By Justin Wier
Paul Sracic, chair of the department of politics and international relations at Youngstown State University, said the union vote was the story of the 2012 election.
While President Barack Obama won union families by nearly 20 points in 2012, they went for Republican Nominee Donald Trump by 9 points — a nearly 10-point shift.
“White working class voters — even if they were in unions — decided to support the Republican candidate this year,” Sracic said.
Many were taken aback by the results, as polling models showed a high probability that Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton would win the election.
Sracic said one of the secrets of public opinion polling is that most people refuse to talk to pollsters. If those voters have a common characteristic or bias, he said the polls could be way off.
“It’s not necessarily that they were lying, that they were saying they were going to vote for Hillary Clinton,” Sracic said. “I think it’s more likely they weren’t responding to the pollsters.”
But he said the obsession with polls, and the stories covering the latest predictions, bury more substantive discussions about candidates.
“This is not just a horse race where we are trying to predict who’s going to win or lose,” Sracic said. “We’re supposed to be discussing the actual policies of the various candidates.
Many Republicans felt media coverage was biased towards Hillary Clinton, while many on the other side accused the media of enabling Donald Trump. Sracic said both things are basically true.
Trump got an unbelievable amount of free media time during the primaries.
“Why is that? Trump is our first celebrity candidate,” Sracic said. “He was interesting. It brought viewers in.”
He noted that CNN and other media companies are businesses, and they knew they could attract viewers by airing Trump rallies — in part because you never knew what he was going to say.
He also said that the perception that media were biased toward Clinton led Republicans to doubt the charges that were being made.
“They didn’t think the media was on their side, necessarily,” Sracic said. “The media has lost credibility, and that was an advantage to Trump.”
According to Sracic, some of Trump’s policies — like reducing the corporate income tax rate — might be able to get through congress, but others that require large amounts of spending without a way to pay for it could cause problems.
“What we do know is that he’s not a typical Republican,” Sracic said. “So to anticipate really smooth relations between the President and Congress because they’re all Republicans? I think that’s yet to be determined.”
This could create problems with building a wall, Sracic said, especially because many southern states, which tilt Republican, have trade relationships with Mexico.
Many pundits and some political scientists have suggested Trump poses a threat to America’s constitutional democracy. Sracic said he’s not worried.
“As I often tell people, James Madison always wins,” he said. “Presidents often find when they get into office, they have much less power than they think under this constitutional system. I think Trump will find the same thing.”
Attempts to bypass the Constitution can be stymied by congress or the Supreme Court. If Trump tried to push against that, Sracic predicted Trump would be a one-term President.
The surprise results could result in a major realignment of the two major political parties, Sracic said. Many Democratic voters switched over to vote for Trump, but he said it remains to be seen whether the Republican Party will cater to them.
On the other side, he also said the Democratic Party needs to rethink its tendency to keep more progressive candidates on the sidelines.
“Does this push the Democratic Party more to the left and make the Republican party adopt some more New Deal-like Democratic ideas?” Sracic said. “That’s all yet to be seen.”
But he doesn’t see another Trump on the horizon.
“Trump is kind of a party unto himself,” Sracic said. “He’s a one-time phenomenon.”