2020 Election, News

Political science professors’ at CSULB react to election, “democracy is based on trust”

As voters look ahead to President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr.’s term, professors at Long Beach State familiar with politics expressed their reactions and expectations for the remaining weeks of President Donald J. Trump’s presidency.

On the night of Nov. 3, Trump had been leading in key states, leaving Americans with the impression that he was going to win the election. However, this “red mirage” faded as ballots continued to be counted over the next few days.

“I was concerned that people would see what they wanted and rush to judge without waiting for all of the ballots to be counted,” said Lewis Ringel, professor of political science

In the days leading up to the election, Trump instilled the fear in his supporters that his loss would be the result of a rigged election caused by fraudulent votes. He tapped into that fear as soon as more ballots were counted and more states were called in Biden’s favor.

Although Trump filed lawsuits to intervene in the ballot-counting process in key states like Pennsylvania and Michigan, political science professor Jason Whitehead feels that there has been no evidence produced to support his claims of “fake” polls.

“The key is, democracy is based on trust. It’s based on votes being counted. We have a process in place that we believe in,” Whitehead said. “When you have someone questioning the results and perhaps even subverting the results on the basis of innuendo and on the basis of made up charges? I guess I’m at a loss for words.”

Whitehead said he fears that Trump’s behavior will set a precedent for future politicians that may potentially take office and realize what they can get away with if they undermine democracy.

The state of Pennsylvania was called by the Associated Press on the morning of Nov. 7, naming Biden as the president-elect of the United States.

“The Democrats picked up the big prize, which was the goal, which was getting rid of Donald Trump and removing him as president,” said journalism professor Chris Burnett, who has worked as a political reporter. “I think that the original prediction that the Democrats would pick up a lot of ground and would be a resounding victory was not fulfilled.”

Whitehead said he was surprised that even though Biden won the presidential election, Republicans still gained ground. While Democrats secured the majority in the House of Representatives, Republicans gained seats and narrowed the typically wide margin.

The upcoming Georgia Senate runoff election will determine the control of the Senate.

Biden’s unexpected win in Georgia, a state that hasn’t voted blue since 1992, inspired the possibility of flipping the state’s traditionally Republican Senate seats, though political science professor Matt Lesenyie predicts that it will stay red.

“I feel like it will be a Republican win just by virtue of the underlying conservatism,” Lesenyie said. “Traditionally [in] runoffs, Republicans tend to dominate especially with odd election dates like this one. The core of that party is wealthier and older, and those are high propensity voters.”

Biden’s victory in Georgia was in part due to the mobilization of Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate. Though the state trends Republican, all of the leftover campaign resources are being concentrated into swinging
Georgia’s Senate seats.

“If that machine of getting out the vote is as good for the runoff elections as it was for the presidential election, then they very well could win the seat, win both seats,” Whitehead said.

Biden is set to inaugurate on Jan. 20, 2021, and many of his supporters have said they plan on holding him accountable to his campaign promises as soon as he takes office.

Whitehead said he predicts that once Biden’s administration has transitioned, “it’s either going to be compromise, or it’s going to be outright war.”

“I think they’ll be able to hit the ground running and get the vaccine rolled out and get some sort of COVID economic relief to the population,” Whitehead said. “Those two things I think can be done, but other issues like environmental issues, student debt relief and other things [are] just going to depend on the framing of it, whether it’s palatable to Republicans and also has to be palatable to the left wing of the Democratic party.”

The close results of the presidential election revealed a deeply divided nation, according to Burnett, as the two parties continue to fight for power.

“They need to recognize that first of all, we are all Americans. We may be of different skin colors, we may be of different views, but ultimately we’re all sort of the same,” Burnett said. “We all have our families, we all have our loved ones and that’s what should be driving us. We should be trying to better ourselves and help our society, and it doesn’t help to tear things apart. We’re better than that.”

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