American election reflections

Eyes and ears from around the globe have followed along with the American election. Many of our Arts professors provided their reflections and comments on the election process and results.

Media Mentions

Foreigners shocked, puzzled, worried at American chaos over election

Seattle Times, 24 November 2020

Beyond the usual questions about the electoral college and why anyone cares about the vote in Broward County, Fla., Barry Eidlin, a sociologist at McGill University in Montreal, keeps getting asked whether a country considered the beacon of democracy will have a peaceful transition of power come January. “This year, it’s gone haywire, sort of on the Bush versus Gore level,” said Eidlin, a dual citizen who splits his time between California and Quebec. “It’s been a source of puzzlement and bewilderment. It’s on the level of, what on earth is happening? It’s definitely a more challenging place to explain.”


Krzysztof Pelc, a political-science professor at McGill University, said Trump’s refusal to admit he lost and the GOP’s reluctance to publicly rebuke him suggest that the Trump phenomenon will not end when he leaves office. “The spectacle of the past weeks implies that even if the White House becomes more open to greater cooperation with its allies, it may simply be unable to act on those good intentions,” he said. Read the full article.


Après la défaite de Trump, verra-t-on émerger le Trumpisme ?

Le Soleil, 14 novembre 2020

«Il est possible d’avancer de telles politiques ces jours-ci et d’être populaire, de trouver une base électorale», a analysé Barry Eidlin, qui est professeur de sociologie à l’Université McGill.


Le directeur du département d’histoire et d’études classiques de l’Université McGill, le professeur Jason Opal, abonde dans le même sens. «L’autre message envoyé aux populistes est, à quoi bon respecter les consignes ou les lois, a-t-il dit. Il faut en quelque sorte mettre de côté le système en soi pour garder le pouvoir.» En lire plus…


Republican elites are playing with fire. Here’s what nuclear strategists would tell them

The Washington Post, 10 November 2020

Even if this is true, the Republican strategy has obvious dangers. As political theorist Jacob Levy has argued, Republicans “push[ing] things a little closer to the brink” can lead to uncertainty and rapid escalation and breakdown. International relations scholars have thought for a long time about how brinkmanship might lead states into accidental nuclear war. Their ideas are relevant to democratic brinkmanship, too. Read the full article.


Les premières batailles du duo Biden-Harris

Le Devoir, 9 novembre 2020

« Beaucoup d’Américains sont critiques de la gestion de la pandémie de Donald Trump, qui va contre l’avis des scientifiques, note Daniel Béland, directeur de l’Institut d’études canadiennes de l’Université McGill. C’est un des facteurs qui ont mené Joe Biden à être élu ; rien d’étonnant qu’il en fasse sa priorité une fois élu. Il va vouloir rassurer les gens, montrer qu’il prend ça au sérieux et est à l’écoute des experts. » En lire plus…


«Nous irons devant la Cour suprême»

Le Devoir, 7 novembre 2020

Devant un résultat serré dans l’État de la Pennsylvanie, Donald Trump pourrait-il tenter de jouer dans un remake du film de la présidentielle de 2000 ? Il se tromperait de film, laisse entendre Jason Opal, professeur à McGill et spécialiste de la Constitution américaine. « L’élection Bush-Gore de 2000 était différente, car elle ne se jouait que sur un État, la Floride, et n’a rien à voir avec la situation actuelle. » En lire plus…


U.S. could learn from elections in other countries including Canada: expert

The Toronto Star, 4 November 2020

Prof. Jason Opal of the history and classical studies department at McGill University in Montreal said he worries his country’s “hyper-partisan hatred” will worsen even as millions of mail-in ballots are being counted. Elections Canada is an example of a national agency that should have provided lessons for his country at least 20 years ago when the winner of the presidential race was undeclared for nearly three weeks, he said in an interview on Wednesday. Read more…


Op-Eds & Commentary

Nevermore Trump

Niskanen Centre, 24 November 2020

Professor of Political Science Jacob Levy comments on the election results, and proposes a Nevermore Trump agenda:

“The split result of this month’s election—a victory of almost 6 million votes and four percentage points by former Vice-President Biden over President Trump in a high-turnout election, Republican gains in the House and in the states, and Republican wins in key Senate races Democrats had been counting on—highlights a genuine gap between support for Trump and support for other Republicans.

Republicans outperformed Trump in Senate races that had seemed within the Democrats’ reach in Maine, North Carolina, Texas, Georgia (where the final result awaits the January runoff), and Michigan. Despite the widespread view among individual down-ticket Republicans that Trump must not be crossed—and thus that he must be humored in his continued pretense that he won the election—it appears that there might be a decisive minority of Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters who prefer them to him.” Read the full article here.

To move on from Trump, America must rebuild its capacity to care for its people

The Conversation, 17 November 2020

Professor of History Jason Opal discusses how the American election brings along with it the hope for more caring practices from elected officials:

"Donald Trump lost. Period.

Yet he still won strong majorities in the South and Mountain West while dominating once more with white evangelicals. As in 2016, he cleaned up in places like southwestern Pennsylvania, where factory jobs are long gone, and in upscale zip codes like St. Johns County in Florida, where you can play 18 holes and then sip martinis on the beach.

But the most striking part of Trump’s showing was his strength in places where the pandemic is raging. According to an analysis by National Public Radio, nearly seven in 10 counties with high COVID-19 death rates backed Trump more strongly this year than they did in 2016." Read the full article.

The clamour for a Trump concession shows the enduring power of admitting defeat

The Globe & Mail, 9 November 2020

Professor David Shribman of the Max Bell School of Public Policy comments on Trump’s lack of concession following Joe Biden’s electoral win:

“America is in the throes of a concession obsession.

Former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden would like one. President Donald J. Trump won't deliver one. In a country suffering from nervous exhaustion, clinical depression and political vertigo, yet another struggle of wills is under way, yet another public art form is endangered, yet another civic custom is being trampled on.

Ever since William Jennings Bryan - himself as much a rebel, as much a disrupter, as much a populist, as Mr. Trump - conceded to William McKinley, the victor of the brutal 1896 presidential campaign, a gracious public acknowledgment of defeat has been a revered part of American political tradition. ‘We have submitted the issue to the American people,’ said Mr. Bryan, ‘and their will is law.’ The American concession speech is never more honoured than it is after close elections like this one.” Read more here.


Kamala Harris's victory is a repudiation of racism that Black women face

The Globe & Mail, 9 November 2020

Professor of Political Science Debra Thompson comments on the meaning of Kamala Harris’ vice presidential win for Black women:

“What it does to your psyche to constantly hear that you can be anything you set your mind to, but to never actually witness it come to pass for people who share your identity. To never see anyone who looks like you reach those occupations that we like to tell our children are available to all people, regardless of race or gender.

These messages patrol the boundaries of the realm of possibility for Black girls. They are everywhere and relentless, pervasive and penetrative. The late Richard Iton once wrote that in popular culture, Black people are often treated as punctuation marks - we split sentences like commas, join together equally weighted parts like a semi-colon or are positioned as a question mark here, an exclamation mark there. Entire generations of Black people - especially Black women - have been taught that all we can ever hope to be is the jovial sidekick to someone else's story.

Kamala Harris changes that message. True, the vice-president is ancillary to the president, but that doesn't change how unprecedented it will be to have a woman as the second-in-command in one of the world's few superpowers. This election is, in a word, monumental.” Read the full article here.


What kind of President would Joe Biden be?

The Globe & Mail, 7 November 2020

Professor David Shribman of the Max Bell School of Public Policy comments on what type of president he believes Joe Biden will be:

“Some 16 hours after the polls closed in the faraway precincts of Alaska, former vice-president Joe Biden stepped to a rostrum 7,242 kilometres away, in Wilmington, Del., and, before a bank of television cameras, promised a presidency that would ‘stop treating our opponents as enemies.’

Mr. Biden is not Lincolnesque; he does not possess the rhetorical power of the 16th president, nor the classical erudition of the self-educated Civil War leader. But Mr. Biden, with powerful winds of momentum behind him in key battleground states but with the presidency not yet in hand, struck a mystical Lincoln chord, a resonance from his 1861 Inaugural Address, delivered less than a month after the seceded Southern states created the Confederacy.” Read more…


Biden a gagné. Et maintenant ?

LaPresse+, 7 novembre 2020

Le professeur en sociologie Berry Eildin commente sur ce qui va se passer d’ici le jour de l’investiture du président:

« Donc, même si Biden est déclaré vainqueur, on ne devrait pas s’attendre à une transition du pouvoir ordonnée. Tout au moins, il est presque certain qu’il n’y aura pas de coordination entre les équipes du président désigné et du président sortant, ce qu’on a déjà vu à la suite d’autres élections hargneuses, comme en 2000. » En lire plus…


Is this what democracy looks like?

The Globe & Mail, 4 November 2020

Professor of Political Science Debra Thompson explores if voting is enough to restore a sense of democracy in the United States:

“Too often, the response of the Democratic Party to the tragedies and terror of the past four years has been a myopic focus on the formal institutions of democratic rule: “Just vote.” Celebrities release a torrent of “Get Out The Vote” posts on every social-media platform. “Don’t boo. Vote!” president Barack Obama once admonished. Even with claims that it was about More Than a Vote, the organization created by LeBron James and fellow athletes worked to increase the number of poll workers in Black electoral districts. Just vote.

As certainty about the final tally from Tuesday’s election in the United States slowly materializes, the question remains: Can voting be enough to restore the democratic norms that have been under a full-scale assault during the Trump presidency?” Read the full article.

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