Political science professors weigh in on presidential election, Biden victory

On Nov. 6, former Vice President Joe Biden secured Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, pushing him over the necessary 270 to become president-elect, along with history being made as California Sen. Kamala Harris became the first female, Black and Indian vice president-elect of the United States. Professors from Cal Poly Pomona’s Department of Political Science hosted a webinar on Wednesday, Nov. 4 to discuss and share their thoughts with students about the election amid the whirlwind of incoming results.

As news broke of the election, students who attended the seminar were vocal about their feelings of the results. Jerry Kwan, a third-year business administration student with an emphasis on finance, found the webinar reassuring. As a first-time voter, he felt excitement from the election. Kwan attended the webinar to see what kinds of questions would be addressed and to get more perspective on the election.

“I do feel hopeful because I agree with (Biden’s) message of cooperation. If we want to work on improving our country, working with each other is the best way to start,” Kwan said.

Led by Department Chair and Associate Professor Mario Guerrero, the hour-long webinar included questions ranging from thoughts on the electoral college to COVID-19’s impact. Guerrero was joined by Associate Professor Neil Chaturvedi, Assistant Professor Mary Anne Mendoza, Adjunct Faculty Members Nathan Chan and Mehdi Haghighi.

“I just want to let our students know that regardless of the ultimate outcome of this election, in our classes, they have a safe space to discuss their political point of view,” Haghighi said. “The main objective of any academic environment is not only to help a student to gain knowledge, but also provide a forum for free discussion. Regardless of being Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, they are all welcome to share their thoughts as long as the way they convey their point of view is in a respectful manner.”

With more than 70 million votes cast to each candidate, the race to elect the 46th president was polarized. The process was slow due to an unprecedented number of mail-in votes to lower the risk of COVID-19. Students voiced their concerns on an array of topics – from Trump prematurely declaring victory, to how COVID-19 will be handled and social issues regarding race and gender. Participants looked to the faculty members for their perspectives on how the country could tackle these issues.
Guerrero touched on President Donald Trump’s speech that he delivered around 2 a.m. EST on Nov. 5 in which he urged that already-cast votes stop being counted and declared victory prematurely. Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace noted that “he hasn’t won these states” and described the situation as flammable with Trump throwing match on it.

“I’ve seen things where people are saying ‘we need to stop the counting,’” Guerrero said. “We need to realize this is very undemocratic. Trump’s comments were steadily and rightfully criticized right away for being undemocratic, but this is something to be expected.”

Mendoza chimed in about the disconnect between Trump’s statement and the reality of this nail biter of an election. She added that many political scientists expected him to make a victory speech on election night, but felt it was still jarring to see. Mendoza also discussed the difference between Trump’s approach compared to Vice President Mike Pence’s comments in which Pence assured Americans that everything would be done fairly and that institutions would be working the way they should.

“A lot of people were talking about the ‘red mirage,’” Mendoza said. “A lot more people who are voting in person are going to be more likely to be Republicans who support Donald Trump. A lot more of the mail-in ballots are going to come from people who support Joe Biden.”

Chaturvedi finished off the conversation by building off Mendoza’s points. He believes Trump’s behavior, which he thinks the country sees all too often, causes the left’s gut-check reaction to automatically go to fear and danger at the idea a person could do such maniacal things. Chaturvedi continued with a point that a huge portion of the country simply does not care either way.

“I think that’s the disconnect we’re seeing,” Chaturvedi said. “This is something that the left is going to have to come to terms with. Their consistent fear of what Trump will do is not resonating with the rest of America. I think they want solutions, and neither side really gave them real solutions in this election.”

The webinar transitioned to the ongoing subject of COVID-19. Guerrero said that with Joe Biden winning, he hopes there will be a greater emphasis nationally on testing. He believes it is something that has been missing in the last year.

“The federal government really excused themselves from the responsibility of conducting (COVID-19) tests,” Guerrero added. “The reason right now is that frankly it’s just really hard to get a test. I know most people right now can go to the doctor or urgent care, but if you’re on the front lines, or you’re an essential worker and you’re getting exposed constantly and you don’t have health insurance, you shouldn’t have to pay a $100 plus to go get a test.”

“We are going through a pandemic and it has become a transnational problem,” Haghighi said. “It’s not limited only to the United States…The Trump Administration antagonizing many of our strong allies has not been helpful to bring a solution to these transnational problems. We are a global community. The United States, within the last four years, has not played its role as a global hedgemond that brings other countries together to fight these transnational problems.”

Chan said the country would benefit from a Biden presidency, from a non-partisan perspective, by gaining a sense of empathy. He brought up how Black and brown communities are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and Biden acknowledges it.

“I think one candidate has thoroughly acknowledged and realized that,” Chan said. “Some kind of change in leadership on the federal level could help with minorities and those that have been hit hardest by the pandemic to know that someone is trying to walk in their shoes and help.”

Julia Schneider, a third-year political science student, attended the webinar and was tentatively hopeful for a Biden presidency. She is chronically ill with a preexisting condition and is not on her mother’s insurance. Schneider had concerns about the Supreme Court potentially gutting the Affordable Care Act. When Schneider found out about Joe Biden securing over 270 electoral votes, she was overwhelmed with relief.

“I went into Los Angeles with some friends and danced in the streets, masked of course, and it’s one of the most joyful things I’ve ever been a part of,” Schneider said. “Today is a day for celebration, but the fight is not over. Please encourage any readers who care about this to phone bank to Georgia for the run-off Senate races that will be held in January. The most important thing we can do now if we want Biden to be able to enact comprehensive change is win back the Senate.”

Guerrero said Biden’s win gives America hope. He believes thousands of Americans will now live because the country will have an empathetic human being serving as president, one who will competently respond to the pandemic.

The professors from the CPP political science department want students to know their virtual doors are open for advice and perspective the election and the new president-elect.

(Feature image courtesy of Gayatri Malhotra) 

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