US Elections 2016: Perspectives from the School of International Studies, JNU

10 November 2016 | 5:00 PM: The world yesterday braced for USA’s presidency of Donald John Trump. JNU was quick in organizing a public meeting today at 2:00 PM at the School of International Studies. The diverse panel included Professor K. P. Vijayalakshmi from US Studies, Centre for Canadian, US and Latin American Studies; Dr Amir Ali, Centre for Political Studies (CPS); Prof Jayati Ghosh, Centre for Economic Studies and Planning (CESP); and D. Raghunandan of the Delhi Science Forum.

The leaflet that invited students to the public meeting read: ‘In a historic election, Donald Trump the known racist, sexist, and megalomaniac has defeated Hillary Clinton comprehensively. The choice among Americans in these elections was rather bleak. On the one hand, while we have all heard about the negative aspects of Trump, Hillary Clinton was also a thoroughly discredited candidate (sic)’. It went on to say that Trump’s win cannot be called ‘an ideological victory for the right-wing conservative forces’. The Union saw the results as a clear defeat of the political centre. At several points during the meeting, the teachers echoed similar sentiments.

Prof. Vijayalakshmi started by talking about the demographics and voting patterns across diverse groups in the States, invoking the four Ps: the people, the politics, the process, and the psychology to understand the major changes that have shaped the US Elections 2016. She emphasized the political background of Hillary Clinton and reminded the audience of her career as a Senator, Secretary of State, and the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001.‘The people and the politics in the United States have in the last five years has become the most polarized and divisive politics … this polarization is not only on the issues of economic inequality, not only on the issues of social and cultural wars but there is now a deep divide between the Republicans and the Democrats. The process was affected because here again was a deep division in the Senate and at the Federal and State level politics’, she said.

Dr Amir Ali, who is a political theory professor at CPS called the ‘trumped-up Trump rhetoric pathetic … mean, and low’. He compared Obama and the president-elected Donald Trump, and expressed his sadness at the recent development in American politics. ‘In comparison to the specimen we now have, Obama is an angel’, he remarked, inviting giggles from the crowd. He told the students the story of George Washington which embodied America’s truthfulness. ‘America had a president who couldn’t speak a lie. Now it has a series of presidents who cannot speak the truth’.He spoke about the relationship between Brexit and the election results and reminded the students the critiques of democracy that Aristotle and other Greek philosophers had put forward. He stressed upon the ‘incorrigibility of democracy’ and called upon the political scientists to be more critical of democracy.

The next speaker, D. Raghunandan is a former JNUSU president. Mr Raghunandan critically challenged globalization, and, like his fellow panelists, questioned the rising inequalities and their relation with the election outcomes around the globe. He said that Hillary Clinton had become a victim of the anti-incumbency perceptions, and that all the failures of the Obama regime were seen as her failures, while at the same time Obama still maintains high ratings.

‘Unlike Hillary, Trump had to offer something to the Americans. Hillary was left fending for all her actions and defending the status quo with which the white working-class Americans were clearly unhappy’.

showressourcecover-actionDr Jayati Ghosh, one of the world’s leading developmental economists and the Executive Secretary of the International Development Economics Associates (IDEAS) shared with the students the dangers of a world where Trump is the most powerful man. She counted the consequences of a Trump presidency: ‘Multilateral agencies are at a huge risk today. There may be no UN tomorrow. Trump’s America may simply stop funding or taking part in it’. She brought into light the rise of Right-wing forces and compared the present times with those of the 30s, just like Dr Ali had earlier done in his speech. She lamented the fact that the Left-wing had failed to strongly present an alternative to the neo-liberal agenda. She urged the students to focus on strongly putting forward the Left alternative to neo-liberal economics.

In the end, Prof. Vijayalakshmi took the microphone to talk about the fourth P—the psychology of the masses which is the most difficult to understand:‘When one votes, there is no family, no friend, no leader, no ideology. It’s just you and your ballot’

Kumar Prashant is a BA student works for The Informer.