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PROFspectives: 2016 Election

News Story

After long months on the campaign trail, the race for the Oval Office is nearing completion. Pace's expert faculty weigh in on the campaign process this year and what they expect the impact of this election will be on our nation's very near future.

In just a little over a month, we will have a newly named President of the United States and with it, new policies, new schools of thought, and so much more. In one of the most historically significant (and contentious) election cycles, voters have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly from both the Democratic and Republican parties.

In this edition of “PROFspectives,” we asked experts in their field for their thoughts and opinions on the campaign process this year—what worked, what didn’t—and what they expect the impact of this election will be on our nation's very near future. 

Lijun He, PhD
Assistant Professor of Public Administration
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences

The 2016 presidential election season has attracted an unprecedented level of scrutiny of both major party candidates’ private foundations. Philanthropic giving is generally regarded as a manifestation of one’s generosity, caring, and dedication to the public good; however, this year’s presidential candidates have encountered scandals in the management of their philanthropic organizations. Worse, the inappropriate handling of their generosity has backfired on the candidates themselves. 

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, is accused of conflict of interest in the alleged exploitation of her political position as Secretary of the State to raise funds for her foundation, the Clinton Foundation. Also, the media have questioned the foundation’s accountability in terms of its financial transparency and the effectiveness of its mission achievement.

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, used money from his charitable foundation (Donald J. Trump Foundation) to pay for personal purchases and to resolve the settlement of two suits against his private business, as reported by The Washington Post. Besides the possible violation of self-dealing or private inurement against IRS rules, other media reports reveal that Trump used his charitable foundation for political contributions and breached the duty of care and duty of loyalty provision, as a foundation board member, actions that are at odds with IRS rules on nonprofit governance and operation.  

These philanthropy scandals reflect a defect of leadership describing both candidates: lack of integrity. Even allowing for consideration of differences between the nonprofit sector and government, nonprofit and public sector leadership has everything to do with one’s character, including such traits as: vision, dedication to serving the public, ability to inspire others, working with people across different backgrounds, and high integrity. 

In a democratic country, only an ethical leader characterized as possessing a respectable character and values can win the heart of the people, entrusted with leading the country from good to great. 

Satish Kolluri, PhD
Associate Professor of Communication Studies
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences

This election has been remarkably different from other ones in the past simply because one of the parties had an implosion of sorts which resulted in a so-called outsider like Trump becoming its nominee, while the Democrats—despite a few hiccups on the way—predictably chose Hillary Clinton. While her campaign has been functioning like a well-oiled machine given its message focus and strong ground game even in red and purple states, Trump's campaign has been a dismal organizational and ideological failure and totally bereft of strategies because he is the most undisciplined candidate to ever run for office in recent memory. Both are flawed candidates in their own ways with high unfavorable ratings, but it's wrong to draw an equivalence between them in terms of their preparation and experience to run for the highest office. Trump has displayed zero grasp of politics and policy and has in fact emerged as one of the most polarizing candidates to ever run for office, whereas it could be argued that Clinton is the most qualified candidate to run for office from either party in light of her long public service. As things stand now, she stands a very good chance of winning the election unless there are more October surprises coming our way. 

On a personal level, teaching "satire as political critique" this fall in my political communication class has been a challenge because one of the two candidates is an entity beyond parody and political humor due to his racism, xenophobia, and misogyny.

Andrea Sonenberg, PhD, WHNP, CNM-BC, FNAP
Associate Professor of Nursing
College of Health Professions

In considering what the 2016 election means to the health of this country, we first need to understand what contributes to the health of the nation. Access to health care is one significant factor. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), although having shortcomings to some, has expanded health care access to millions of previously uninsured Americans. It cannot be denied that improvements are needed; however to repeal it would mean millions of men, women, and children losing health insurance, potentially resulting in poorer health. 

Health is far beyond access to care, genetics, biology, or the effectiveness of medical therapies. There are numerous determinants of health—from social to environmental, for example—and the policies related to each. A lot of attention is being paid to the social determinants of health, including the social environment: who an individual lives and associates with and how much emotional support the individual has and whether the social living situation is safe. A person’s level of education impacts his or her healthcare knowledge and literacy, and thus overall health. It is also associated with the economic status a person can achieve as an adult. Poverty is a fundamental factor in influencing health outcomes, because it impacts basic facets of life, for example: food environment, safety, access to primary care, and therapies if needed.

Other environmental determinants of health are those that are physical and natural: the quality of air and water; the quality of housing; the safety of a neighborhood; the availability of space for physical activity; the climate; etc. also impact health.

So what does the 2016 campaign election mean to the health of this country? We need to compare all of the platforms of each of the candidates. Each of the platforms (e.g., health, economic, education, housing) will influence the nation’s health. Each of us as a voter needs to understand how the proposed policies will impact health on the individual level. Each of us has a civic duty to share our understanding and evidence (not our opinions) with our families and friends who may not fully appreciate the significance each aspect of the platform has on our nation’s populations. Dinner-table discussions about politics and this campaign may not be commonplace for all families in our diverse nation. The outcome of this election is critical on many fronts, and will no doubt have an impact on the nation’s health.

David A. Caputo
President Emeritus and Professor of Political Science
Dyson College of Arts and Sciences

I have been teaching the presidential elections course for the past eight presidential elections. Each of the presidential elections has been unique and important. 2016 is no different. Perhaps the best way to understand the 2016 election is to let you know what my students (nearly 150 of them) are telling me:

  • >> Why are the candidates not focusing on issues? They instead seem to focus more on the other candidate’s personality or style.
  • >> Why can’t the candidates tell me why I should vote for them rather than why I should vote against their opponent?
  • >> Why haven’t the cost of education and education reform received the attention they deserve?
  • >> Is it reasonable not to vote or to vote for a third party candidate?
  • >> Does my vote really matter? 

My responses:

  • >> Personality and style are the major issues in this campaign. They are shorthand to understanding the candidates and how they would act if elected.
  • >> In the closing weeks of the campaign, the candidates will begin to focus more on what they will do (Build the wall, save the Affordable Care Act, etc.)
  • >> Education reform has come up in discussion of charter versus public schools and will be part of the ongoing discussion. Look for both major party candidates to specifically discuss their student loan programs in the weeks ahead.
  • >> There is little reason to think any of the third party candidates can capture any electoral college votes, but if you want your vote to be a protest against the two major parties, you can vote for a third party candidate or you can simply not vote for president.
  • >> Your vote does matter. By not voting, your preference is not counted and you may have “voter remorse” if a candidate were to win or lose when a few votes may have made a difference.

Conclusion: Democracy depends on informed and participating citizens. You the voter makes the ultimate decision and if you want your voice heard and your vote to be counted participate and vote!