Soon after Trump's astounding victory, HKPASS organised a US presidential election panel with LSE professors, including Professor Christopher Coker (Professor of International Relations), Professor Thomas J. Leeper (Assistant Professor in Political Behaviour), and Dr John Hutchison (Associate Professor in Nationalism in Europe). Prior to the panel, two members from the Public Affairs division, Cody and Linus, also gave enlightening analyses on the US election to warm up the audience. I was specifically intrigued by the reference to the US ‘Rust-belt States’ in relation to factors such as unemployment, income level, education and ethnicity.
The two-hour panel had a close focus on the reasons why Trump was elected, as well as the future of conventional politics worldwide. One of the major reasons Trump was so popular, the professors believed, was that he rode the wave of populism, a political ideal used to gain the support of ordinary people (the ‘unsophisticated little man’) against the ‘corrupt dominant elites’, and nationalism. With Brexit just behind us and the French presidential election just around the corner, this wave of populism and nationalism may continue to change world politics as we know it.
Prof. Leeper also brought an interesting perspective on the behavior of the electorate; he argued that Trump was elected because of the electorate’s long-standing commitment to one party to another. Long-time Republican supporters chose to vote for the endorsed candidate of the GOP under the divided political realm of the US, regardless of who the candidate actually was as an individual.
In addition, the panel shed light on the potential impact of a Trump presidency on a plethora of areas. The US economy (which has been hit by multiple crises caused by globalization and migration), the rise of political Islam, rapid technological changes, were all examined and discussed. The impact of a Republican Senate and House of Representatives on the new administration will also be significant in the federal government’s implementation of various socioeconomic policies, although whether Trump will deliver on his campaign promises remains to be seen.
All the above insights were well-received by the audience, sparking a heated Q&A session. Several follow-up questions on a wide-array of issues, such as comparing the US election outcome to Brexit, and discussing the future of the Asia-Pacific region in US policy. The panel was a huge success, thanks to the support of all attendees. We hope that panel events in the future will also receive such a warm welcome from academics and students alike.