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After a stunning, Brexit-like election, University at Albany students crowded into the Earth Science building on Thursday to hear panelists from the Rockefeller College discuss the context of the election’s outcome and what it will mean for the future of the United States.

What everyone seemed to wonder was: why was the result so unexpected?

“Nobody’s going to stand up here and pretend we know what’s fully going on,” said Michael Malbin, professor of legislative process and elections.

The professor explored possible reasons for Trump’s victory, such as the rarity of a ruling party winning a third election.

People’s desire for a change in this election is significant in considering the outcome, according to Malbin.

“People get tired of the same regime,” he said.

Chair of public administration and an associate professor of political science, Victor Asal, commented that a large group of people supported Trump because they did not think their concerns were being heard. Like Malbin, Asal said they wanted change.

William Denison, a senior majoring in Africana studies, offered his insights on why people did not anticipate Trump’s win. In terms of polls not reflecting the outcome, Denison said that people did not want to admit they were voting for Trump to pollsters because they were afraid of being perceived as a misogynist or racist.

“When we scare people away from rational, open discourse, this is where we get polls that don’t make sense,” he said.

Instead, Denison opined that people can influence Trump more easily than they can fight his supporters.

Another factor in Trump’s triumph is that the turnout of voters in the 18-29 age range was roughly half of what it was in the 40-55 age range, according to Malbin. Young people tended to vote for Clinton, while people in the older age range tended to favor Trump.

Professor Julie Novkov from the political science department addressed the importance of young people mobilizing in the local context.

“Organize, organize, organize,” Novkov said as she encouraged students to build coalitions and take advantage of resources available on campus and in the capital region.

Added to the unexpected results, the students and professors expressed uncertainty about the shift of presidential and party power; will it be durable or short-term?

That depends on a number of factors.

Malbin said that there will be tensions in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Implementing regulations requires 60 senate votes, which Republicans fell short of clinching in this election.

Since Republicans will not have the necessary 60 votes, regulations will depend on a collaboration between the two parties.

Novkov speculated about how a Trump presidency will impact the courts. With 103 vacancies in federal courts, Trump’s appointments could shift the direction and political influence of the courts.

However, it can take several terms for a party in power to garner a major transformation, according to Novkov.

In regards to state and local politics, “they are going to become increasingly important in the years to come” Novkov said.

With the midterm elections in 2018, party power could shift yet again, as voter turnout is generally lower in midterm elections than in general elections.

Echoing Novkov’s call to organize, Malbin said local organizations can help garner local turnout for the midterm elections in two years.

Loretta Pyles, an associate professor of social welfare, spoke about how Trump’s presidency will influence the welfare system. If Trump cuts funding to social welfare, there will be fewer resources for social supports.

According to Asal, what Trump actually will do in his presidency remains uncertain. With past presidents, there are often contradictions between what they said to get elected and what they actually did in office.

Trump’s decisions in the next two months will be critical in understanding what direction he chooses during his presidency.

Regardless of whether or not people favor the outcome, “Elections begin the day after the last one,” said Malbin.


Elise Coombs, a Syracuse native, is the editor-in-chief of the Albany Student Press. She is the co-Vice President of the UAlbany Mock Trial team, a member of Presidential Honors Society, and a peer mentor for the pre-law section of Writing and Critical Inquiry. After her time at UAlbany, she plans to go to law school and become a First Amendment lawyer.

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