What Now, Indeed? US Election Discussed at Political Thought Club Talk

he latest in the “Academic Talks” series hosted by the Political Thought Club (PDK) Academy took place on November 10. Speakers for the event were Asst. Prof. H. Tolga Bölükbaşı of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration and Efe Savaş, a PhD candidate from the same department whose work is being supervised by Dr. Bölükbaşı. The talk, titled “US Elections: What Now?”, attracted a large, enthusiastic audience, whose members had evidently followed the election closely.

After noting how Mr. Trump’s victory had shocked pundits and pollsters alike, Dr. Bölükbaşı explained the key features of the governance system and policymaking processes in the US. In the course of this explanation, he illustrated, with examples, the centrality of the checks and balances that characterize the US presidential model. He also reviewed some of the intricate details of the country’s electoral system. This discussion of the coequal branches of US government and the indirect nature of the election provided the background necessary for understanding the political as well as the policy implications of a Trump presidency.

After explaining how Mr. Trump ultimately won the presidential race despite Mrs. Clinton getting a higher percentage of the popular vote, Dr. Bölükbaşı left the floor to his advisee, who shared his observations on the lively campaign season. Mr. Savaş, who is examining political strategizing in public policy for his dissertation project, emphasized the contrasting strategies in the election campaigns of the two candidates. He discussed how Mr. Trump’s campaign successfully tapped into the antiestablishment sentiment widely shared among the electorate and also highlighted the failure of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign to cement the support of the disadvantaged and minority groups that had, just four years ago, constituted the backbone of the “Obama coalition.”

The talk continued with Dr. Bölükbaşı’s discussion of the possible effects of the Trump presidency on key policy areas. As a scholar working on the political economy of policy reform, he commented on the future of “Obamacare,” the universal healthcare program successfully introduced by President Obama in the face of strong opposition. In this context, Dr. Bölükbaşı emphasized the political hurdles involved in overhauling an entrenched social policy program, giving examples from US as well as European cases. In closing, he noted that observing how President Trump tackles public policy issues, including Obamacare, will certainly be very interesting for students of political science and public policy.

The event ended with a series of well-informed observations and questions from the floor. The speakers shared their views on many issues, including the different political communication strategies deployed by Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, the effectiveness of checks and balances given Republican control of both legislative houses and now the presidency as well, and the changing nature of US elections.