FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Saladin Ambar, the chair of the political science department; assistant journalism professor Jeremy Littau; Frank R. Gunter, professor of economics. (Courtesy of the Lehigh University website and Kelsey Leck)

Professors react to the presidential election


The recent presidential election has produced strong reactions from the Lehigh community. Lehigh professors Jeremy Littau, Frank Gunter and Saladin Ambar discussed their thoughts on president-elect Donald Trump and his proposed policies.

Littau, a journalism professor, said he was shocked by the outcome of the election.

“I figured people would not go with somebody who had spent a campaign just mocking people and castigating people and dividing us,” Littau said. “I didn’t think Senator Hillary Clinton was a perfect candidate, but to me it was not a very difficult choice. That being said, I do understand why people voted for him.”

Littau said he did not agree with many of Trump’s actions throughout his campaign. He did not agree with Trump’s remarks regarding other races and believes appointing Stephen Bannon, who many consider a white supremacist, as his chief strategist is not the way to make amends with the people he attacked.

“(Trump) is bringing people into his government that have been equally bad if not worse with saying and doing things,” Littau said. “He said he wants to be the president of all the people but I have a hard time taking that as a face value. I’m not speaking for Lehigh, my department or my students, but I just have a hard time believing that.”

Gunter, a professor of economics and retired Marine Corps Reserve Colonel, said he fully acknowledges the issues surrounding the racism and sexism of some of Trump’s supporters.

However he used a comparison to describe how Republicans are being seen as racists and sexists just because they are Republican. In the 1950s, Republican senator Joseph McCarthy began to accuse multiple Democrats of being communists, which started a trend that made people think of Democrats as communists.

Gunter said a similar phenomena is going on today. People are thinking all Republicans are racist and sexist because of the ideologies of some Republicans.

One of Trump’s plans Gunter is pleased about is his tax reform proposal.

“Taxes are so complicated right now that I can’t even do them,” Gunter said. He said Trump’s tax reforms will simplify a taxing system that has made Americans spend $6 billion.

Gunter disagrees with Trump’s stance on foreign trade. He believes Trump’s perception that foreign trade made the American economy worse is wrong.

“We are one of the richest countries in the world,” Gunter said. “We have a GDP per capita of around $50,000. Canada and Mexico definitely benefited from the deal because they are smaller markets, but we are also one of the biggest benefiters from foreign trade.”

For Ambar, the chair of the political science department, the biggest surprises were Trump’s wins in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

“Losing those rust belt states clearly — even though (Clinton) lost them by maybe 150,000 to 180,000 (votes) —  nevertheless was a surprise,” Ambar said. “There had been some forecasts of Trump winning the popular vote but losing the electoral college. I had not seen very many forecasts that Hillary Clinton would win the popular vote and not the electoral college.”

Ambar said the House of Representatives and the Senate have Republican majorities so the deciding factor on how effective Trump will be lies in the hands of the more moderate Republicans.

“A lot depends on how in-line more moderate or anti-Trump members of the Republican Party are — people like John McCain and Lindsay Graham,” Ambar said. “Are they ready to go along with the Trump program or are they more likely to push back?”

Ambar said he does not believe the more glamorous proposals such as the wall on the Mexican border and the ban on Muslims will go through, but the proposals such as the deportations, infrastructure plans, global warming and foreign policy have potential for major change.

In regards to some of the comments Trump said about minorities, Ambar said a good place to start would be to apologize.

“It’s very early to say that one of the subtle stories or not so subtle stories in the election was how much the Republican Party was split over Trump,” Ambar said. “Will the members sort of get in line now that they control all the houses or will it reveal fractures?  I think it makes Paul Ryan the most interesting and watched figure now.”

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