Supervised by: Jonathan Bert McLelland Jr. BA, MA. Bert completed an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts in Political Theatre at the University of Alabama (UA). Bert then completed a Master of Arts at UA in Communication Studies, focusing on rhetoric and political discourse. In 2020 (in the course of this degree) he co-authored two academic papers which have since been published. Bert has recently completed a second MA in Public Policy at King’s College London.
As a professional Bert has worked on multiple political campaigns in Britain and America. He was an intern on the 2018 Alabama gubernatorial campaign of Democratic nominee Walt Maddox, and in 2019 he worked in Cardiff as a communications officer with the People’s Vote Campaign. During the 2020 election, Bert worked as a digital organizer and debate strategist for a congressional campaign and then ran social media for the first Democratic state senate campaign to unseat a Republican in 35 years.
Despite varying understandings of who or what a demagogue is or does, rhetoricians have long been interested in demagoguery and are still grappling with how to define, identify, explain, resist, and reverse it. In this paper, we treat the matter of how democracy may feed on itself when there is the threat of a demagog leader. For research, we utilized government documents, news reports, public interviews, academic theory, and expert analysis as tools to assess the effects that demagogic leaders have had in democratic systems. Democracy suffers from a flaw where each citizen gets a tiny share of political power and has no incentive to be well-informed or to correct misinformed opinions and demagogues have used this rhetoric to further appeal to the public, so the major conclusion we reached while researching and writing this paper was how to recognize when a demagogic leader would be negative to a democracy and how to properly identify real demagoguery characteristics in politicians, such as by analyzing their public behavior or their methodologies. For example, how dangerous demagogues might overpower the people after they won by public votation only to establish an authoritarian government.
In modern times, if there is something that is not lacking, it is political and ideological conflicts generated by the unavoidable question: What is the best form of government? It is from this seemingly simple question that new parties and government models are created. This brings us to the politics we have today, which consider the war of Right against Left, Democracy against Dictatorship, Fascism against Socialism or Communism and much more. Although they only seem complex, these disputes can be dangerous when they lose their limits, examples of which are wars, which not only weaken nations but also harm their individuals. Currently, a resurgent term that has gained popularity and the attention of many is demagoguery. Demagoguery is a style of rhetorical leadership characterized by appeals to “passions and prejudices rather than to reason”. It can be hard or soft, and relies on flattery or seductive appeals. The word demagogue comes from the Greek and means ‘leader of the common people’. The word demagogue first arose to describe a “leader of the people” in ancient Greece – a person who was not part of the aristocracy but had gained the public’s respect – and the original definition calls to mind figures like Mahatma Gandhi or William Tell. This, however, eventually came to mean a troublesome kind of leader who occasionally arose in Athenian democracy. According to the Aristotelian definition of demagoguery, it is a leader who makes poor use of oratory to gain people’s trust and confidence (Daily Concepts). This epithet fell out of use for quite some time, but in recent years it has been slowly returning to the spotlight – not in a positive way, for the most part (Daily Concepts). Citizens and experts are noticing traces of demagogic leaders all around the world; leaders who do not fully respect democracy, are passive aggressive and utilize weaponized communication. The American Constitution was designed to thwart reckless, demagogic leadership, such as that of King George III, and broader anti-Federalist and democratic sentiment in the US. This created space for serious, practical, political conflicts in the twentieth century, when the economic needs of ordinary citizens seemed to be systematically ignored and people became increasingly unsatisfied with their political representatives. Although the targeted demographic did not take into account the long term consequences of policy, they were vulnerable to the rhetorics of a demagogue trying to gain power. Taking that into consideration, the main objective of this article is to analyze and compare the long term effects of demagogues with different characteristics that affect the future of democracy. The first section of the paper explores the impacts of a demagogic leader, highlighting the important distinction to be made between a heroic and dangerous demagogue. While both retain the core traits of demagogic rule, they differ in the use of communication and maintenance of democratic institutions. The aftermath of the distinct types are vastly different, thus, the separation of the two is particularly important in the exploration of this subject. The following section addresses the explicit differences between a leader focused on tradition and a leader aiming for renovation. The third section of the paper clarifies how having a democratic leader in a young democracy contrasts with an older one, in that the younger one may experience instability due to its recent founding, whereas the older one’s instability may stem from its many years of experience with the government. As a result, it is much more difficult to become a candidate in an older democracy than in a younger one. The concluding section of the paper touches upon how one can divide demagoguery into two groups: one that attributes problems to a racial or ethnic or national group, and one that ignores resource constraints.
Heroic vs Dangerous
In order to properly evaluate the quality and legacy of a demagogue’s position of power, you must equally evaluate the category of demagoguery into which they fall. While the term demagogue is rarely used to compliment a leader, there is an understanding that a subsection of demagogic leaders exhibit what is considered “heroic demagoguery”. This means leaders remain heavily attached to the core concepts of demagoguery, however in some aspects they are almost completely contradictory to the more controversial demagogues. A so-called dangerous demagogue will use at least one of the following tactics, thus presenting a threat to the existing system of democracy: attack weak groups in society, condone violence or violent language, and undermine democratic institutions. The key skill which is utilized in this process is referred to as weaponized communication: the strategic use of communication as an instrumental tool and as an aggressive means to gain compliance and avoid accountability (Mercieca). While all demagogues use rhetoric or persuasive phrasing, the presence of consent is the dividing factor. For a heroic demagogue none of the previous statements about dangerous demagogues apply, instead, the following traits: commitment to the democratic process, respect for political opposition, discouraging violence, protection of civil liberties, and only attacking strong groups in society (Mudde). The difference in language is the use of rhetoric to affirm human dignity, lift the spirits of the people, debate values, and solve problems by consent.
When exploring the small club of heroic demagogues, the legacy they left behind does not inspire great anger, but rather a culmination of mixed feelings, with positives accompanied by an equal negative. The heroic demagogues of history have more often than not left a lasting memory or emotion on those whom they have led. Whether it be the striking down of a large corporation or pursuing social conservatism, societies do not easily forget the period. A potential example of the heroic demagogue category is Margaret Thatcher. The British politician aimed to accomplish multiple tasks, each of which played a part in accomplishing her economically liberal and socially conservative agenda. Perhaps her most well-known impact was made in the Unions. She mercilessly attacked the composed Unions in the 1980s, so much so that union membership fell “from 13.2 million in 1979 to 9.8 million in 1990 – and has since fallen further, to less than 7.4 million” (Ball). She believed the Unions had grown too powerful and were beginning to negatively affect society, such as with the societal implications of the Miners Strike in 1984 (Shaw). This strike showed the undeniable power of the Unions, but Thatcher exerted demagogic power to regulate them (Shaw). The permanence of this change became evident after Thatcher’s successor, Tony Blair, made no impact on the influence the Unions had on the New Labour government, and the relationship between the two became increasingly disconnected (Stepney). The culture of this society was also shifted as Thatcher conveyed socially conservative views. Although she voted in favor of decriminalizing homosexuality and abortion (Ball), she was outspoken regarding her negative view of LGBTQ+ protests and their increasing popularity. Statistically, whether due to the increase in AIDs cases or Thatcher’s comments, 50% of Britons believed homosexuality was “wrong” in 1983 and 58% in 1990 (Ball). However, the long-lasting effects of her opinions seem less pronounced, as today the figure stands at 20% (Ball). Although seemingly trivial relative to nuclear decisions, these social changes made an impact on society and assisted in the shaping of Britain’s current views. Lastly, the legacy of Thatcher manifests its influence in leaders of today; Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party, often boasts his idolization and admiration of Thatcher. Regarding immigration, he remains in adherence to Thatcher’s anti-immigration views and opposes European Integration as she did (Ball). Outspoken and driven leaders often leave lasting impressions, and Margaret Thatcher was no exception. The demagogic tendencies she displayed in tandem with her compliance to democracy and arguable willingness to look for consent in those she led qualifies her as one of the most positively impactful demagogues of the century. Heroic demagogues often follow similar patterns in making both positive and negative impacts which overall result in a mostly neutral rule. Volodymyr Zelensky, for example, targeted Ukrainian Oligarchs in his path to represent the working class in Ukraine. Although he drew his power from the working class with rhetoric and charismatic speech, he has also recognized the unbalanced economic state and how that may contribute to the other issues Ukraine faces. He has arguably followed similar patterns to Thatcher and so far has proven to be a heroic demagogue, and although his rule is not over the impacts of his demagogic rule are being seen now.
With the desire to examine equally the effects of differing demagogues on liberal democracy, we must also consider the imposition of dangerous demagogues. When looking into destructive leaders of history, many of them fit the criteria for a dangerous demagogue. For example, Robert Mugabe was one of the most destructive leaders in history and fulfils the criteria for a dangerous demagogue. Zimbabwe’s history is complex; before Mugabe’s rule, they were under the control of Great Britain. Mugabe played a large part in the gaining of independence for Zimbabwe and was thus elected legitimately in 1980 (Ray). One of his highly advertised objectives was to convert the parliamentary democracy into a one-party socialist state. By intending to do so, he rejected democratic institutions and processes, thus defining himself as a dangerous demagogue. Further, he continued to rule until 2017 due to his unwillingness to recognize the democratic process. In his attempt to overtake “white-owned farms” (Ray), the agricultural system began to fail and famine overtook Zimbabwe. The majority of the population, from which he drew his power, did not have access to basic necessities such as water, food, sanitation, or shelter. The minority group in Zimbabwe at the time was the white population. Mugabe, in alignment with dangerous demagogic patterns, persecuted their business and drove them to poverty, death, or immigration. The key element here is that this regime never took accountability for the mistakes made and only continued to grow more violent and oppressive. What was a previously economically dominant country experienced increases in inflation resulting in little to no economic system or power. The government had no resources to care for its people: hours of electricity were limited each day, there was a lack of necessary medication, hospital environments were unsafe, and many other problems persisted. (Ball). With the destruction of any system or power which threatened Mugabe, the majority of the population was unemployed and impoverished. The power of a dangerous demagogue is that they have little respect for all around them and wish to distort reality to fit their agenda. Although they siphon their power from the majority, they are very often seen oppressing the very origin of their power. The systems which previously stood, whether it be healthcare, the election process, industrial business, trade relations, or societal hierarchies, are constantly abolished or extremely restricted upon the arrival of a dangerous demagogue in a leadership role. For example, during the rise of COVID-19, various American scientific organizations made evident the threat of the virus and what measures to take against it. Donald Trump, the sitting US President at the time, utilized the CDC (the Center for Disease Control) and FDA (Food and Drug Association) to weaken the severity of those messages (Tollefson). The credibility of previously trusted doctors and organizations disappeared; the demagogic rhetoric and lack of valid communication led to the delegitimization of science in America. (Tollefson). In addition to this, the denial of the climate crisis currently threatening the world only continues to blur reality. The manner in which Trump selected which information to share weaponized the use of communication. He chose to depict only portions of the truth in order to remain popular in the Republican party. Examining dangerous demagogic leaders means examining the societies which they leave behind. The democracies which fall victim to this type of leadership see the clear impacts on the preceding generations and ultimately deal with the consequences of another’s actions.
The most evident differing factor among dangerous and heroic demagogues is that the latter will have a few positive effects in their rule while the former will have tainted any potential positives. Heroic demagogues are conventionally leaders who exhibit demagogic qualities but do not create mass, long-lasting chaos in the liberal democracy they preside over. Yet with dangerous demagogues, the truth is vastly different. The effect they will have is one which is hard to forget for three reasons. The first is that many previous organizations which supported the society’s economic system will either be non-existent or severely injured. Economic recovery will take decades to accomplish especially when hindered by the second factor: social unrest in the community will occur due to the deep factions the demagogic regime will create. By pitting groups, such as oligarchs against working class or race against race, there will remain a divide for long after the rule is over. The third and possibly most impactful result of a dangerous demagogue is distrust in government. When a system that is designed to protect and ensure the rights of the people is protected fails to do so, the belief in that system also disappears.
1.0 Origins of the Right and Left Wing
The terms ‘right’ and ‘left’ are already known worldwide in politics due to their battles over ideological divisions, however, until the year 1789, these labels did not exist. They originate from the French Revolution, during a political agreement concerning how much power the king, Louis XVI, should possess.
The assembly, in an attempt to reach a compromise, split to two sides of the chamber. On the left side, the revolutionary deputies believed that the best solution would be to dethrone the king and take his authority, while the deputies on the right were more conservative and supporters of the aristocratic system, not wanting to take all of the king’s power.
After some time in the Revolution, French newspapers began to use terms such as: ‘the progressives of the left’ and ‘the traditionalists of the right’, epithets that are still used today.
Since then, despite having emerged by chance, these terms have become popular and ended up becoming adjectives, which classified opposition parties from different parts of the world based on popular opinion. However, nowadays many people use such nomenclatures without really knowing their meanings.
1.1 Definition of Right Wing
By the Dictionary’s definition: “Right Wing is a party whose members are either a conservative or a reactionary political party, or those opposing extensive political reform”.
In other words, the Right Wing is a label currently used to represent a political, partisan, and ideological position. According to the concept of Political Sciences, the political position of the right is marked by more conservative characteristics concerning social and governance aspects.
When a person identifies with the right-wing political ideology, they usually give priority to individual rights over collective rights. It is also common to consider religious and traditional values as fundamental to society.
1.2 Definition of Left Wing
It can be assumed that the ideologies of a Left Wing supporter are contrary to those of the Right Wing, therefore, according to the Dictionary the left is “A liberal or radically political party, or those who favor extensive political reform”.
Thus, the left is the term used to describe a political, partisan, and ideological position whose main objective is to defend the interests of social groups and egalitarianism.
This belief system defends the political ideology that state control, through government, is the solution for equality among citizens. So, according to this idea, the State should control the functioning of various sectors of society, in addition to being responsible for providing education, health, work, and other basic rights to citizens.
1.3 Right vs Left Wing actuation in general politics
Situating the two different positions in politics in general, while right-wing governments are more conservative from a social point of view and do not propose drastic changes in the economic and social organization, leftist governments tend to be more liberal in terms of social organization and design rigorous and more controlling changes in relation to the economic field. Such distinctions from one ‘party’ to the other go deeper into more specific aspects of society, such as their economic system, educational system, immigration policies, gun ownership, healthcare, abortion legislation, environmental measures, minority rights, and laws.
Both are distinguished mainly when it comes to the deprivation or incorporation of these systems in their governmental structure, which automatically governs their social structure.
On the one hand, in the economic sector, right-wing parties are in favor of privatization of companies, little interference in the economy, and tax reduction, while left-wing parties support ideas where the government should control the economy, increase taxes for the richest (the richer someone is, the more they will pay), fighting inequality and investing in social assistance programs.
Regarding public institutions and systems, left-wing parties support everyone using the same system, meaning that everyone has equal opportunities and so that there is no need to invest in private institutions. For this reason, their main focus is on public systems, such as those of health and education.
From the other perspective, the opposing party believes that there should be private health and education institutions as well as public ones from the State, but they will not receive as much investment.
1.4 Give examples of application in Demogorgon governments
NB: This paper was written in autumn 2022, prior to the Brazilian election protests.
In the demagogue universe, the political meanings of these labels are maintained, but to understand the side effects that different demagogic governments cause in a country, it is necessary to analyze how a right-wing demagogue leader rules compared to a left-wing demagogue government.
In order to develop this analogy, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil will be used as an example of a right-wing demagogue, and the Louisiana ex-Governor Huey Long as a representative of left-wing demagogues.
The Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is labeled as a demagogue, as he is nationalist, religious, and a former army captain, as well as being anti-LGBTQ+ and pro-gun. He also makes apologies for dictators who tortured and killed Brazilians during the Military Dictatorship (1964-1985).
In addition, Bolsonaro has already made political speeches in which he stated that he had no interest in helping the situation of the poorest social strata and that his main objectives in Brazil were to improve the country’s economy, not necessarily focused on combating social inequality.
Brazilian minorities have revolted and shown themselves against the President, due to the lack of representation and inclusion that they feel. However, according to national statistics at the time of writing, 37% of Brazilians support Bolsonaro. Despite his inflammatory speeches targeting people from lower social classes, he is supported due to his appeal to religion and the protection of the ‘traditional Brazilian family’, which is based on conservative principles. It may be argued that this support is partially due to the social context of Brazil remaining a very traditionalist and conservative country. In addition, he is highly supported by the Brazilian elite, which is largely against radical changes.
After having ruled for 4 years, the president managed to fulfill almost all of his promises made in the economic field. These were: approving pension reform, approving Central Bank autonomy, expanding privatization, selling Petrobras assets, and creating the ‘Balcão Único’ for companies.
However, proposals to create a Green and Yellow Work Card, approve tax reform, change income tax and institute the 13th salary in Bolsa Familia are still in progress or partially implemented.
Jair Bolsonaro also fulfilled government promises related to other sectors, such as the approval of the Anti-Crime Package (in the security department), creating a super-Ministry of the Economy (in the field of public administration), making gun ownership more flexible, and changing the Brazilian Transit Code (in the ‘customs’ sector).
However, Bolsonaro did not meet the only proposal for Education, which was the proposition of having at least one Military School in each Brazilian state. He also did not reduce the number of Ministries as had been proposed in his political reforms, nor did he reduce the age of criminal responsibility and he did not close the project to reduce the sentence of prisoners and temporary releases. In addition, the President was not able to establish a minimum income and promote an economic price without inflation, however, this last topic has other mitigating factors because of the effect that the COVID-19 Pandemic had on the economy.
To examine left-wing demagoguery, we use the governor of Louisiana during the years 1928 to 1932, Huey Long, as a representative. He is considered a left-wing demagogue because in his speeches and goals to be accomplished he wanted to take more radical measures. He intended to remake an entire social structure based on what he considered to be correct and promised Americans justice and social equality.
This is proven in one of his most famous speeches ‘Share the Wealth’, where he acknowledges inequality and criticizes the elite, he uses expressive and even aggressive gestures. Long makes numerous promises, but does not detail them much, and does not detail how he will fulfill them. He also used charisma to connect with and persuade the population to support him; these characteristics combine to support the argument that he was demagogue. He took advantage of an already delicate situation, which was the absurd social inequality of the United States at the time and the dissatisfaction of most people with the government’s ineffective measures to solve the crisis, in order to gain people’s trust. He acted as if he understood and was just there to help. As already mentioned before, Huey Long criticized the elite and how much they had, proven in the part of his speech where he says: “Leave something else for the American people”. According to him, his main objective was to balance the country’s capital and comfort American families. “None should be too rich, none should be too poor.”
Long appealed to a populist political strategy in which the division of riches would be carried out, however it was corrupt, favoring clientelism.
The man was described as colorful, charismatic, controversial, and always skating on the edge. Due to his beliefs and oaths to the people, Huey Long showed himself to be an enemy of bankers and large private companies. In addition, Huey Long turned to the federal government to ensure that the country’s families had an annual income of $5,000 so they could afford their necessities of life, which included a home, a job, a radio, and a car. As a ‘preventive’ measure against the resurgence of social disharmony, he proposed limiting private fortunes to US$50 million, legacies to US$5 million, and annual income to US$1 million. In addition, all persons of legal age (over 60 years of age) would receive an old-age pension. All this did justice to his slogan: “Every man is a king.”
On top of that, Long also wrote a book called My First Days In The White House, where he humiliates his competition and speculates on the possibility that he will be America’s leader.
Long was also responsible for creating a public works program that was unprecedented in the South, constructing roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, and state buildings. He also increased paved highways in Louisiana from 331 to 2,301 miles and constructed 2,816 miles of gravel roads.
1.4 The effects
Having considered both the governments of Bolsonaro and Huey Long, it will be possible to compare how their governments reflected in the society, what was the focus of the mandate and the side effects that were left, considering the differences in context from one to the other.
In conclusion, Jair Bolsonaro’s term was the first since re-democratization to be elected while openly defending a liberal economic platform, with his government focused exclusively on the economy, supporting the privatization of large companies, and being conservative towards society.
One of the questions that most disturbs scholars at the moment is: What are the advances of the left in Latin America?
With statements like ‘Left-wing governments made Venezuela into Haiti, Argentina into Venezuela and, if you are fooled, they will make Chile into Argentina’.
This leftist dominance worries many Brazilians, especially those who make up the elite, conservatives and anti-socialists. These groups are the biggest supporters of Jair Bolsonaro and his right-wing government and completely ignore the fact that he classifies himself as a demagogue.
The despair and fear that the left will win represented by PT (The Workers Party – Partido do Trabalhador) government represented by Lula is without a doubt what moves most of Bolsonaro’s voters to vote for him.
However, not all of them are Bolsonaro voters, as shown in previous statistics; approximately 37% will certainly vote for him again, however, this also does not mean that the other 63% will elect Lula. On the contrary, Lula has fewer confirmed supporters than the current president.
More or less 40% of the population has not revealed precisely to whom their support is directed, meaning this election will indeed be an enigma, which will be solved based on how efficient the population has judged Bolsonaro’s government to be, or how much they still support Lula, even after he was jailed for corruption and breaking countless constitutional laws.
There is also some speculation as to whether Bolsonaro’s economic policy, which has proven extremely useful in ranking the country among the ten largest economies in the world, even after a pandemic, will be changed or upheld by future governments.
On the other hand, Huey Long’s government had a completely different approach: its mandate was aimed at resolving social inequality among American citizens, unusual among southern populists, but with tangible results.
The effects of Long’s projects provided thousands of jobs during the Great Depression, but the governor’s infrastructure spending increased the state government’s debt from US$11 million in 1928 to US$150 million in 1935.
Long Lasting Democracy vs Younger Democracy
Does the age of a democracy have an impact on the long-term impacts of a demagogic leader? And what exactly is a democracy? What do we mean exactly when we talk about the age of democracy? According to Democracy Definition & Meaning, a democracy is a “government by the people”.
Yet this same dictionary offers alternative definition for democratic governments, which is: “A form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” To sum up, a democracy is a form of governance in which the people themselves possess political control.
What exactly does one refer to when the age of democracy is brought up?
When one acknowledges that question, what one really means is for how long has that democracy existed. For instance, the United States has had its democracy ever since the declaration of the country’s independence from Great Britain in the year of 1776, thus it has existed for a considerable amount of time. Additionally, long-lasting democracies have established greater security, and citizens tend to value their freedom under a democracy very highly. However, in younger democracies, where that sense of security in one’s freedom has not yet been established, it is relatively simple to return to the dictatorship that it once had. Democracies that were implemented more recently are referred to as ‘Young Democracies’. An example that would fit this category is Latvia, an eastern European nation whose democratic system was only implemented in 1993, after its official declaration.
Returning to the original question: ‘Does the age of a democracy affect the impacts of a demagogic leader in the long run?’, the answer is surely affirmative. In an older democracy, one person can’t change much, implying that a demagogic leader is less likely to become a tyrant. Also for the group of older democracies, one evident representation of a demagogic figure who established his government in an Old Democracy is the former US President, Donald Trump. What sort of lasting effects did the 45th president of the United States have in this regard?
Primarily, he was incredibly popular amongst some Americans because he was a demagogue leader who pledged to restore America’s greatness and created jobs for more than 300 million people.
This resulted in Trump being able to pass significant changes because of his popularity with the general public. According to Dimock, Michael, and John Gramlich, “Trump’s policy record included major changes at home and abroad”.
He has achieved a string of long-sought conservative victories domestically, including the biggest corporate tax cuts on record, the elimination of scores of environmental regulations and a reshaping of the federal judiciary. In the international arena, he imposed tough new immigration restrictions, withdrew from several multilateral agreements, forged closer ties with Israel and launched a tit-for-tat trade dispute with China as part of a wider effort to address what he saw as glaring imbalances in America’s economic relationship with other countries. This demonstrates the political influence a demagogue may have by using catchphrases to make people believe that their problems can be solved. “I’ll make America Great Again” and “I’ll bring jobs back.” is how Trump demonstrated to the entire world how simple it is to influence people’s opinions in today’s environment of social media and thousands of news websites.
It is also true that the ordinary American did not notice the difference, as stated in an economic statement. Since we are all human beings with diverse opinions, the American government is constructed in such a way that no single person can make significant changes without the support of at least 50% of the people. Change is difficult, as any economist will confirm. In conclusion, Trump made more changes than the typical president, but not enough to significantly alter the lives of the majority of Americans.
Therefore, demagogues are arguably more impactful, and often more harmful, in young democracies, as the established democratic order is more vulnerable to the leadership of on individual.
Economic-focused vs immigration focused
Bernie Sanders, a junior United States senator and former Representative from Vermont, ran for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States in the 2016 presidential campaign. He made his formal announcement for the Democratic nomination at a press conference on April 30, 2015, and made his first public appearance on the campaign trail on May 26, 2015. Bernie Sanders said he would not succumb to blackmail by corporate America and would implement a new trade policy that would prevent businesses from moving out of the United States. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters that House Democrats would not embrace Bernie Sanders’ single-payer health plan and that the political conditions are not ripe to scrap the existing infrastructure in favor of Medicare-for-all. Sanders released a tax proposal to pay for his Medicare-for-all, single-payer healthcare plan. The proposal calls for a 6.2 percent income-based healthcare premium paid by employers, a 2.2 percent income-based premium paid by households, and higher income tax rates for households making over $250,000 a year. Sanders called on Congress to stop the merger between Pfizer and Allergan, saying that the new company would dodge its tax responsibilities and pay a lower rate than many teachers and nurses do in the US. Bernie Sanders announced he would be introducing a bill to address the debt crisis in Puerto Rico. The bill would allow the Federal Reserve to give the territory emergency loans. Bernie Sanders discussed the difference between his banking reform plan and Hillary Clinton’s during the fourth Democratic presidential primary debate on January 17, 2016. He was the runner-up, with 46% of the pledged delegates behind Hillary Clinton, a former Secretary of State. He proposed policies that are to the left of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment, and helped close the national gap on the left. Sanders focused on income and wealth inequality, campaigned for finance reform, and had received one million individual donations by September 2015. Sanders endorsed Clinton following the final primary election and said he would work with her to defeat the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
On July 22, 2016, emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were leaked and published, revealing a bias against the Sanders campaign by the Committee and its chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Schultz resigned as DNC chair, and Donna Brazile apologized to Sanders and his supporters. Sanders’ previous political successes were in Vermont, where he protested against police brutality and housing segregation. He also supported Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns. In a 2014 interview, Sanders stated that he was “prepared to run for President of the United States” in 2016, but did not officially announce a campaign. In 2015, Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Democratic National Committee announced in May 2015 that there would be six debates. In February 2016, the campaigns agreed in principle to hold four more debates, but Clinton dropped out of the tenth debate, citing a need to devote her time to voters in California.
On April 29, 2015, Sanders told the Associated Press that he would increase taxes on the wealthy and corporations, offer free higher education at public universities, and pass a single-payer Medicare-for-all healthcare system. Sanders said he would focus his campaign on family values and would support paid sick time, paid vacations, and access to paid family leave. He also said he would not appoint Wall Street representatives to his cabinet. The Democratic National Committee suspended the Sanders campaign’s access to its voter data in December 2015, but the campaign filed a lawsuit and the DNC restored the campaign’s access the same day. Sanders said that many of Trump’s supporters are working-class people who are angry about the economy and the lack of opportunities their families are experiencing. Sanders was frequently questioned about Hillary Clinton’s use of an unauthorized private email server but refused to use the allegations of wrongdoing in his campaign message. He instead focused on other issues, such as breaking up the Wall Street banks. Sanders did not pursue funding through a Super PAC, instead focusing on small, individual donations. He called for an overturn of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Sanders raised $1,500,000 in the first 24 hours of his campaign, $3,000,000 by May 5, and $26,000,000 over the course of three months, with an average donation of $31. He outraised Clinton by $5,000,000 in January 2016, and $43.5 million in February 2016. In April 2016, campaign finance watchdogs and Sanders supporters expressed concerns about the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee set up by Clinton supporters that allowed Clinton to bypass donation limits and solicit checks of $350,000 or more from supporters. Following the nomination of Clinton in June, Sanders thanked his campaign volunteers and the millions of contributors who showed the world that a modern candidate can win a presidential primary without the support of Super PACs and big donors. Superdelegates are party leaders and elected officials who vote at the Democratic National Convention on behalf of the party. As of May, the Democratic Party Superdelegates overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination. Sanders’ events often drew large crowds, with some events filling to capacity and others drawing additional supporters outside who could not fit in the venue but still wanted to attend. The media favorably compared his rallies’ attendance to Hillary Clinton’s.
Bernie Sanders was interrupted by Black Lives Matter activists while speaking in Seattle, but continued his tour and spoke to large crowds in Portland, Oregon, and Los Angeles. In September, Sanders made three speeches in New Hampshire, trying to convince progressives to support Clinton over third-party candidates. Sanders had considerable support amongst white and liberal-leaning Democrats, but considerably less among nonwhite and moderate or conservative Democrats. On November 20, an online NBC News poll showed that Sanders’ national support continued to grow. He was still trailing Clinton by 16 points but was ahead of the top four Republican candidates in a general election matchup. Sanders narrowly lost the Iowa Democratic caucuses, but won the New Hampshire Democratic primary and the Michigan Democratic primary, and was the first self-described democratic socialist to win a major party’s US presidential primary.
At the Nevada Democratic State Convention, Sanders’ supporters were outraged by changes to and interpretations of rules and shouted down keynote speaker Barbara Boxer, a Clinton supporter. Some shoving and throwing of chairs allegedly ensued, although no actual evidence of chair-throwing ever emerged. The Nevada Democratic Party accused Sanders’ supporters of extra-parliamentary behavior and violence at the Democratic National Convention, and the DNC chairwoman never apologized or rescinded her comments. Sanders’ supporters have organized various demonstrations in support of his campaign, including one in front of CNN Headquarters in Los Angeles. The Sanders campaign began buying television ads in November 2015 and spent $4.7 million in the last two weeks of December and January. The campaign staff included people with deep political campaign experience and people new to campaign organizing. Simone Zimmerman, the campaign’s national Jewish outreach coordinator, was fired after using foul language to describe the Prime Minister of Israel and Hillary Clinton.
In January 2019, The New York Times reported that allegations of sexual harassment, demeaning treatment, and pay disparities pertaining to women in the Sanders campaign were being circulated by email. Sanders met with former staffers to address the concerns and instituted new protocols for addressing such issues. There was widespread support for Sanders’s vision of a “political revolution”, but some believed his vision was unrealistic or overly left-wing. Cornel West “electrified” the crowd at a campaign event in Iowa, saying that democratic socialism was “organic and indigenous” in the history of this nation. After polls showed Clinton leading by a wide margin, Sanders won the Michigan primary, drawing comments from political pundits. Sanders said that his victory created the momentum he needed to win the election.
A New York Daily News editorial board interview with Sanders in April 2016 was criticized by the press, but a subsequent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 53% of voters would support Sanders if he were the Democratic nominee. On June 7, 2016, Clinton became the presumptive nominee after winning the California and New Jersey primaries. On June 14, 2016, Sanders met with Clinton and congratulated her on her successful campaign. The head of National Nurses United backed Sanders in July, and Clinton endorsed several new policies he had advocated for in an effort to win Sanders’ endorsement and his supporters’ approval.
WikiLeaks released over 20,000 DNC emails on July 22, 2016, which appeared to show DNC officials favoring Clinton over Sanders during the primary. Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned as DNC chair after the leak, replaced by Donna Brazile, and the Democratic National Committee apologized to Sanders. The US intelligence community and the Special Counsel investigation assessed that the email leaks were part of a larger Russian interference campaign. Sanders received a standing ovation at the Democratic National Convention but was booed by a segment of his campaign workers. He was declared an eligible write-in candidate for president in California but did not respond to Jill Stein’s offer to run on the Green Party ticket. On November 8, 2016, Sanders received almost 6% of the vote in Vermont, the highest share of a statewide presidential vote for a write-in draft campaign in American history.
On December 19, 2016, a faithless elector in Hawaii cast the first electoral vote ever cast for a Jewish American for president in United States electoral history. Two other faithless electors attempted to cast their electoral votes for Sanders, but their votes were invalidated by their states’ faithless elector laws. Some Sanders supporters raised concerns that publications such as The New York Times minimized coverage of their campaign in favor of other candidates, especially Trump and Clinton. In May 2016, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski called on Debbie Wasserman Schultz to step down over the DNC’s bias against the Sanders campaign. Wasserman Schultz was angry about the media’s negative coverage of her actions. Sanders used social media to help his campaign gain momentum and gained a large online grassroots following. Some of his backers were pejoratively called Bernie Bros, for their intense social media activity.
Saturday Night Live featured Sanders in its October 17, 2015 cold open, with Larry David portraying him in a parody of the first Democratic Primary Presidential debate. David returned to the show for the first time in 30 years to portray Sanders. Members of a Facebook group promoting Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign were reportedly being banned from Tinder for posting spam or being bots. Some Bernie Sanders supporters said they would not vote for Hillary Clinton if she won the Democratic nomination, but rather vote for Sanders, Jill Stein, or Gary Johnson. The Bernie or Bust movement was often cited as a contributing factor in Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 general election. People for Bernie, Veterans for Bernie Sanders, and Vets for Bernie were among the organizations that worked to elect Sanders without any formal affiliation with his campaign. College Students for Bernie was created by college students in April 2015 to campaign for Sanders and fight for progressive causes. The Sanders campaign’s subreddit /r/SandersForPresident was a popular organizing forum that mobilized resources for the campaign. The campaign communicated with its moderators and worked closely with them to spread the senator’s message.
Sanders supported the repeal of some tax deductions that benefit hedge funds and corporations and believed the government should invest the resulting revenue in small businesses and aiding working people. Sanders introduced legislation to break up “too big to fail” financial institutions, arguing that they are now larger than they were during the Global Financial Crisis. Sanders introduced amendments to Senate bills that would create millions of middle-class jobs by investing in infrastructure and making it easier for workers to join or form a union. Sanders opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, calling it “a continuation of other disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA [and CAFTA]” and “part of a global race to the bottom”.
Sanders proposed reforms for the Fed, including a fee for banks that would be used to provide direct loans to small businesses. Sanders became a prominent supporter of laws requiring companies to provide their workers parental leave, sick leave, and vacation time, and he cosponsored a Senate bill that would give mothers and fathers 12 weeks of paid family leave. Sanders considered global warming a serious problem, and in 2012 he said that Senator Jim Inhofe was wrong about global warming. Sanders was a staunch supporter of a universal health care system and said that single-payer was the only way to go. Sanders, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, supported the Older Americans Act, which allows seniors to remain in their homes. Sanders supported public funding of elections and the DISCLOSE Act, which would have made campaign finances more transparent and banned corporations controlled by foreign interests from making political expenditures. He also called for an overturn of the Citizens United decision.
Sanders supported Israel’s right to exist and a two-state solution and said that Israel must have a right to live in peace and security. He compared himself to the first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion. Sanders voted against the USA PATRIOT Act and the USA Freedom Act and criticized the National Security Agency for its practices. Sanders strongly opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and voted against the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. He called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) “a barbaric organization” and said that the Muslim countries themselves must lead the effort to combat ISIS. Sanders said it is unconscionable that the US does not invest in young children from the very first stages of their lives. He has introduced legislation to change this.
Sanders advocated tax reform to make college more affordable and criticized both Republicans and Democrats for failing to institute reforms that would stop predatory lending practices in the student loan market. Sanders was in favor of public funding for college students and said that the American people would determine its success or failure.
Sanders was a civil rights organizer at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, and worked for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in 1988. Sanders helped kill a bill introducing comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, and voted for the bill in 2013, but opposed guest worker programs and skilled immigrant (H-1B) visas. Sanders has supported gay rights since at least 1972 and voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. His home state of Vermont legalized gay marriage in 2000, and same-sex unions in 2009. Sanders supports banning semi-automatic weapons, closing a loophole that allows buyers to skirt regulations at a gun show, and instant background checks for gun owners. He has dismissed the idea that gun control measures could have prevented the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Sanders has called for reforms to sentencing guidelines, drug policy, and use of force policies within police departments, arguing that the money would be better spent on education and jobs.
He has spoken out against police brutality and the uneven rates of the arrest of African-Americans and other minorities. Sanders introduced the “Justice Is Not for Sale” Act, which would prohibit the government from contracting with private firms to provide detention facilities. Sanders supports the federal legalization of marijuana by removing it from the Controlled Substances Act and regulating its sale and taxation at the state level.
Trump periodically mused in public about running for president, but his claims were widely dismissed as publicity stunts. He rejoined the Republican Party in 2000 and maintained a high public profile during the 2012 presidential election. In June 2015, Trump announced that he would be a candidate in the US presidential election of 2016. He promised to create millions of new jobs, repeal Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, and revive the US coal industry. Trump’s campaign was often mired in controversy, with his inflammatory remarks, bullying tone, and juvenile name-calling drawing sharp criticism. However, his supporters were pleased with his combativeness and apparent willingness to say whatever came into his mind.
Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee in 2016, after Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out of the race. He harshly criticized Hillary Clinton, blaming her for the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and for allegedly mishandling classified State Department emails. Despite having pledged to release his tax returns, Trump later refused to do so, claiming that he was under routine audit by the IRS. This led to several investigations into alleged criminal activity by Trump and his associates. In late July, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks released thousands of internal emails of the Democratic National Committee. Trump publicly encouraged Russian hackers to hack Clinton’s private email server to find deleted emails. After the Democratic convention, Trump continued to make controversial comments via Twitter and in other forums, which embarrassed the Republican establishment and seriously disrupted his campaign.
Several women accused Trump of sexual harassment or assault, and Trump’s support among female voters continued to wane. WikiLeaks published emails stolen by Russian hackers one hour after the Trump video was released and the US intelligence community publicly announced that the Russian government had directed efforts by hackers to steal and release sensitive Democratic Party emails. Despite his efforts to portray Clinton as “crooked” and an “insider”, Trump trailed her in almost all polls and refused to accept the election results. He later claimed that three to five million people had voted for Clinton illegally. The unexpected victory of Trump prompted much discussion in the press regarding the reliability of polls and the strategic mistakes of the Clinton campaign.
Trump’s controversial comments on immigrants inspired Senator Lindsey Graham and former Texas Governor Rick Perry to use the word “demagoguery” to critique his rhetoric. Lookups of the word spiked on July 17, the day the real-estate mogul tweeted (Collins). “A demagogue is a politician who seeks favoritism through flattery, concessions, manipulations, and emotional stratagems, and who tells people what they want to hear instead of inviting them to think for themselves and make decisions. Demagogues are charismatic political leaders who are found to be offensive or threatening by others. They fuel emotional fires in their zealous followers with sentiments of prejudice, bigotry, hate, and hyper-patriotism. While demagoguery is often “homegrown,” it is truly an international phenomenon. Demagogues rail against imminent threats inside and outside their countries from enemies they blame for causing the national misfortunes, and sway people to join their fiery campaigns against the “knaves and fools” they blame.
Demagogy is the use of the masses for the personal benefit of the demagogue or the political class. “A ruling politician introduces false dilemmas through their speeches, to force the electorate to assume Manichean positions and to prevent critical judgment. A campaigning politician flatters his constituency, to take advantage of hatred and division to win elections” (Demagogy – Concept, Origin, History, Disadvantages, and Examples – Daily Concepts). When demagogues promise to rid their country of enemies and simple solutions to their miseries, the most susceptible people are captivated and swayed. They feel empowered, that they will finally get action on their behalf. Demagogues are leaders of “isms” like cults, radical ideologies, or even violent militant organizations like ISIS. The United States has always had marginalized local extremists, but few have assumed important political office. Demagogues can prosper in times of anger, and Mercieca, an American scholar of rhetoric, said that extreme polarization creates “a context within which demagoguery can flourish”. She added that Trump is using ancient rhetorical techniques, including threats of force and ad hominem attacks (Mathews).
The 2016 United States presidential election was the 58th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Republican nominee Donald Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and took office as the 45th president, with Mike Pence as the 48th vice president, on January 20, 2017. The tone of the general election campaign was divisive and negative, with both candidates facing controversy over their views on race and immigration, as well as numerous sexual misconduct allegations. On Election Day, Trump over-performed his polls, winning several key swing states, while losing the popular vote by 2.87 million votes. This was the first time since 1976 that a Republican presidential candidate lost a pledged vote via a faithless elector and the first time since 1972 that the winning presidential candidate lost an electoral vote. The United States Intelligence Community concluded that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 elections to favor Trump’s candidacy. A Special Counsel investigation concluded that the Trump campaign did not conspire with the Russian government.
The United States president is elected by the people of the United States through a process called the electoral college. The incumbent president, Barack Obama, was ineligible to seek a third term due to the term limits established by the Twenty-second Amendment. Between February and June 2016, the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as third parties, held a series of presidential primary elections and caucuses. These elections were indirect elections. After finishing second to Cruz in the Iowa caucuses, Trump won the New Hampshire primary, and Christie, Fiorina, and Gilmore abandoned the race. Bush followed suit after scoring fourth place to Trump, Rubio, and Cruz in South Carolina. Only three candidates remained in the race after the first round of voting, and Trump was declared the presumptive nominee by the Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus on the evening of May 3, 2016. A study found that Trump received more media coverage than any other candidate, and that this coverage led to increased public support for him during the primaries. The major candidates were determined by the various media based on common consensus. Trump received the highest number of votes.
In mid-June, Trump was still considering Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Jeff Sessions, and Mary Fallin as running mates, and two military generals, including retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. In July 2016, it was reported that Trump had narrowed his list of possible running mates down to three: Christie, Gingrich, and Pence. Pence won the Republican vice presidential nomination on July 19, 2016. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton was the first major candidate to enter the 2016 Democratic presidential primary race, but faced strong challenges from Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. On October 20, 2015, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb announced his withdrawal from the race, and on November 2, Lawrence Lessig withdrew. In February 2016, Clinton won the Iowa caucuses by 0.2 points over Sanders. In March 2016, Clinton won in 11 states, including Kansas, Nebraska, Maine, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Oregon, Kentucky, and Guam. Clinton won the Virgin Islands caucus and Puerto Rico primary, and secured a majority of pledged delegates after winning primaries in California, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. She also won the District of Columbia primary.
Although he had not formally dropped out of the race, Sanders announced his goal to work with Clinton to defeat Trump in the general election. He then headlined 39 campaign rallies for Clinton in 13 key states. Lessig was invited to one forum, but withdrew when rules were changed. The Clinton campaign began to vet potential running mates in April 2016, and in July 2016 announced that Senator Tim Kaine had been chosen as her running mate. The delegates at the 2016 Democratic National Convention formally nominated the Democratic ticket. Hillary Clinton focused her candidacy on several themes, including raising middle class incomes, expanding women’s rights, instituting campaign finance reform, and improving the Affordable Care Act. She also proposed a “clawback” on companies that move jobs overseas, increasing collective bargaining rights, and placing an “exit tax” on companies. Donald Trump’s campaign drew heavily on his personal image, and his red baseball cap with the slogan “Make America Great Again”, which became a symbol of the campaign.
Trump’s right-wing populist positions differ in many ways from traditional US conservatism. Clinton had an uneasy relationship with the press throughout her life, but started fresh when she became a presidential candidate. Trump received more free media attention than any other candidate, and frequently criticized the media for writing false stories about him. He also said he does not mind being criticized by the media as long as they are honest about it.
Clinton’s use of a private email address and server gained widespread public attention in March 2015. An FBI probe was initiated, but ended with a recommendation of no charges. Clinton said that half of Trump’s supporters were “deplorables” and criticized his campaign for using “racist lies” and allowing the alt-right to gain prominence. On October 7, 2016, a recording of Trump referring obscenely to women was released by The Washington Post. The recording was condemned by numerous prominent Republicans and led to calls for Trump to withdraw from the election. Donald Trump made strong statements towards Muslims and Islam on the campaign trail, and was criticized for them. However, many of his supporters supported him despite the backlash. Trump indicated that he would refuse to recognize the outcome of the election if he was defeated, and refused to tell Chris Wallace whether he would accept the election results.
The ongoing controversy of the election made third parties attract voters’ attention. Libertarian Gary Johnson was able to attract some votes away from both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but suffered a string of damaging stumbles when he fielded questions about foreign affairs. Jill Stein said the Democratic and Republican parties are corporate parties that have converged into one. She believes stopping neoliberalism will stop the far right. The Clinton campaign and Democratic allies increased their criticism of Johnson in September 2016, warning that a vote for Johnson was a vote for Trump.
Gary Johnson was endorsed by several major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The Detroit News had not endorsed a non-Republican in its 143 year history. The Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded that a Russian entity hacked the DNC and John Podesta’s emails to assist Donald Trump. President Barack Obama ordered a “full review” into possible Russian intervention. A formal Special Counsel investigation was initiated in May 2017 by former FBI director Robert Mueller to uncover the detailed interference operations by Russia in the 2016 presidential election. The investigation concluded in March 2019 with a redacted report submitted to Attorney General William Barr. The Internet Research Agency used social media to promote Donald J. Trump and disparage Hillary Clinton. The special counsel’s investigators scrutinized whether members of the Trump campaign “coordinated” with Russia on election interference, but did not establish a crime because collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code.
The Mueller Report found that Russia “perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency” and that the Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally” from Russian hacking efforts. However, the report cannot rule out the possibility that additional information would have presented different findings. Special Councillor, Robert Mueller, investigated the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, Israel, and China. In December 2018, a Ukrainian court ruled that prosecutors in Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election. In July 2021, the US federal prosecutors accused Trump’s former adviser Tom Barrack of being an unregistered foreign lobbying agent for the United Arab Emirates during the 2016 Presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
Donald Trump’s campaign slogans include “Because you’d be in jail”, “Big league”, “Build the wall”, and “Drain the swamp”. Trump acknowledged that the phrase was suggested to him, and he was initially skeptical about using it. He has used several other phrases and nicknames to deride his opponents, including “Crooked Hillary”, “Little Marco”, “Low-energy Jeb”, and “Lyin’ Ted”. Donald Trump’s description of immigrants crossing the border is controversial, as is his statement about inner-city African Americans.
Hillary Clinton coined the phrase “basket of deplorables” to describe half of those who support Trump, and her unofficial campaign slogan was “I’m with her”. Michelle Obama also coined the phrase “when they go low, we go high”. The Commission on Presidential Debates hosted debates between qualifying presidential and vice-presidential candidates. Candidates had to have at least 15 percent support from the national electorate to participate. The three locations for the presidential debates were announced on September 23, 2015. Hofstra University was selected to host the first debate. On August 19, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager confirmed that Trump would participate in a series of three debates. The news, media and election experts were surprised at Trump winning the Electoral College.
Trump performed surprisingly well in all battleground states, especially Florida, Iowa, Ohio, and North Carolina, and even Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan were won by Trump. The White House had concluded by late Tuesday night that Trump would win the election and called Clinton directly to ask her to publicly acknowledge that Trump had won. Clinton had no concession speech written, and was unable to make a public concession that night. Six states plus a portion of Maine that Obama won in 2012 switched to Trump, and 29 states swung more Republican compared to the previous presidential election. Hamdan Azhar noted that the 2016 election was a paradox because Clinton won the popular vote but lost the electoral college. He concluded that the election hinged on 78,000 votes from three counties in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. In the 2016 presidential election, the Republican nominee won Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and was the first time since 1988 that a Republican won any electoral votes in the Northeast. In the election, Trump earned 306 pledged electors, Clinton 232, and Pence and Kaine lost one and five votes, respectively, to faithless electors. Three other votes by electors were invalidated and recast.
The states that secured Trump’s victory are situated in the Great Lakes/Rust Belt region. Stein petitioned for a recount in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and was granted a partial recount in Nevada. Note that two states split their electoral votes between candidates based on congressional districts. Most media outlets announced the beginning of the presidential race about twenty months prior to Election Day. Early polling indicated that the race would be close in many former Democratic strongholds, including Washington, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, and New Mexico. A consensus among political pundits developed throughout the primary election season regarding swing states. Some analysts thought that left-leaning states in the Rust Belt could become more conservative, while others thought that Democratic targets included Nebraska’s second congressional district, Georgia, and Arizona.
As the parameters of the race established themselves, analysts converged on a narrower list of contested states, which were relatively similar to those of recent elections. Additionally, two congressional districts from Maine and Nebraska were considered coin flips. Hillary Clinton won states like New Mexico by less than 10 percentage points, while Donald Trump won states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Nebraska’s second district, and Georgia. States where the margin of victory was between 5% and 10% include Georgia, Virginia, Ohio, New Mexico, Texas, and Iowa. According to several studies, Clinton won a higher percentage of the Hispanic vote than the Edison exit polls showed, and a lower percentage of the Asian-American vote than McCain’s and Romney’s numbers. Additionally, Trump received merely 2% of the Muslim-American vote, whereas Clinton received 97%.
Various methods were used to forecast the outcome of the 2016 election, with most models showing a Democratic advantage since the nominees were confirmed. However, some models pointed to the possibility of an Electoral College-popular vote split widening in the final weeks. Early exit polls generally favored Clinton, but the actual results showed that Trump performed better in the competitive Midwestern states than expected. Many pollsters were puzzled by the failure of mainstream forecasting models to predict the outcome of the 2016 election. Nate Silver found that many polls neglected polling error, and that many undecided and third-party voters decided to vote for Trump. The final polls-plus forecast from FiveThirtyEight predicted 18 states, plus the second congressional districts of Maine and Nebraska, with an interval of confidence lower than 90%. However, every major forecaster called every state the same way, except for Maine’s 2nd congressional district.
Protests broke out across the United States following the announcement of Trump’s election, with some continuing for several days. Several celebrities took part in the protests, and police used rubber bullets, pepper spray and bean-bags to disperse the protesters. Computer scientists urged the Clinton campaign to request an election recount in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania after the election, but a regression analysis demonstrated that the results from November 8 “accurately reflect the will of the American people”. Donald Trump, Chris Sununu, and Scott Brown complained that liberal voters from Massachusetts were illegally bused into New Hampshire for the 2016 election. A report by the New Hampshire Secretary of State and New Hampshire Department of Justice found that four votes were cast illegally. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein launched a public fundraiser to pay for recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, asserting that the election’s outcome had been affected by hacking in those states. The Trump campaign and Republican Party officials moved to block Stein’s efforts through state and federal courts. US District Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered a halt to the recount in Michigan on December 7, dissolving a previous temporary restraining order against the Michigan Board of Elections that allowed the recount to continue.
On December 12, US District Judge Paul Diamond rejected an appeal to force a recount in Pennsylvania. Members of the Electoral College started a campaign to persuade other members to not vote for Trump, and to “vote their conscience for the good of America” in accordance with Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Paper No. 68. On December 10, ten electors demanded an intelligence briefing from the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, but the request was denied. On December 16, 68 additional electors added their names to the letter. For the first time since 1808, multiple faithless electors voted against their pledged qualified presidential candidate, and for the second time since 1896, multiple faithless electors voted against their pledged qualified vice presidential candidate. Colin Powell and Elizabeth Warren were the only two to receive more than one faithless vote, and Sanders, John Kasich, Ron Paul and Faith Spotted Eagle received one valid electoral vote each.
Prior to the 2016 presidential election, it would have been almost inconceivable to think that someone plausibly labeled a demagogue or a fascist could be elected to the highest office in the United States. The Trump campaign and early portion of his presidency provides insight into what demagoguery and fascism look like refracted through the American political experience, and why they are problematic for statesmanship and constitutional democracy more generally. As the polls universally predicted, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but Donald Trump shocked the political world by winning a majority of the Electoral College. Disappointed commentators pronounced Trump’s win a victory for racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, and other social pathologies. In the week following the 2016 US Presidential election, Democrats experienced a higher level of negative emotions and lower levels of self-esteem than Republicans, which predicted how they allocated resources to each other in small groups.
On November 9, 2016, the New York Times announced that Donald Trump’s victory was met with shock across a wide political divide. This headline captures two critical features of the 2016 US presidential election. Democrats experienced an ego shock and showed less generosity towards Republicans, whereas Republicans experienced a positive shock and showed more generosity towards everyone. The shock of the unexpected outcome of this highly contested and important election, coupled with increasing political polarization nationally, affected how people in the US treat members of their political in-group and out-group. American schools are increasingly segregated along racial, ethnic and economic lines, and how students were impacted by the election of Donald Trump depends largely on demographics. In American public schools, 51% of students are from low-income families, 25% are Hispanic, 16% are African American, and 50% are students of color. Teachers report that targeting and harassment has increased in schools, and is directed at immigrants, Muslims, girls, LGBT students, kids with disabilities, and anyone who was on the “wrong” side of the election. One of the authors of this paper has personally witnessed boys inappropriately touching girls, and white students using the n-word. Feelings of discontent and divide over the results of the election have had immense effects on the social dynamics in schools, work places, etc. and will only continue to worsen if such a leader were to be re-elected.
Over his term, Trump reduced federal taxes and increased federal spending, which significantly increased federal budget deficits. The positive economic situation he inherited from the Obama administration continued, but Trump implemented trade protectionism via tariffs, which were projected to worsen income inequality. The 46 Democrats (plus two Independents) in the US Senate could not hold up any measure indefinitely by filibustering, and it will take some time for Trump’s proposals to take effect. Trump’s economic policy was greater employment for blue collar workers and economic growth of 4 to 6%. However, the long term economic benefits are wearing off as business investment has declined. Trump’s debt is significant, and his first three years in office recorded a deficit exceeding 4% of GDP. He should have invested in infrastructure or reduced the cost of higher education instead of passing tax cuts for corporations. Despite President Trump’s claims of the US economy being “the best it has ever been”, his overall economic impact is not dissimilar to that of his predecessor, Barack Obama. The US economy has grown at an average annual rate of 2.5% since 2014 (Strong). President Trump has achieved some positive economic change, but the impact of the pandemic limited business and consumer confidence, and therefore spending, into 2021.
The choice each aspiring leader must make is to lead with love or to lead with fear. The classic Machavillian principle, which manifests itself in the legacy of every leader, dictates demagogues just the same. Through the exploration of fascinating leaders in the context of four differing factors – heroic and dangerous, left and right-wing, long-lasting and younger democracies, and finally economic vs immigration focused – the impact of a demagogic rule becomes starkly revealed. Through the lens of these four subcategories, the effects of demagogues have been explored, analyzed, and interpreted. The discoveries made have revealed just how important the exploration of demagogues is but more importantly how societies are altered with this type of leadership. Demagogues have played a crucial role in history, which often has to do with the aggressive nature of both their leadership and policy style. Due to the mark they often leave on societies, their time spent in power is an important term to delve into. Their manner of attacking specific groups in society, while also representing the previously unrepresented, is the very core of their confusing nature. The threat of their nature resides in the ability to pit groups against one another, thus, dispelling the protection of democracy that is provided by the people. Conversely, demagogues often work against powers within a democracy which themselves cause an imbalance, thus maintaining the democratic system. The precise point where demagogues can threaten democracy is when that balance becomes unsteady and the placement of power becomes overly concentrated among a singular person or group. The appearance of weaponized language, distortion of reality/facts, destruction of democratic institutions or processes, and the reluctance to take accountability are all actions which declare a demagogic leader harmful to democracy. As impactful as they are, the extreme leadership of a demagogue is neither demon nor dragon slayer but a person who draws power from those who are powerless. It is paramount for societies to remain vigilant to the powers threatening the properties of democracy.
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