U.S. Elections 2016 Discussion. Review

Professor Paul Sracic, chair of the department of Politics and International Relations in Youngstown University in Ohio, was a guest of the Summer Work and Travel Alumni Association and the US Embassy in Sofia on October 14, 2016 and gave a lecture on the topic of “US Election Debate 2016”. He began by explaining that even though the presidential elections in USA will inevitably affect Bulgaria because of the effect of foreign policy, the elections are never about foreign policy. Candidates do not pay a lot of attention to international affairs and neither do voters – American elections are all about economy. Based on the current state of American economy, some of the most famous models predict the victory of Donald Trump but Prof. Sracic also stated we live in a time when models do not work.  Models are based on past scenarios and this year is very different from anything before in American politics.

Mr. Sracic also stated that on the same day they elect the president in the USA, they elect the House of Representatives. In the moment, it looks like the Republicans will retain control over the House of Representatives, no matter what happens in the presidential elections.  Voters are willing to give the White House’s presidency to a Democrat, while giving the Republicans the House of Representatives.

One third of the Congress is also going to be elected. Under the system of divided power in America, Congress is very important, even when dealing with international affairs. The President cannot take a decision which is not authorized by the Congress. In the American Constitution, Congress has the power over war and peace.

Then Mr. Sracic talked about Hillary Clinton. He remained the audience that she was a Secretary of State in the government of Barack Obama. She is aggressive in foreign policy – she was the voice of the administration for intervention in foreign affairs during the presidency of Barack Obama. As a president, she would be closer to the traditional Republican position. Some traditional, mainstream Republicans do not like Donald Trump and would vote for her. Mr. Sracic stated that she hasn’t given a lot of clarity what she would do in terms of foreign policy. However, she has a better commitment to NATO than Donald Trump. In terms of international trade, Mrs. Clinton completely changed her position and now, she is against TTIP.

Then Mr. Sracic talked about Donald Trump. Mr. Trump does not tell a lot about foreign policy. He refers to it as a “secret plan” that he does not want to give away. However, he thinks USA is overly involved in international affairs and cannot afford to continue that way. The closes to his beliefs is the “Offshore balancing” – a theory, proposed by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. It basically means a country should figure out where its interests are and only be involved in foreign matters there; in other parts of the world, it should not interfere at all but expect its Allies to balance the powers. Mr. Trump’s biggest issue in terms of foreign trade is trade. This issue is highly important in American economy. His success is so far part of his very strong argument against free trade and free trade unions in general. This argument is driving Democrats to vote for him.

Finally, Mr. Sracic predicted that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump by a fairly comfortable margin.  More than half of voters in USA are women. Donald Trump’s offensive remarks against women have damaged his reputation.