democracies, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and most recently, Taiwan have achieved this important benchmark of inclusionary citizenship.  This election cycle, let’s elect a woman to the highest office in our nation and show the world that we are truly modern and progressive.

Prof. Tom Pepinsky, government 

PROF. PEPINSKY

PROF. PEPINSKY

This is the most important U.S. election of the past half century. Mr. Trump is unqualified to serve as president, and his candidacy has given voice to something dark in U.S. politics. Current forecasting models give Secretary Clinton a consistent albeit modest lead over her opponent. But even in the event of a Clinton victory, the country faces an incipient political, perhaps even constitutional crisis if partisanship continues to paralyze Washington. As the norms that undergird effective government fall by the wayside, both parties have incentives to use obstructionist tactics in their quest to please vocal elements in their electoral bases.

As an American, I am horrified at the possibility of a Trump presidency. As a scholar of global politics, I am worried about the disruptive global effects of a partisan stalemate under either administration. These effects will be felt globally, with long term consequences that are nearly impossible to identify. The only smart move for both parties, if they care about American interests, is to establish once again a bipartisan compromise that enables American government to function. It is now up to the American voter and American political elites to make this happen.

Prof. Kevin K. Gaines, Africana studies 

PROF. GAINES

PROF. GAINES

A Trump victory will result in political and economic chaos, shocking many Americans at how easily decades of political reforms and social progress can be reversed.  A Trump administration, aided by a GOP-controlled Congress, will complete the unraveling of the liberal-democratic order of the United States already teetering, as President Obama put it, during the campaign.   Far-right opponents of civil liberties, voting rights, immigration, reproductive rights, the rule of law, and due process will pursue extreme policies.  The prospect of civil disorder and political violence against racial and religious minorities, women, LGBTQ people, and dissenters is real.

A Hillary Clinton victory will slow the far-right wing assault on civil liberties and liberal-democratic norms (such as the peaceful transfer of power).  Without a democratic majority in Congress, Clinton will face implacable opposition from Congress and right-wing controlled media to any Supreme Court appointments and her moderate agenda of incremental reform on the economy, health care, criminal justice and climate change.  But the prospects for progressive social movements are far better under a Clinton administration than under a neo-fascist Trump administration.

Prof. Maria Cristina Garcia, history 

PROF. GARCIA

PROF. GARCIA

The 2016 election is critical to U.S. refugee policy.  We have a proud history of accommodating refugees—four million since the end of the Second World War.  We also have an international responsibility to assist those displaced by war, revolution, and persecution.  As generous as our policy has been, the true burden of accommodating refugees is born by the countries that border areas of crisis, and Americans can do more to ease the pressure on these countries.  Today, refugees are the most carefully vetted immigrants/travellers to the United States.  Denying vulnerable populations the chance to make a case for refugee status (or asylum) in the United States because of their religious faith, their sexuality, or the region of the world they come from goes against everything our nation claims to stand for.

Prof. Oren Falk, history 

PROF. FALK

PROF. FALK

Donald Trump, many say, endangers democracy. But democracy is just one form of government in a sovereign state; Trump in fact threatens not just this specific form but the institution of the state itself. His conduct bears the marks of medieval feuding, a type of politics characteristic of stateless societies: individuals vie not for control of office but for unbridled personal advancement, disregarding cost to the polity. Feuds rest on three foundations: gift-giving to secure allies (“I give to everybody. When they call, I give”), insistence on one’s own honor (“Look at these hands, are they small hands?”) coupled with dishonoring one’s rivals (“Such a nasty woman!”) and, of course, vengeance (“Every one of these liars will be sued once the election is over”). Trump makes instrumental use of the state to bludgeon personal rivals; and, in embracing his feuding logic, about half the electorate has given up on the logic of state. Afraid of living in a dictatorship? Try a feuding society instead. Good luck!

Prof. Maria Lorena Cook, industrial and labor relations 

PROF. COOK

PROF. COOK

For millions of undocumented immigrants and their families, the outcome of this election will mean the difference between a chance at a future or the end of a dream. On one side, the Trump campaign supports a “deportation task force,” an end to programs that protect undocumented youth from deportation, and an expanded role for states in immigration enforcement. On the other side, Clinton and the Democrats call for legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants, support Obama’s executive actions providing deportation relief for undocumented youth and parents of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, and condemn immigration roundups. In the end Congress makes immigration law, so the makeup of the House and Senate will be key. Perhaps a President Trump would not be able to act on his campaign rhetoric, and a President Clinton might adopt the more cautious stance on immigration she has exhibited in the past. But the president still sets the tone and the agenda and makes key appointments. On immigration, the difference between the candidates in this election remains a stark one.

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