Politics as Usual?

Erin Bola, Social Media Coordinator

As the minutes until Election Day quickly tick away, Americans are anxiously wondering if this election will radically change the course of our country’s history. This idea was explored by associate professor Robert F. Pecorella in his presentation “2016 as a Realigning Election” on Thursday night, Oct. 20 at the ‘Politics as Usual?’ event hosted by the Vincentian Center.

Pecorella began his presentation with a quote from Bob Dylan: “Searchin’ high, searchin’ low; Searchin’ everywhere I know; Askin’ the cops wherever I go have you seen dignity?” He then referred to the recent presidential debates and the insults thrown by both candidates as a new trend in dramaticized politics.

“I feel like politics have gotten very aggressive with this election,” said St. John’s student Ruth Farias. “It’s become more tense between the two candidates, which in turn makes it more tense for the whole country watching them.”

With all of the intense drama that Clinton and Trump have created for this election, Pecorella also mentioned that the next president has total say in the detonation of nuclear weapons. He asked the audience, if this controversy were to carry over from the election into the presidency, would the person elected possess the sound judgement to not rush into a nuclear war?

He then went on to discuss some major realigning elections in American history that considerably changed the dynamics of the nation’s politics, most notably the Franklin D. Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan coalitions.

The elections of the former  presidents were extremely significant for American politics. Their actions caused the realignment of the parties and changed how the public viewed the government.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency and his subsequent New Deal plan changed American’s expectations for their government to provide for its citizens in times of need. His election was deemed historic because he won all but six states in the Electoral College as a Democratic candidate in 1932, when an overwhelming majority of the country had voted Republican four years earlier.

During Kennedy’s presidency in the 1960s, the African American vote switched to the Democratic party due to their progress in civil rights at the time. They have now become the most dependable demographic for the party as they overwhelmingly vote for Democrats in every election.

As for the 2016 election, Pecorella noted that it has the potential to polarize bipartisan politics, especially with Trump’s extreme right-wing ideology. Since the new president will also be able to appoint a few new Supreme Court justices, they also have the power to radically affect the judiciary decisions for the country for decades to come.

This includes a possible overturning of Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to abortion if Trump is elected.

“As for the Republican party, I’m not sure if this election will change the party permanently but I do believe that the party will become more careful in choosing their presidential candidates following Trump.” Farias added.

While both Clinton and Trump have radically different plans for office if they are elected, one thing became clear during the presentation – the election of either candidate has the potential to transform American politics as we know it today.