On the evening of Nov. 8, Tony Marais, an American expat who teaches at AAU’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, was at Jazz Dock, enjoying the music without any worries about the Presidential Election in his homeland. Marais was caught off-guard when he heard the final results the following morning.
“Total depression was the first feeling,” Marais said. “The second feeling I had was that I’m apparently living in a bubble and didn’t realize it.” This was the reaction of many people all around the world, not just Americans.
To gauge the mood at AAU, Lennon Wall asked a number of professors for their reactions to the election results. Four responded: US citizens Professor Marais and Law Professor Carollann Braum, History Professor Bill Eddelston from Australia and Social Theory Professor Filip Vostal from the Czech Republic.
Braum was in disbelief at the reality of the polls. “It took some time for it to really sink in,” she says. “I knew it would be a close race, but it still surprised me. I suppose it shouldn’t have, though, since I knew a lot of people in the US who were planning to vote for Trump.”
Vostal saw the results as part of a larger and disturbing trend “[Trump’s] success simply mirrors recent developments in the West, the rise of xenophobic populism,” he says.
Given Trump’s promise to build a wall between the US and Mexico, his lack of commitment to NATO and general inexperience with foreign affairs, what will happen on an international scale after he takes office is high up on everyone’s list of questions. When Eddleston and Vostal were asked about the worst that could happen with this new President, they conveyed their worries.
“We’ve got right-wing populists in power in Poland and Hungary — the latter pushed on their right by Neo-Fascists,” said Professor Eddleston. “I’m afraid the combination of Brexit and this election result will convince [leaders like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor]Orbán, [Polish Prime Minister Beata] Szydło and their like that they are absolutely on the right course, so to speak.”
Vostal sees a different horror for the future. “Trump can simply ʻempower’ racists and other scum,” he says. “The big question mark for me is what will happen in this reconfigured global order in relation to Russia, China, the Middle East and South America.”
Meanwhile, Braum doesn’t see the election as having an impact on Czech Republic as of yet. “Maybe weʼll have Ivana as the new ambassador?” she joked. (Trumps’ ex-wife, Ivana, told the New York Post that she wants to be appointed ambassador to her home country.)
Eddleston and Braum are also concerned about what will happen in the United States. Congress and the Senate are now both Republican-dominated, which will throw off the balance of the government.
“With a Republican President, Congress and conservative-leaning Supreme Court, the US will lose the balance that is so important,” Braum said. “That could have some major impacts in the years to come.”
Eddleston agrees with Braum. He also feels there is more to worry about than just the President-elect. “I actually fear the Republican Congress more than I fear Trump,” he said. Eddleston also worries about the minority groups. “Political discourse has become nastier, less restrained, more divisive, more xenophobic and racially charged.”
Despite the troubling outcome, Eddleston sees this election as a historic milestone, with one potentially positive result. “My greatest hope is that a rebuilt left will put the working class back where they belong – at the very center of any genuine progressive movement,” he says.
Vostal foresees this future as well. “The left all over the world needs deep self-reflection,” he said. “And may possibly consolidate into a powerful force that would promote the maxims of the Enlightenment and progressive politics.”
Through this time of stress for her country, Braum still conveys optimism. “Hopefully, historians will look back and say that President Trump did great things for America despite speculation by many people,” she said. “Hopefully, they will say that he united the country despite strong division, and that he steered his supporters and opponents in the direction of compromise.”
Marais remains cautiously optimistic. “I hope and pray that some good comes out of this,” he said.
Don’t we all?
Cover photo courtesy of Flickr user Gage Skidmore