Trump

North Carolina support for President Trump declines as first 100 days in office comes to a close

by Mariah Posey | April 28, 2017

Trump nc supprot

Graphic by Elon University.

With President Donald Trump’s first 100 days coming to a close, North Carolina support for the president and his administration has seen a considerable decline according to a recent Elon Poll conducted April 18-21. By conducting a live-caller, dual frame survey of 506 registered North Carolina voters, the poll found that 51 percent of people disapprove of the president’s current handling of his presidency despite 56 percent believing his actions match up with his campaign promises.

42 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency and seven percent remain in the middle ground. Despite initial widespread usNorth Carolina support during the election period, now 49 percent say Trump is doing “a worse job as president than President Obama.”

Jason Husser, director of Elon Poll, said that although presidents usually experience strong support during the beginning of their terms, Trump’s presidency is different. He added that the level of support Trump has seen in his first 100 days both for himself and in his key policies is “as low as we’ve seen in the history of opinion polling.”

“Trump’s difficulty in presidential approval likely comes from two sources: his rhetorical and policy decisions, which he has control over, and a divisive polarized and dysfunctional political environment that makes it hard for any incoming president to function,” Husser said.

Emily Mitch, assistant director of fraternity and sorority life at Elon University, said that she’s not surprised by the decline in support based on the president’s inability to follow through on his promises.

“As someone who works in education, that’s where I tend to gravitate more to education myself about what’s been going on in that sphere,” Mitch said. “I think some of the work with Betsy Devos and that department is particularly disappointing to me, like the student loan stuff that’s been going on. I’m not wishing that things would happen particularly, but wishing that things that have happened did not happen.”

Like Mitch, senior Darius Moore also sees disparity in the Trump administration’s handling of education policies as well as other huge issues his team has promised to tackle.

“There’s been a lot of lack of attention to detail and a lot of big ideas about what he and his team want to change in regard to the Affordable Care Act, yesterday net neutrality, the public education system,” Moore said. “There’s a lot of big ideas thrown out but no sort of plan of action. I think people have very little trust in him because it’s a lot of talk right now. In these past 100 days, it’s been a lot of impulsive, ‘I just want to get a rise out of people and see what happens,’ instead of letting things pan out slowly and see what happens.”

Sheyenne Michelizzi, program assistant at the Provost Office, said that although she has never been favorable of the president, she is more devastated than before he took office and can’t tell whether he has a strong stance either for or against any particular issue.

“What I would like to see from him is more humility and any kind of thought towards the greater good of the citizens,” Michelizzi said.

 

Elon University faculty engage in panel discussing the implications of President Trump’s missile strike on Syria

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | April 12, 2017

FullSizeRender-6

Panel members left to right: Kaye Usry, Jason Kirk, Baris Kesgin, Haya Ajjan.

U.S. media coverage took an unexpected turn last week when news broke that President Donald Trump authorized a missile strike against the Assad-regime airbase. Trump said his actions were in response to the chemical weapons attack on the Syrian people, but some feel the strike was a policy reversal for the president who campaigned on staying out of conflict.

To initiate discussion and clear up lingering questions regarding the strike and its implications, members of Elon University faculty engaged in a panel Wednesday, April 11 at 4:15p.m. in Moseley 215. Safia Swimelar, associate professor of political science and policy studies, said as unfortunate as the events going on in Syria are, they need to be talked about. In moderating the panel, she aimed to provide context on the situation by discussing the humanitarian aspect as well as geopolitics and strategy, foreign policy and domestic relations under the Trump administration.

Ajjan pull“My family and I were actually glued to the TV,” said Haya Ajjan, associate professor of management information systems, speaking of when news broke last Thursday night. Just two days before on Tuesday, news coverage focused on the chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed more than 100 people. Many blamed President Bashar al-Assad and his government, considering it a war crime against his own people.

“I looked over at my husband and actually he was crying,” Ajjan said, recalling the night she first heard about the chemical attack. “We both had tears in our eyes. We cried for the more than 5,000 soles that had died. I wondered, how many babies would be orphaned today?”

Although Ajjan is unsure of the impact Trump’s strike will have on war, she said she thinks it sent an important message.

“In the past three years, we Syrians have witnessed a lot of loss,” she said. “Assad and Putin are under the belief that they could do whatever they want, as they have for years, and no one can stop them.”

What the Trump administration proved with the missile strike she said, though controversial, is that these “atrocities are no longer tolerated.”

But the problem arises in analyzing how suddenly the decision to authorize the strike was made, leaving room for uncertainty in regard to the future direction of the president’s administration.

“As faculty, as Americans, as non-Americans, we’d all be forgiven for being pretty confused,” said Jason Kirk, associate professor of political science and policy studies. “It is an extraordinary shift in the vision of Trump’s presidency, in his goals for the world.”

Kirk added, “It feels like Trump made [what he considered to be] a good decision based off what looked good to him, and those who approved based it on last week. Period.”

Kirk said it’s important to keep in mind that there is often disorganization in the early days of any administration, but feels that what the Trump administration has demonstrated so far is “extraordinary disorganization in the White House.” Part of that, he says, is due to Trump’s shortcomings with staffing members of his team.

“It’s very difficult to conduct foreign policy when you’re missing layers of bureaucracy,” he said. “People who know things about places. Government and leadership requires that.”

Later, he added, “I don’t know how much to ascribe strategy to it versus just they didn’t expect to win the presidency. And they didn’t really plan for a lot of this. They didn’t plan for the White House Easter egg hunt. They didn’t do a lot of things and I think time will tell.”

According to Baris Kesgin, associate professor of political science, the Trump administration has failed at giving consistent signaling as to their course of action.

“Even the congress at this point is not knowledgeable of the Syrian game plan,” he said. “That is unfortunate.”

Though it’s clear that Trump was trying to send a message, it’s unclear of what that message is for certain. Trump felt that Assad crossed the line by waging a chemical attack on his people, but Kirk wonders if that “line” has been definitely laid out enough for the U.S. strike to have accomplished its goal. He says that confusion may only lead to more strife.

FullSizeRender-8

This map shows how populated different parts of Syria are with individual forces of power.

“The stakes are too high,” Kirk said. “There’s an international audience to this. If people are confused by what Trump means by this, if Assad doesn’t know what lines not to transgress going forward, then he’ll either decide it doesn’t matter or he’s left in a position to continue to test the U.S. to figure out where these lines might lie.”

As foreign involvement in the Syrian conflict continues to grow, discussion around it becomes fuzzier. According to Ajjan, as the years have progressed, the plan for finding a military solution to ending war in Syria has become less and less clear.

“We used to have a plan in 2012 and in 2013, but now there are too many players on the ground,” she said.

Though Trump has taken an action he believes will prove that the U.S. won’t stand for abuse and suffering, his questionable long-term motives and haste in decision-making leaves much to be speculated.

Kirk acknowledged that there’s really no way for Americans to fully grasp how the president plans to handle foreign policy going forward, but is confident that it will one day come out.

“Part of the nice quality of having such a chaotic early administration is people are eventually going to write books about this stuff,” Kirk said. “They’re going to be tripping over each other to tell us what’s going on. We’ll just have to wait a few years.”

Polar Extremes: Elon Community Connections Panel discusses the effects of America’s two-party system

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 22, 2017

fullsizerender-1

Photo by Mariah Posey | Moderator and panel members (left to right) Naeemah Clark, John Hood, Carrie Eaves, Chris Fitzsimon.

Regardless of political standing, questions regarding the current state of American politics stump many people. Is it fair? Is it what the Founding Fathers envisioned? When thinking about the results of the last election and how Americans are voting, Carrie Eaves, assistant professor of political science, says she learned we are “extraordinarily polarized” under the two-party system. She described what took place as a “social phenomenon.”

“We did see — and continue to see — because our political debate is so charged, people are hesitant [to voice their opinions],” Eaves said. “It makes it a lot harder to have those discussions.”

To create a safe space for that conversation, Elon University in collaboration with the Burlington Times-News presented a panel themed “The Role of Government and the Future of the Traditional Two-Party Political System” Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in McKinnon Hall. It was the second installment of their Community Connections forum series, aimed at initiating thoughtful dialogue surrounding the contemporary political environment.

The event ran as a Q&A session where both moderator Naeemah Clark and audience members were free to pose questions regarding government and panel members took turns responding.

Q: What role did third-party candidates play in the election?

Although third parties don’t have a strong history of winning elections, Bernie Sanders (who ran independent during the 2017 election) received more votes than third parties usually get according to John Hood, political commentator and president of the John William Pope Foundation. When Republican leaning voters weren’t sold on Trump and democratic voters lost fervor their candidates, they turned to Sanders.

According to Hood, third parties begin to underperform when they gear their campaigns towards appealing to crowds that are firmly for another party instead of the people who will likely vote for them.

Regarding presidency, Eaves didn’t see room for a third party to win anytime soon.

“The bar is set by the two existing parties, intentionally very high,” she commented.

Hood agreed that the likelihood of a presidential win for a third party was slim, but maintained that they could have a significant effect on politics.

“I think we’re going to see three parties actively competing for presidency [in the future],” Hood said.

Q: Does the Republican party now sign off on Trump’s ideas?

Associate Professor of Communications Naeemah Clark, moderator of the event, identified President Donald Trump as “a third party candidate who was smart enough to join the Republican party.” Afterwards, she posed a question regarding what a future Republican party will look like.

Hood said he didn’t believe Republicans had a singular party anymore.

“I think it’s the Republican parties,” he said, referring to them as the grassroots republicans, capitol hill republicans and Trump republicans. He described the three parties as three wrestlers in a ring.

“One hasn’t thrown the other to the ground yet,” he said.

But Chris Fitzsimon, founder and executive director of NC Policy Watch, disagreed that there were Republican parties and said rather, that Trump was appealing to the other two.

Q: What is the role of the government and different political parties in a non-election year?

Until it became a political liability in the 90s, Hood said that senators used to live in Washington and have families and churches there. They went to church with Democrats. Because that doesn’t really happen anymore, the opportunity for mature verbal exchange is limited.

“That reduces the social ties that allows people to argue with each other without bickering with each other,” Hood said.

Because of this, Hood says the two political parties are more ideologically sorted than they used to be. But Eaves believes it’s the job of the people send them back if they don’t serve our needs.

Q: How is Twitter and the trope of mainstream media changing our democracy? 

People are too able to block out ideas that don’t align with the ones they already perceive to be true according to Hood.

“The internet allows us to cocoon ourselves in our own little worlds,” he said. “People will simply read more and more things that reinforce their preconceived notions.”

The problem with that, Eaves said, is that “people just take in that information and don’t even realize their consuming it.”

Furthermore, the overload of sources gets mixed into the conversation according to Fitzsimon.

“Obviously with the internet, all you need is a webcam and a microphone and you’re a news source,” Fitzsimon said. “We’ve gotten to a point where that’s a part of the debate somehow.”

Q: Would it be better devolve power away from the national government? 

According to Eaves, there’s no clear answer from the Constitution regarding how much power states should have and that laws only work to confuse and muddle them further. But she thinks that giving the power back to the states to determine elections wouldn’t work.

“Some states are very solidly red and solidly blue,” she said. “Other states are pretty evenly split … so devolving power back to here wouldn’t really solve that problem”

Fitzsimon also agrees that giving states too much power could be problematic.

“Otherwise, we’re just a bunch of geographic entities bumped up against each other,” he said.

Q: Is the new protest system sustainable? 

fullsizerender-3

Photo by Mariah Posey | John Hood responds to a question asked by moderator Naeemah Clark.

Clark commented on the new protest system that was emerging as of the latest election and asked whether or not it could last the next four years. According to Hood, its redundancy would eventually lead to apathy.

 “We see it all the time,” Hood said. “Every week there’s a new protest. ‘What’s the cause this week?’ I’m not so sure it’s a trend that’s going to continue in its current powerful form.”

Eaves agreed that four years was a long time to sustain the protests, but recognized their power when they lead more progressive actions.

“One of the things I was intrigued by with the Women’s March is that after the Women’s March, the next few days they held conferences to train women how to run for office,” Eaves said. “So instead, giving people tools to put these things into action and step out and attempt to run and serve … Those sort of kernels and seeds that are being planted, we could see those effects in two to four years down that road.”

What’s left unsaid

Amongst the many topics brought up — the role of third-party candidates, the impact of the internet on the election, protest culture— Fitzsimon was most amazed by the one discussion that was missing from the conversation.

“Imagine if I would’ve sat here four years ago and said, ‘Guess what’s going to happen in the election?” Fitzsimon said. “Russia is going to break the law, commit felonies, steal private information and publish it to try to influence our election to elect one candidate or not. You guys would have thought I was out of my mind and you would have said, ‘That would be the biggest story in politics ever and it’ll cause a dramatic national investigation and we’ll have all this huge uproar in America about it.’ It hasn’t even come up tonight.’

“That’s amazing to me if you really stop and think about what that means for our democracy and our republic and our future … It’s unbelievable to me.”

“I’m starting to think this audience is really full of Russian agents,” Hood said.

Fitzsimon nodded before responding. “They might be,” he said.