Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her latest book examines the lives of four past presidents to understand what it takes to lead in turbulent times. Their stories, she says, hold valuable lessons for today.
Guest Host: Indira Lakshmanan
A wave of discontent has been sweeping America, and the outcome of Tuesday’s election is one result. Working-class white voters led the way, feeling left behind by the economic recovery and the elites controlling Washington. But what some call a shocking conclusion to this presidential election others say was right in front of our noses—but many of us couldn’t, or refused, to see it. How was the impact of this wave, echoing similar populist movements across Europe, so underestimated? As a populist wave ushers in a new president, we look at deep American divisions and the transition ahead.
- Andra Gillespie Political scientist, Emory University
- Ryan Lizza Washington correspondent, The New Yorker
- Lara Brown Political scientist and associate professor, Graduate School of Political Management, The George Washington University; author, “Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants”
- Amanda Taub Writer, The New York Times "The Interpreter" column
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANThanks for joining us. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, a columnist for The Boston Globe sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's off today. President Obama, this morning, welcomes Donald Trump to the White House to discuss the transition of power ahead. The deep divisions that pushed Donald Trump to victory make this one of the most unpredicted and unpredictable transitions in U.S. presidential history.
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANHere to discuss the voters behind Tuesday's stunning political upset and the transition ahead, Lara Brown of George Washington University, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker magazine, Amanda Taub of the New York Times and Andra Gillespie of Emory University. Welcome to all of you.
MR. RYAN LIZZAHey, thanks for having us.
MS. AMANDA TAUBThank you.
MS. LARA BROWNThanks for having us.
LAKSHMANANThanks so much for joining me. We will be taking your comments, your questions, throughout the hour. You can call us on 1-800-433-8850. You can send us email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can join us on Facebook or send us a tweet to @drshow. And if you want to connect with me directly, you can send it to @indira_l. All right. I want to start with you, Lara, by asking, you know, actually Amanda, you wrote about Trump's victory being driven by the dramatic rise in a new kind of populism. Tell us, from your perspective, because you've been looking at what you call a majoritarian backlash for the last year, what are the issues that are driving these voters?
TAUBSo I think you're right that what's really driving a lot of this is a kind of identity politics that we've seen brewing in the United States and actually also in Europe for quite a while. But now, it's really come to the surface and is having a profound effect. So the reason I call it a majoritarian backlash is that this is very much driven by a group of people who, for a long time, were at the center for U.S. politics. So white voters, particularly white men, many of them working class, but not all. We know from the exit polling and other polling around the election results.
TAUBAnd I think what we're seeing is a lot of fear and stress from that group from a lot of things. So one is just the way this country is changing, the social change both demographically and in terms of norms means that white voters who used to be very much at the center of American politics, they used to be the kind of default assumption no longer are. And I think that that has caused some profound stress for some voters and caused them to kind of feel their identity hardening in a way that has driven polarization in this country.
TAUBAnd then, I think, also, layered on top of that are some kinds of fear about what challenges this country is facing right now and how they effect that group. So I've spent the last year talking to social scientists and digging into data about who supports Donald Trump and why. And one of the big things that keeps coming out of it is people have a very particular response to certain kinds of change and certain kinds of threats.
TAUBSo when people feel threatened by things like terrorist attacks or crime, it makes them much more likely to want a leader who promises to kind of do whatever it takes to keep them safe and in particular who promises kind of harsh, punitive policies against the out groups that they fear. Donald Trump has very much been able to give people what they want in that regard.
LAKSHMANANSo you're talking about a fear of social change, a fear of a threat, of physical attacks and a fear of a collapse of white identity.
LAKSHMANANAnd all of that leading to the rise of the way you're describing it, an authoritarian leader, whether it's in this country or in other countries.
TAUBYeah. I think that's right. And I would clarify that by authoritarian leader, I'm not saying that this is a dictatorship or anything like that. I'm talking about what political scientists describe as an authoritarian leadership style, which is very much about kind of what they prioritize and what they value and it is prioritizing strength, prioritizing safety and prioritizing a very kind of, I think, divided world view between people who are on our side and people who aren't.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Andra, you have looked very closely at the exit polls, if they are to be believed. You're a political scientist. Break it down for us. Who is behind the wave that helped put Trump in the White House?
MS. ANDRA GILLESPIEWell, Trump was ushered in by a group of voters who wanted change. So those who said that they were looking for change in the next president overwhelmingly broke for Donald Trump. Along demographic lines, Donald Trump actually, nationally, got proportionally one percentage point less among white voters than Mitt Romney did. The issue has to do with turnout and the changes in the composition of the electorate.
MS. ANDRA GILLESPIESo while the electorate is less white today than it was four years ago, African-Americans made up a smaller portion of the electorate and they didn't break as strongly for Hillary Clinton. We -- the Latino electorate grew, but it didn't break as strongly for Clinton as anticipated by the anti-immigrant rhetoric. And if we look amongst white noncollege educated voters, states where Trump did surprisingly well have larger shares of white noncollege populations. So, for instance, if we were to compare Virginia, which has relative to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, a relatively smaller white noncollege population, we'll see that they have larger nonwhite populations and that those broke more than 60 percent for Donald Trump.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Ryan, you have been all over the country reporting on this election for the last 18 months. How do you interpret this massive wave of what turns out to be discontent among at least a majority of the electoral votes and who's behind it.
LIZZAYeah, well, I'm glad you added that caveat because my first rule for every post election analysis is that we all tend to exaggerate the results and we all tend to exaggerate the dynamics and what happened in the election. A lot of commentary often suggests is the way that America is going to be for the next, you know, 30 years. And I can remember covering 2008 when everyone said that there's this rising Democratic majority that was going to govern the country, you know, for the foreseeable future and then go and then covering 2010 when there was a backlash against Obama and Republicans took over the House and everyone said the reverse.
LIZZAAnd then, of course, 2012 when they said the reverse and 2014, it flipped again. And so here...
LAKSHMANANSo analysts and journalists get very excited is what you're saying.
LIZZASo we live in a closely divided country where elections at the presidential level have been decided by just a few points for going on, you know, a couple of decades now. And we went through an election on Tuesday where Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and if you change the votes in a few tens of thousands of votes in a few states and we're talking about a Hillary Clinton presidency and we'd all be sitting here talking about the rising diverse electorate and not the white backlash.
LIZZASo I think that's the most important thing to say is we live in a closely divided country where election results depend on which -- how the parties on the composition of the electorate, as Andra just pointed out. And, you know, more recently in midterms the Republican party has been very good at turning out their strongest supporters presidential elections. Democrats have been very good about turning out theirs. This was obviously a big, big exception. And as Andra pointed out, the big changes were -- the biggest change was the Hillary Clinton, as a lot of people have been pointing out for two years -- one of the big question marks of the election was could Hillary Clinton reassemble the Obama coalition.
LIZZAWas it transferrable to her? And the answer, of course, was no. African-American turnout was not as enthusiastic for Hillary Clinton. Hispanic turnout, if we believe the exit polls...
LAKSHMANANEven though she won, you know, African-Americans by a huge margin, it's just that not enough showed up, is your point.
LIZZANot quite. And we shouldn't be totally shocked that African-American turnout was a little bit stronger for the first black president that it was for Hillary Clinton. So I think that's the important starting point and that the voters, this sort of white working class backlash that Donald Trump did, obviously, tap into, you know, that he pointed a way for Republicans that most Republicans believed was not possible. Remember, after 2012, there was a big debate in the Republican party about which way do they go.
LIZZADo they look to reach out to a more diverse electorate? That was the establishment argument in the Republican party. But there was this minority view that, no, all you have to do is turn the knob on white turnout and we can win a presidential election. A lot of smart people thought that was wrong and Donald Trump decisively proved that, yeah, you can win the electoral college that way.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Well, let me ask about that. You mention the white working class. Lara, you're a political scientist and it strikes me that looking at the exit polls, people making under $50,000 voted for Clinton. Those in all income groups over $50,000 favored Trump. So doesn't that undermine the theory that this was all a backlash by the underclass? In fact, most Trump voters are not the most disadvantaged people in this country.
BROWNWell, that's right. And this really gets more to this notion that there are other identities that matter and there are other perspectives and values about politics that matter. But I really would caution people in saying this is just a racial argument. One of the demographics that sort of basically that Hillary Clinton lost by a large margin that Obama, in fact, did much better among in 2008 was white Catholics. In fact, Pew put out some preliminary sort of estimates and the reality is, in 2008, Barack Obama, though he lost, he still earned 47 percent of the white Catholic vote.
BROWNIn this 2016 election, Hillary only earned 37 percent of the white Catholic vote. So that's a drop of ten percentage points among a key group of voters who are, for the most part, blue collar and in these industrial, Midwest, rust belt areas. So I think that that's important. But I'd like to, if you don't mind, just provide a little historical context and so maybe we can do that in a minute.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Absolutely, we will. We're going to take a short break. That's Lara Brown, political scientist and associate professor at the graduate school of political management at George Washington University and author of "Jockeying For The American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants." We're going to take a short break and when we come back, we're going to be taking your comments and your questions. Stay with us.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, columnist for The Boston Globe, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Joining me this hour to talk about the populist wave that brought Donald Trump to the presidency, Lara Brown, political scientist at George Washington University, Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for The New Yorker, Amanda Taub, columnist for The New York Times for "The Interpreter" column, and Andra Gillespie, political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta.
LAKSHMANANSo before the break, Lara, you were talking about changes that you think really underlie this wave that brought Trump to the White House.
BROWNWell, I do. I think there is a much deeper transformation that is happening in our country. And it does have a parallel. And this actually picks up on what Ryan was saying that we are in a very, very closely divided time. The last time that we saw this sort of amount of political restlessness, flipping between the two parties that we have, and really a sense that the country was at parity was during the Gilded Age, that period from the 1870s to essentially the 1890s, when the country was moving from an agricultural age into an industrial age.
BROWNIn those massive economic transformations, there are a large number of people who are dislocated and displaced because they are not able to adapt to essentially the new economic realities, social realities and cultural realities. And what we are now in and now experiencing is what I refer to as the Global Age. And this is about the fact that for the last 20 or so years, we have been moving from essentially an industrial, manufacturing, very traditional kinds of international economies, to now one that are digital, information-based, very much technologically based and very global in all of its movements.
BROWNSo there are now large numbers of people who, even if they haven't lost their job, even if they aren't earning sort of less money than they would sort of anticipate, them being in that under $50,000, they're not looking out at a world that relates to them or they're optimistic about.
LAKSHMANANYou know, it's interesting that you say that, because I've looked at some economic household data called the elephant graft...
LAKSHMANAN...that actually shows that most groups have benefited from globalization. Right, Amanda? And the group that hasn't is that sort of bottom half in the economically developed world.
TAUBI think that's absolutely right. So if you look at the graph of who has benefited around the world, it's a -- you see tremendous benefits, except really for the section from about 70 to 80 percent of the world's kind of income level, and that is the working class in developed countries. And I think this really kind of pulls together a couple of the threads that we've been talking about here, which is that, if you look at the income data, these are not the people who are the poorest.
TAUBBut if you break down the data on where Donald Trump's supporters have been throughout the election, they have been disproportionately in communities where children are less worth -- better -- less well off than their parents and disproportionately in white communities that are near diverse areas but not in them. And I think that what is -- what that's really showing is not that individual people are necessarily suffering economically, but that we're going through a huge shift in this country about where jobs and opportunities are and where growth is and who can kind of look towards a future where people like them are going to do well and be better off.
TAUBAnd I think that that is a tremendously stressful thing for people. Identity is not just about, you know, characteristics like race or gender. It's also about having a sense of progress and opportunity and accomplishment. And there's a lot of research that shows that when people lose that sense of possibility, when they lose that sense of accomplishment, that is when they turn towards ascribed characteristics like race, and those become more important identities. And I think that's showing up in some of the data on exit polls and on support for Trump in this election.
LAKSHMANANAll right. Well, that is your description of what you've called the collapse of white identity. And you're saying it's sort of about us and them culturally and politically and about being worried that your children aren't going to do better than you. But also it sounds like being worried that other groups are going to somehow displace you and do better.
TAUBYeah. And one thing I would point out about that is that even if people are worried about their children not doing better, the data suggests that children, themselves, are not actually particularly worried. So, you know, young people are behaving very differently, electorally, from their parents. But I think that this is, you know, if you think about a family who had perhaps been in the same place for a long time and now their children are moving to cities, taking a different kind of life.
GILLESPIEWell, one of the things that's actually really interesting when we break it down -- the exit polls don't break it down by age and geography, for instance -- but we do know that we do see racial differences even amongst millennials. So Donald Trump actually wins whites age 18 to 29. Doesn't win a majority, he wins a plurality. And that's not very different from what happened in 2012. So we see the ways that they interact and we can see that young people of color behave differently from their white peers. And so, you know, there's oftentimes this narrative that, oh, we just have to replace the older people. So, you know, they're eventually going to age out and die out.
GILLESPIEBut some of these cleavages may still be there and racial identity might still be salient for the next generation in ways that I don't think we anticipated in 2008.
LAKSHMANANWell, let me ask you, Andra, because the term that Van Jones used on CNN that has gone viral is white lash. So let me ask you, is this racism, to use a loaded term? Or cultural dislocation? Or what is this vote about?
GILLESPIEI think it's partially that. There are definitely feelings of economic anxiety. I also think there's just this frustration with Washington being broken. And so when people want change, the logic that many Trump voters used was that it didn't make sense to try to put the same people back into office and then purport that there was going to be some type of change. This is a huge disadvantage for Hillary Clinton, who's been a household name politically for the last quarter century in the United States, and then has a record that can go back four decades. So I think a lot of that sort of explains some of the animosity towards Clinton. There's also the personal baggage that Clinton brings to the table that also influenced a lot of the antipathy toward her.
GILLESPIEBut there is an element of racial resentment that we have to interrogate and recognize that it's there. The fact that Donald Trump was able to appeal directly to race and explicitly to race in many instances and get away with it and not be penalized for that is something that's very telling that we're going to have to contend with.
LAKSHMANANWell, he was obviously penalized by half of the country, right? But not by the other half.
LIZZAWell, yeah, I think that's the interesting -- Andra's very important point in this discussion about, is it -- is this about globalization and this is just about voters who were exposed negatively to globalization? Or is it just, you know, or are we just seeing a white nationalist backlash, right? Is it economic anxiety or is it racism? You know, Gallup, earlier this year did a big study that showed that exposure to free trade was not actually very highly correlated with Trump voters. And that, you know, the economic anxiety theory of why people are supporting Trump was kind of weak. And I think, the -- whether, you know, every Trump voter is not a racist.
LIZZABut it is sort of shocking in 2016 that the candidate that was endorsed by the KKK, that at the very least dabbled in racist stereotypes, that started his campaign by talking about Mexicans as rapists, that...
LIZZAAnd, you know, started his political career by questioning the, you know, the Americanism of the first black president.
LAKSHMANANThe very same president who he's meeting in the White House today.
LIZZAYeah, in a few minutes. So, you know, all of those -- all of the things that we covered, you know, that were blown up by the media -- it's not like people didn't know about this. I mean, that's the thing that I think is really hard to wrap one's mind around, is that, you know, as long as I've been covering politics, there were certain lines that you couldn't cross that, you know, you would end your public career. And not only did it not end (laugh) Donald Trump's career, but it seemed to have benefited him. So at the very least, there were a lot of voters and a lot of white voters who were simply -- didn't see that line crossing as a reason not to support Trump.
LAKSHMANANLara, let me ask you about gender. Because obviously gender became a big issue not only because Hillary Clinton is a woman, but because of the tape from "Access Hollywood" and the comments that Trump made about women in that tape and in other parts of the campaign. All right, so we see form the exit polls that women favored Clinton by 12 points. That's the same margin by which men favored Trump. Yet more white women voted for Trump than for Clinton. You say that's not surprising.
BROWNNo, it's not. Because all of our political science research really shows that women vote their party over their gender. And many white women are, in fact, Republican. So this is also, I think, a story of partisanship and party loyalty. It is not simply a story of, oh, they want to see the first woman president and therefore all women, even though we make up the majority of the electorate, are going to vote for the same person.
BROWNThere is, I think, really a problem in the sense that the only true group in our entire society who appears to have the freedom of individuality is actually white men. We never make the assumption that all white men will think alike. And interestingly enough, you know, we do tend to make those assumptions about all women, all African-Americans, all minorities and the like.
LAKSHMANANAmanda, let me ask you, why do you think so many people underestimated the power of this wave? Were pollsters not reaching the right people? Or were people not telling pollsters the truth? I mean, you have been talking to some of these very people who are responsible for Trump's electoral victory.
TAUBSo, I think I would kind of say a couple of things about this. The first is the point that Ryan made earlier, which is that in fact, in terms of the popular vote, the wave was perhaps not as strong as we are seeing it show up in the electoral vote. I will say that there has been, I think, a divide between the way things look in polls, which is very much down to things like polling methodology, estimates of turnout based on past elections and perhaps not being able to keep up with the way that turnout is changing in each election, which is kind of a methodological issue that perhaps masked some of this.
TAUBAnd then I think that there is also just a difficulty that people are having to -- with understanding the way that politics in this country is actually changing. And I think that's where a lot of this populism comes in, which is, voter behavior, you can look at it and you can say, you know, are these voters changing their behavior because of, for instance, a candidate's stance on abortion? Or is this a deeper identity issue that is going to have longer-term effects no matter what individual candidates say. And I think it's really the latter in this case.
TAUBThere's a lot of research now showing that partisan divides are now stronger in terms of identity than race or gender or religion in this country. People's identity as republicans or as conservatives or as liberals or as democrats are stronger identities than almost anything else. And that, I think, is really driving a lot of this behavior.
LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." All right. Well, we've got a tweet here from Craig in Somerville, Mass., who says, I was a Bernie supporter, so I understand the populist wave. And I hope this election is an impetus for reform in both parties. And a related email from Tom in Queens, who says, I can understand the pressures on ordinary workers from the Midwest states. Millions of workers in other parts of the country go up the economic ladder, while people like me stagnate. Andra.
GILLESPIEAnd I think that that -- it sums up a lot of the frustrations. And in some ways, we are really easy -- especially on the coast -- to articulate the concerns of minority voters and those get a lot of attention. In this election, we heard other people saying, hey, my stuff matters too. And the problem is, is that people don't see how their fates are actually intertwined. And I mean, and that's a function of us prioritizing race over class a long time ago. It's one of the things that historians use to try to explain why a strong communist or socialist movement never really took root in the United States.
GILLESPIEAnd it's really hard at this point to connect people who are, you know, in the Rust Belt, to the plight of somebody who's in inner-city Detroit or in Baltimore, because they have been taught and conditioned to think that their plights are totally separate. And the other thing that's actually really interesting, when Ryan brought up the point about Donald Trump being able to get away with making explicitly racist comments, there is a debate about what is racist versus what is not racist. And so something to us, as elites for all intents and purposes, that sounds racist, didn't necessarily sound racist to a lot of people. And I think it's hard for us to be able to operationalize that from a public-opinion standpoint.
TAUBI mean, if we go back to why the polls were wrong, there are all kinds of things that we're going to speculate about. Whether or not we're excluding people based on likely voter models and shouldn't do that. Whether we under-sampled people from rural areas in particular. I mean, I think that those are all things that are going to be up for debate as a result of this election. But all it shows is that we are still talking past each other and not talking to each other. And that influences our discourse and it also influences the science of trying to understand what's going on, whether we're doing it for candidates or whether we're doing it for academic purposes.
LAKSHMANANThat is a really interesting point. Ryan, I want to ask you, because you cover Washington in general, not just the campaign. To what extent do you see this vote as a reaction to eight years of an Obama presidency versus a build-up of resentment or a feeling of disenfranchisement that has been an undercurrent for many years?
LIZZAYeah. I mean, if you look at the early predictions in this election, and you just look at the sort of, you know, the political-science view of elections, which tend to greatly discount campaigns and candidate quality and TV ads and all the things that journalist really find the most interesting (laugh) about elections, there was -- did -- most people would have, structurally, would have looked at this race and said, it's very hard for the same party to control the White House for three terms. And so you've got a discount the Democrats in the race. And that it was going to be a basically, an even race.
LIZZAAnd, I mean, I think the surprising thing about the race is that Donald Trump, in the end, turned out to be a fairly normal Republican candidate. In other words, he was not...
LAKSHMANANIn terms of the way he performed.
LIZZA...treated -- in the way he performed, he was not, you know, the exit poll numbers are not that vastly different from the Romney numbers. And obviously they were slightly better in some places. So I think that's the -- the fact that partisanship and polarization and just kicked in, in a fairly normal way. And the ability of the Democrats to retain power after eight years in the office, which has historically been extremely difficult for either party, had to have been a dramatic problem for them.
LAKSHMANANOf course, the election of George H.W. Bush was an exception to that in the sense that it was a third Republican term. That was the only time in...
LIZZAYeah. And you have to go way back in history to find another example like that. In fact, I looked at this, you have to go to like the early 19th century to find Democrats -- an incumbent, a non-incumbent Democrat following eight years of a Democrat. I think it's 1836 was the last time that that happened.
LAKSHMANANHmm. And for the Republicans 1988. Lara, briefly.
BROWNSure. I think the one thing I want to say that is important is that in a lot of these purplish states, the senators actually did better than Donald Trump. So it is important to understand that I think the Republicans would have done even better...
BROWNHad they had a different candidate.
LIZZAA Marco Rubio or, yeah.
BROWNYou know, I mean and this is where it is a question of, does Donald Trump have any coattails? Did he do something extraordinary? In fact, some of these senators, like, you know, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, like, you know, Rob Portman of Ohio, did far better than Donald Trump.
LIZZAEven Rubio in Florida.
BROWNEven Rubio in Florida.
LIZZAWhich Trump won, yeah.
BROWNYou know, and certainly Burr in North Carolina.
LAKSHMANANAll right. We're going to take a short break. That's Lara Brown, political scientist of George Washington University. And when we come back, we will be taking your calls and your questions. Stay with us.
LAKSHMANANWelcome back. I'm Indira Lakshmanan, columnist for the Boston Globe, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking this hour about the populist nationalist wave that brought Donald Trump to the White House. I'm joined by Andra Gillespie, Political Scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. Amanda Taub, columnist for the New York Times interpreter column. Ryan Lizza, Washington Correspondent for the New Yorker. And Lara Brown, Political Scientist at George Washington University.
LAKSHMANANSo, I want to read an email that we received from Lydia, who says I'm 24, white, female, married with a young child and a Libertarian. I voted for Donald Trump because I have confidence that his plans for the economy will be helpful to us in the long run. Although I don't support his social attitudes. After careful consideration, I concluded that Obama, Clinton and Bernie Sanders philosophies of wealth distributions will make life too expensive for our young family.
LAKSHMANANOur household income is just over 110,000 dollars a year and each year, we struggle under an increasingly heavy burden of high taxes. And she says she has a college degree, so she's not part of Trump's infamous white, non-college educated base.
LIZZAWell, the first thing, I'm always fascinated by people who are self-described Libertarians that support Donald Trump. And we don't -- I can't ask her, but I'm curious why she wasn't interested in Gary Johnson. Because to me, Donald Trump's the most anti-Libertarian -- he does not come from the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party. I mean, to the extent that he has fixed views about politics, he's very much a statist. He admires the strong men of the world, like Vladimir Putin.
LIZZAHe once praised the Chinese crackdown of dissidence in Tiananmen Square. So there's a long list of issues on which most Libertarians cringe when they think of Donald Trump, including privacy and the First Amendment. But I take her point that on economics, she -- it sounds like she believes that in the Obama era, it was getting harder and harder for her to get ahead. And, you know, that's, you know, that's a classic voter who's just exhausted by one party and doesn't believe that they delivered. And is willing to take a chance on something completely different.
LAKSHMANANAll right, let's go to the phones. I want to go to Marie in Hudson, Ohio. Marie, you're on the air.
MARIEYes, I am an affluent white woman and I'm very frightened by a Trump presidency. To what extent can we count on our system of checks and balances to promote respect for women, racial and religious minorities?
LAKSHMANANAll right, good question.
LIZZAVery good question.
BROWNWell, I will just say that I do think that that is a central question that we are facing. We saw many times during the course of this campaign that Donald Trump appeared to be sort of ignorant when it came to understanding separation of powers and Federalism. He appeared to not really appreciate what it meant to have checks and balances. He thinks, or appears to, advocate this notion that sort of Presidents do everything and that he would do everything because he knew more than the generals and the like.
BROWNIt is concerning. That being said, we have elected Presidents in our past who have not been of the highest moral character or the most insightful individuals. And our system has survived and I think it is one of the things that we have to know is that usually, why outsiders fail when they come to Washington is because these institutions are strong enough to thwart their efforts. Not the other way around.
LAKSHMANANWell, we have checks and balances, but in this case, of course, the Congress is Republican in both parties. Andra.
GILLESPIEAnd so I think the question here is whether or not the Republicans in the House and the Senate are actually willing to exhort their checks over the executive branch. And even whether the judiciary will come in and exert their checks over the executive branch. Donald Trump's appointments to the Supreme Court, notwithstanding. So, it's a part of making sure that Congress realizes that it still has to check its President, even though they're of the same party. And from -- the other thing to think about is that the bureaucracy is vast.
GILLESPIEAnd while Donald Trump will get to make 4,000 appointments, the federal bureaucracy is two million people and they feel more beholden to Congress than they do to the President. So, there is going to be a bit of mission creep there. And there are going to be things that Donald Trump realizes are not comparable to his business. And the question is how does he respond to that? Does he respond well to that and does he adjust or does he act out in any way that could be damaging to the Republic?
LIZZAYeah, could I just add one thing? I really think this is one of the most important questions about a Trump presidency. Because I do believe he has exhibited authoritarian impulses. He's violated a lot of traditional Democratic norms. And he represents something completely different, I believe, than any President we've ever had. And combine that with the fact that the executive branch, after the last 16 years, has grown in power. And he will enter -- he's coming to Washington as the strongest modern President, right?
LIZZAWe -- after eight years of 9/11, the National Security Apparatus -- the national security state that George W. Bush built up is quite powerful. Obama did very little to reign that in. As Obama's legislative agenda ground to a halt in his White House, he expanded -- he pushed really the boundaries of what a President could do with executive orders. Trump's now entering that with a Republican Congress, with a 5 to 4 Supreme Court. So this is going to be a powerful President and it's going to be a huge test for not just the three branches of government, but for us in the media as the fourth estate.
LAKSHMANANYou're, of course, saying a 5 to 4 Supreme Court because you're assuming, you know, he will obviously appoint the next person. He's gonna get who he wants.
LIZZAI'm assuming he's gonna get -- he's gonna, yeah, he's gonna -- he'll appoint Scalia's replacement.
LAKSHMANANAll right, we've got a call from Dave in Oxford, North Carolina. Dave, go ahead.
DAVEYes, hi. Thanks for taking my call.
DAVEI have a quick comment and then a question. I can't imagine that we'll ever know how impactful nine days of the FBI -- the FBI reporting of what was kind of taken as a new event regarding emails. I don't think we'll ever kind of know that, but in a razor thin election that relies on momentum, I think we'll probably be speculating for a long time. But I would think that has something to do, ultimately, with the outcome. But my question is since Donald Trump was able to just brush off events that would have sunk any other elected official.
DAVEWhat do the journalists on the panel here see as what's coming up for the next four years as they sit, or as they try to report, knowing that they may be called out by name as unfair, dishonest. Since this, our new elected President has been so hostile to the media. I mean, there's gonna be a litany, I can already imagine, of potential financial conflicts of interest because we never saw tax returns. Love to hear what you have to say. Thanks very much.
LAKSHMANANOkay, thanks Dave. So, he wants to know how is the press gonna be holding Donald Trump accountable when Trump has been so hostile to the press. Amanda.
TAUBI think we will have to do our jobs, no matter what the circumstances. That would be true no matter who was President. And frankly, no President is ever particularly a fan of being called out by the press. Or, you know, accused of wrongdoing by the press. And so, I think that this President will be no different from any other in terms of the press's responsibility.
LAKSHMANANQuick thought, Ryan.
LIZZAJust to follow up on what I was saying before, I think this is a moment where the press -- where we need an extremely adversarial press. This is a moment where we have someone as a -- not to be a broken record, but has, has -- he's going to be a powerful President and he has violated a lot of Democratic norms. Those two things combined require the press to sort of step up in a way that they haven't, frankly, with previous, previous Presidents. And, you know, I think the press learned on the job how to cover someone who is so different.
LIZZADonald Trump was a challenge for the press when he was running for President and I think it's an important moment for us in this business.
LAKSHMANANOkay, we have an email from Barb in Arlington, Virginia, who says why did low wage voters vote against their own best interests? Wasn't Donald Trump against a minimum wage? He thought $7.25 an hour was too high. He had no health plan or college plan to help these workers. Andra.
TAUBI think it's important to realize that Hillary Clinton won voters who made less than 50,000 dollars a year and a lot of that has to do with the disproportionate representation of minorities in that group of low income earners. So, we talked this a little bit before. Trump did better amongst higher income people. Part of that is a function of race, but part of that is a function of perception of the economy and where people stand. So, you know, I think we have to provide a little bit more nuance to understanding how income actually relates to or correlates with vote choice.
LAKSHMANANOkay. We have an email here from Carol in Blowing Rock, North Carolina who says, aren't we all avoiding the fact that many men simply did not want a woman as President? What about sexism? As, you know, is that as important as populism?
BROWNWell, I mean, again, I think one of the things that is so fascinating about this election is that I would argue that the narratives of each campaign were essentially crooked verses crazy. Donald Trump's campaign was trying to describe Hillary Clinton as crooked. Hillary Clinton's campaign was trying to describe Donald Trump as crazy, and therefore unfit for the White House. What is fascinating about it from a gender perspective is that the scripts were really flipped. It is typically in our stereotyped kind of world of gender identities understood that women are the ones who are thought to be crazy.
BROWNNot men. And men, in fact, the typical politician who is crooked is typically a man. So, what was interesting was that Hillary Clinton was taking on the male gender script. And Donald Trump was, in fact, taking on the female one. And this is where the most interesting thing is when does crazy beat crooked? Well, it beats it when people actually feel crazy themselves and feel they have no other option but to choose that.
LAKSHMANANAll right, well, if we set aside those labels of how the opponents each labeled each other, crazy and crooked, what about just gender period as a factor? Andra.
GILLESPIEWell, historically, we have argued that holding all else equal, women have an equal chance of getting elected relative to men. The problem tends to be that women don't get asked to run for politics. And that's clearly not Hillary Clinton's problem. We haven't tested it at the Presidential level, because this is the first case where we've had it, and so we may want to revisit and rethink that. But if we look at the Senate races, there are a number of women who got elected to the Senate who beat men, in some instances.
GILLESPIEAnd the irony of Tuesday is that there are a lot of women of color who are now joining the ranks of Congresswomen and Senators.
GILLESPIEAs a result of this race, in a very hostile environment for Democrats, which many of these women are. I think we're going to have to reckon with Hillary Clinton's individual flaws as a candidate and we can't attribute all of that to gender. That doesn't mean that there aren't gendered aspects of this campaign. Clearly, the nasty woman comment. Donald Trump hovering over her. There were ways that gender is deployed in this race, and there are more extensive surveys that have been fielded that will test that question.
GILLESPIESo, the short answer is that we don't know the answer yet. The hypothesis is that there may be some gender element to antipathy towards Hillary Clinton, but that it's not all gender at all. And that Hillary Clinton brought unique deficits to the campaign as a candidate.
LAKSHMANANI'm Indira Lakshmanan and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Okay, I want to take a call from Chris in Cincinnati, Ohio. A key state. Chris, go ahead. What's on your mind?
CHRISHi, thank you for taking my call. I just wanted to make a quick comment. Could it be possible that Secretary Clinton failed to really articulate her message, her positive message in this campaign? I mean, it wasn't all completely her fault, obviously. But I don't think many people realize, if they were going to vote for Hillary, it was mostly about voting against Donald Trump. And not voting for something. And maybe that's the entire problem with this process in the last few cycles is that we're voting against something instead of for something.
LAKSHMANANOkay, thank you, Chris. Ryan.
LIZZAThat is a great question that a lot of Democratic strategists are mulling over and journalists. And I think if you put yourself in the driver's seat of the Hillary Clinton campaign, you have a candidate who's, in Donald Trump, who's number one flaw that all the polling shows, is that he's unfit to be President. And so, all of the data was driving them towards a strategy of disqualify him, disqualify him, disqualify him. If you make the case that this guy's not fit for the Presidency, nothing else matters. It doesn't matter the differences between your tax plans or your foreign policy.
LIZZAIf he's unfit, nobody else cares about the details. And, you know, I think -- you don't want to over, we shouldn't over think this. All the data was showing that she was going to win and that her strategy of disqualifying him was working. And for them to have flipped that script and gone to a more uplifting positive message about the economy, maybe in hindsight, that would have been the right way. But there was nothing in the polling or the data that suggested that was the route to victory.
LAKSHMANANAndra, you wanted to jump in.
GILLESPIEIn another life, I worked for a pollster, and I remembered when he would pitch to clients, he would talk about what the strategy would be in order to reach out to them. And so, first, you have to define yourself. And Clinton tried to define herself at the convention, but I think that got lost in the shuffle and the media circus that surrounded Donald Trump. Then, you have to define your opponent, and Clinton did a good job of defining her opponent. But toward the end, when your negatives are going high, then you are supposed to bring it back to that positive message.
GILLESPIEAnd that was the point at which she lost. In part, I think she planned to do that in the last week and a half of the campaign and then the email controversy kind of came in and took that thunder away from her. But she really did, over the course of the campaign cycle, not -- she defined herself as the anti-Trump as opposed to defining herself as the pro-Clinton.
LAKSHMANANWell, let me ask you...
LIZZAShe did win the popular vote, though. I mean...
LAKSHMANANYes, she did, she did win the popular vote. Let's not forget that.
LAKSHMANANBut I have a question, looking at the exit polls that confuses me. According to the exit polls, Trump was seen as more dishonest than Clinton, as more unfavorable and as less qualified to be President. So, if that's -- can we believe exit polls, and if those things are true, then why was he elected?
BROWNI mean, I would say that yes, we can believe exit polls. And this is where, I think, the political science fundamentals about the desire for change is really an important thing that we cannot walk away from. For whatever Hillary Clinton's deficits were as a candidate, and they were substantial, there is the reality that the Democrats that held the White House for two terms, there is also this sense that many Americans, though I don't think Democratic strategists really wanted to take this in, voted for Barack Obama in 2008 because they were voting against the Republicans.
BROWNThere was not just this, oh, we love Obama. So, what we have now is the flip of that.
LAKSHMANANWell, here's an email from a listener which echoes, you know, the comments of many people who are writing in, saying why did Trump's followers vote for a change in the White House but re-elect the same Republicans that have caused stalemate in Congress for eight years? It doesn't make any sense. So, how is that change? Amanda.
TAUBI think that our -- in our Presidential elections, we very often see that people will vote this way for Presidents based on whether they want change, based on sort of their fundamental feelings about the direction the economy is going. And legislative races just don't necessarily work the same way. This shows up particularly strongly in the difference between mid-term elections and Presidential elections, which essentially look like different electorates.
LAKSHMANANAll right, we have an email from a listener in Arlington who says the people I know who voted for Trump did so reluctantly, holding their nose at his antics. But they, they did so anyway. And Gary from Tallahassee, Florida says, it speaks volumes that the media didn't predict the result. Why are we so out of touch? Ryan.
LIZZAYou know, I want to -- the final polling of 2016 was off by less than the final polling of 2012. So this was -- the national polling actually was not that far off. And then, if you go into the states, it's just a matter of a few hundred thousand votes.
LAKSHMANANAll right. That's Ryan Lizza, Washington Correspondent of the New Yorker. Also joining us, Amanda Taub of the New York Times. Lara Brown of George Washington University. Andra Gillespie of Emory University. Thank you so much to all of you, a fascinating hour. We have plenty more to think about and talk about in the months that come. I'm Indira Lakshmanan. You're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Thanks so much for tuning in.
Most Recent Shows
What Nancy Pelosi’s fight to stay in power says about the midterm elections. Then, the Emmys are next week. Diane talks to twenty-five time nominee Lily Tomlin about aging in Hollywood and her current role in the show “Grace and Frankie.”
Protests, sparring over documents and questions about the limits of executive privilege. Diane talks with a Constitutional law scholar about the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. And what are we to make of the anonymous op-ed in The New York Times?
A special podcast of a 2007 interview with Diane and Senator John McCain, who died Saturday.