Earlier this week, Brookings hosted a discussion on the conflicting state of American politics, the pessimism and demographics of the voters ensnarled in the political process, and what the aftermath of this election will look like. Senior Fellow E.J. Dionne, Jr. joined Whit Ayres, founder and president of North Star Opinion Research, Zoë Baird, CEO and president of the Markle Foundation and Brookings Trustee, and Stanley Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.
In a frank and honest conversation, the four experts touched on the most salient issues of this election cycle and gave nuanced answers to the most hotly debated questions in contemporary politics.
Baird described how the transition to the Digital Age that the United States is experiencing today is shaping Americans’ opinions of their government, similarly to how it did during the American Industrial Revolution. “We’re in a transition and people are feeling it,” she remarked. She argued that “the government is so far behind” and that lag is causing people to lose faith in the political system and American politicians.
Greenberg spoke on the demographic and cultural changes that the American people have experienced over the past few years and will continue to face in the years to come. These include the continued growth of minority populations, accelerating urbanization, increased secularism, and augmented globalization. He noted that these changes are profoundly reshaping America and that “the political stuff is just the sideshow.” Watch:
Ayres described how this metamorphosis has led to the popularity of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. People who have less relative to what they had before the changing American landscape suffer from “relative depravation” and became increasingly frustrated with politicians who did not take actions to improve their situation.
However, while Ayres said “there are many reasons to be for Trump,” and cultural reasons play a large role in the trend, personality plays a large role in his success this election. He compared the 2016 election to an election in a “third world country,” where the personality of candidates often means more than the issues they stand for. Watch:
With such an extraordinary election that will most likely leave both parties shell-shocked in the aftermath, Ayres predicted that Trump’s reaction to the election results will shape the future of American politics. However, Zoë Baird was optimistic about the future of the U.S. post-election. She argued that the period following the election could be one where the government works to catch up to the private sector and the innovations of the digital age. “We have an opportunity no matter who wins,” she stated. Watch:
Watch the full event.
Free speech shouldn’t be a partisan issue, but it has been drawn into the larger dynamics of polarization in this country.