September 24, 2017

Panel of Webster professors speak out on the 2016 election

As the contentious 2016 presidential election drew to a close, a panel of Webster University professors gathered to discuss presidential politicals through the lenses of their disciplines.

Political science professor Gwyneth Williams, history professor John Chappel and international relations professor Kelly-Kate Pease were on the panel.

Williams focused on the gender issues in this election: the accusations of sexual harassment against candidate Donald Trump, as well as the sexism and doubles standards she believes have been imposed on candidate Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton.

The majority of women support Democratic candidates, while men generally favor  Republicans. According to Williams, this leads to a gender gap that affects the perception of candidates like Hillary Clinton. Williams  said Clinton has been viewed differently in the media than male candidates; even though she won by a large margin in the primary over Bernie Sanders, the democratic nominee was still depicted as having barely made it.

Williams  concluded by saying “sexism is not gone” even if Clinton wins the election.

International relations professor Pease discussed her area of study’s relatively limited impact on electoral politics.

“Foreign policy is not that big an issue to American people,” Pease said.

Pease said economic reasons, party identification and candidate image are the decisive issues, while the general public is not knowledgable on the specifics about foreign policy, so only opinion leaders and the elite class have a say.

“Broad stroke of foreign policy hasn’t changed a lot because the outside environment is not changing that much,” Pease said.

Chappel shared a historian’s perspective on the nature of the 2016 election.

Polarizing candidates make the presidential campaign dirty and ugly, Chappel said.

He compared past candidates and past events with the 2016 election and said there is something old and something new.

Chappel said even though precedent showed the ugliness in campaigns before, the tactics Trump uses this time to demonize and criminalize Clinton and his blunt talk of white nationalism are beyond expectation.

At the end of the event, the panelists answered questions from the audience.

One audience member asked the panel how Webster could promote real and efficient communication on campus between students who hold different political ideologies, something they agreed is a significant challenge.

Chappel said there is nothing much professors can do but to list all the facts and let students draw their own conclusions.

Williams agreed that discussions of the election have been difficult.

“It is the hardest semester to teach at Webster,” Williams said.

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