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Election results trump student expectations

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published November 15, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.


By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

Now that the election results are in, some students at UNC Asheville grapple with the reality of President-elect Donald Trump.

“It’s shocking, I didn’t expect this at all,” said sophomore political science student Blake Hollar. “I don’t think anyone did. It’s like a bad dream.”

Ashley Moraguez, an assistant professor of political science at UNCA, said there are two ways to forecast presidential elections and most people only paid attention to the models predicting a win for Hillary Clinton.

Moraguez said some predictive models focus on what are called the fundamentals and some focus on public opinion polls. In this election the two models had different predictions: the fundamentals leaned toward Trump while the public opinion polls leaned toward Clinton.

The fundamental model relies on three main factors irrespective of who the candidates are. Those factors are incumbency, how long a specific party has controlled the White House and the health of the gross domestic product.

“If an incumbent is running, we typically think that they’re going to win a second term,” Moraguez said. “Another factor is the longer a specific party is in the White House, the less likely they are to keep it and the final factor is the GDP. If the GDP growth is low, it’s typically really bad for the party currently in the White House.”

Moraguez said these factors were not favorable to Clinton.

“So the low growth of the GDP, the length of Obama in the White House and that she’s not an incumbent, all of those things were working against her on the fundamentals.”

Moraguez said most people put their faith in the polling models and did not pay much attention to the fundamentals.

“The margins differed and the certainty we had in the polls differed but almost all of them were pointing toward a Hillary victory with fairly good certainty,” Moraguez said. “Political science is a little split on which to look at but I think the media was focusing on the polls.”

Hollar said he is worried about the policies Trump campaigned on.

“His immigration policy is scary even though it seems impossible to do, talking about deporting 11 million immigrants,” Hollar said. “I still think he’s going to try to do that on a smaller scale.”

Moraguez said many of Trump’s campaign promises, particularly his immigration policy, are not likely to come to fruition.

“Just from an economic standpoint, we don’t have the money to build a wall or deport 11 million immigrants,” Moraguez said. “I do think he might be able to crack down on immigration, but not to the extent he campaigned on.”

Moraguez said many of Trump’s policies would ultimately be determined by the Supreme Court.

“So it’ll be interesting to see who he ends up appointing or who he’s able to appoint and how they will decide certain cases,” Moraguez said. “It’ll be interesting to see what policies he decides to prioritize, the first 100 days of a transition tend to be where you have the biggest mandate.”

Kelsey Gaffigan, a junior sociology student, said she is concerned about what Trump’s election means for society in general.

“I’m really worried about what’s going to happen,” Gaffigan said. “I’m worried about what Trump getting elected says about America accepting rape culture and excusing those behaviors.”

Gaffigan said she has privileges that others may not and because of that she is worried about what a Trump presidency might mean for minorities.

“Latino and Latina immigrants, and they don’t even have to be immigrants because they’re going to be profiled anyway, I’m worried about LGBTQ brothers and sisters,” Gaffigan said.

Hollar said the North Carolina gubernatorial election result is also surprising.

Roy Cooper, the Democratic challenger to Gov. Pat McCrory, is ahead by roughly 5,000 votes. Counties will have a recount and the final result is expected be announced on Friday.

“Cooper probably won’t be able to veto any of their legislation if he wins,” Hollar said. “It’s better that we’ll have a Democratic governor but he probably won’t get much done.”

Republicans maintained their supermajority in the North Carolina House and Senate. A supermajority means the legislature has the numbers to override any veto by the governor.

Gaffigan said she hopes Cooper could bring about some change as governor.

“Assuming the recount is the same as the original count, I’ll be really happy,” Gaffigan said. “Hopefully, that means more financing for education and maybe an overturn of HB2.”

Gaffigan said a Republican-controlled Congress and White House means they will be able to pass almost anything they want.

“They really have a lot of political power right now,” Gaffigan said. “They can kind of get whatever they want passed. That’s why Obama has been struggling with getting anything accomplished.”

Junior art history student Margaret Dillon said she is concerned about the concentration of Republican power.

“That is probably scarier to me than Trump winning the presidency,” Dillon said. “We have a system of checks and balances and it could potentially fail now.”

Moraguez said both chambers of Congress and Trump will have to work together and determine their priorities since the Republican Party is not entirely unified with Trump.

“He’s not really a uniting figure within his party, so I think they’re going to have to really have a heart-to-heart and talk about what the party is going to accomplish as a unit,” Moraguez said. “I think Trump is going to have to fall in line with what his party in Congress wants in some of these issues, so he’s going to bend toward the median of the Republican Party to some extent.”

Hollar said the Affordable Care Act is in trouble.

“I think Obamacare is not going to exist anymore,” Hollar said. “Trump is talking about replacing it with something else, but I’m not exactly sure what that would look like. I feel like he can’t just get rid of it at this point. You’re going to have to replace it with something.”

Moraguez said she believes the Affordable Care Act will likely be repealed.

“I do think that one of the things they agree on is that Obamacare isn’t working,” Moraguez said. “But Trump and his party don’t necessarily agree on what to do instead of Obamacare, so that’s going to be an interesting conversation to watch but it does seem like it might be in trouble.”

Sophomore mathematics student Carey Dunn said she is glad Trump won.

“I think Trump will protect our country more than Hillary would have,” Dunn said. “I think that with the globalized world that we have, we need to put in more protection for us as a country and I didn’t think Hillary was going to do that.”

Dunn said she believes Trump is an outsider who will be able to improve the economy and keep the U.S. out of potential wars.

“I think we’ve been in debt for way too long and with Trump being a businessman, I hope he might be able to get us out of that,” Dunn said. “We should not be as involved in as many wars as we can. I think we should go back to a more isolationist perspective as is possible in this political world.”

Moraguez said Trump is the truest outsider the White House has seen since Herbert Hoover.

“This election was very much an anti-establishment impulse. People thought that political insiders weren’t serving their interests and Trump was a breath of fresh air to a lot of voters,” Moraguez said. “I think for some voters, having an inexperienced president is worrisome and for some it might mean meaningful change.”

Dunn said she aligns more with the Libertarian Party but could not vote for Gary Johnson since she does not believe third-party voting makes a difference.

Dillon said she is trying to be more optimistic about the future.

“I’m just trying to be positive,” Dillon said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s the end of the world. I think a lot of people are behaving like it is and that can be very detrimental.”

Moraguez said she encourages those who are worried to have the same optimism as Dillon.

“I know that on this campus in particular the students seem to be very upset, but I would advise people to have faith in the system,” Moraguez said. “A president is not a dictator. If you’re not a Trump supporter it does not mean that our democracy is changing and if you are a Trump supporter, he may not be able to enact everything that you want.”

Moraguez said people should look forward to the 2018 midterm elections. She said dissatisfied voters can change the makeup of Congress then.

“Realize that the dynamics will shift, this is how American politics go,” Moraguez said. “Politics don’t end after a presidential election. There are still local elections that happen all the time and if you’re happy or angry with the results, you should get involved in politics.”


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Students debate the validity of voting for third-party candidates

I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published October 25, 2016. Digital scan of the issue here.


By Cody Jones, News Staff Writer

Voting for third-party candidates can send a message to the two major political parties, but that message could have negative consequences.

“I think of ‘protest voting’ or ‘sincere voting’ as voting for the candidate that you think should win the election whether or not they’re a major-party candidate,” said Ashley Moraguez, an assistant professor of political science at UNC Asheville. “If enough people do it, I think it could cause the major parties to adopt new issues or shift their platform. So I think there is an effective argument to be made for protest voting or sincere voting.”

Moraguez said if this choice is carried out in significant numbers, it could result in an undesirable outcome for those voters.

“But you have to recognize that if you do it, because we have such a strong bias toward the two-party system in the United States, that it may be at the cost of you not getting the person that you like the most elected into office,” Moraguez said. “It’s a very personal choice and you have to gauge the risk. A lot of people think one vote doesn’t matter, but if everyone has the same calculus as you, it could matter.”

Moraguez said the U.S. favors a two-party system because of Duverger’s law. The law states when there is an electoral system with single-member districts, where each voting district has one representative and when there is plurality, or majority rules, then the representative with the most votes wins.

“That’s why we don’t have multiple parties in the United States like Europe does, because they have a different electoral system,” Moraguez said. “So for that reason, I tend to think that in the general election, it does make more sense to vote for one of the two major-party candidates. It’s very unlikely a third-party candidate will win because of how our electoral system is set up.”

“That being said, I do think that voting sincerely could send a signal to the parties and isn’t a wasted vote,” Moraguez said. “We still see a lot of Bernie supporters who are saying they may not turn out to vote, which in my opinion is the incorrect way, only because the party will only receive your signal if you vote.”

Caitlin Poteet, a junior accounting student from Candler, agrees with Moraguez.

“I think this notion of a wasted vote is absurd, there is no such thing as a wasted vote and I think they’re ludicrous for not voting,” Poteet said. “If you don’t like Hillary or Trump, by all means vote third-party, but at least vote. Exercise your right.”

Poteet said voters require balanced and diverse information and perspectives in order to make the best decisions.

“I would really encourage people of voting age to vote, but also inform themselves with both left- and right-wing publications so that you’re informed across the board,” Poteet said. “I feel like so many voters are not informed and they just say, ‘Well, my dad is a Democrat and my mom is a Democrat, so I’m a Democrat’ and vice versa.”

“This notion of voting party lines regardless of whether you disagree is not the way to go,” Poteet said. “You need to have some kind of logical reason for voting for someone.”

Gideon Honeycutt, a junior economics student, said he does not intend to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

“If I were forced to choose, I would probably choose Trump, but I would be really pissed off about it,” Honeycutt said. “If I were going to cast a ballot based on my conscience and not violating my conscience, I would probably write in Mitt Romney or John Kasich.”

Honeycutt said he sympathizes with voters choosing one of the two presidential candidates even if they do not fully support the candidate.

“I’m OK with people casting a protest vote. I think you have to do what your conscience tells you to,” Honeycutt said. “I understand why some people would vote for a candidate even if they don’t like them, just to keep the other one out, but my conscience hasn’t led me that way.”

Honeycutt said he would rather have vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence as the presidential nominees.

“I’m more moderate in that I could vote for either of the vice presidential candidates. I like them both quite a bit,” Honeycutt said. “I think they both have the character and integrity that we’re lacking on the top ends of the ticket.”

Fiona Popp, a junior mechatronics and engineering student, said voters can criticize the two major-party presidential candidates, but they need to realize one of the two will be the next president.

“It comes down to choosing who you think would be better,” Popp said. “I think if you don’t vote then you have no right to complain about who ends up being elected. But don’t throw away your vote. Don’t go into the polls and just randomly vote.”

Moraguez said she hopes everyone votes because exercising that right remains paramount.

“My students make fun of me for this, but I’ll just say that I don’t care who people vote for. I think they should just go out and vote,” Moraguez said. “That’s kind of my big spiel until Nov. 8, and I think they’re getting sick of me saying it, but it’s important. Early voting starts on Oct. 20 and you can do it on campus.”