On Nov. 8, the Village of Gambier voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a margin of 91 percent to 6 percent. In an effort to gain insight into Trump’s stunning victory, several hundred students, faculty and staff gathered in Peirce Hall’s Alumni Dining Room during Common Hour three days after the election and participated in a forum organized by the Department of Political Science.

Professor David Rowe kicked off the event by asking three questions: Why did the election happen the way it did, what does the 2016 election mean for the future of American democracy and what are the implications for Americans’ roles as citizens? Rowe then moderated questions directed at his colleagues, who provided various explanations for the election results.

Assistant Professor Kurt Pyle noted that Trump’s surprise victory was the culmination of a long series of other events, in which Trump defeated the establishment first of one party and then the other, reflecting a citizenry generally dissatisfied with establishment politics. Professor Pamela Camerra-Rowe agreed and added that a continued appetite for change attracted past supporters of Barack Obama in the upper Midwest to the Trump campaign. Professor John Elliott reminded the audience that Gambier is a political island, and that Knox County as a whole voted for Trump by a greater than 2-to-1 margin. Elliott also posited that, for many Americans, 2016 was a “normal” election, and that many voters fell back on their usual voting behaviors instead of rejecting a candidate considered by many to be a severe deviation from political norms.

Regarding Americans’ roles as citizens, Assistant Professor Jacqueline McAllister pointed out that societies are in trouble when “people stop listening to each other and stop talking to each other.” Pyle agreed, explaining that participating in open conversation can be difficult and painful, but “being a citizen means that you continue the dialogue, you realize that the discussion is an ongoing one.”

Professor Fred Baumann quoted Tocqueville, noting that “democracy works when people are active citizens.” He encouraged “getting involved locally, getting involved politically and getting to know the people who disagree with you.”

“Figure out how to deal with them and eventually even become friends,” he said, before joking, “That’s the one good argument for faculty committees.”

Web extra: Read "2 a.m. Snapshot of a Diverse Democracy in Action," a blog post by President Sean Decatur published on Nov. 9, 2016.

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