Dark days ahead: American professors on Trump presidency | KUOW News and Information

Dark days ahead: American professors on Trump presidency

Nov 11, 2016

In the liberal bastion that is Seattle, the response to the election was acute. People cried openly on buses and in cafes. Some took time off work to mourn in bed. It wasn't that their candidate had lost, we heard again and again, it was that they feared for the future.

We asked some of America's leading scholars if Trump's election meant doomsday. To our surprise, some said yes. But many also said this election will hopefully launch a liberal awakening. Their responses are published below. Scroll down to read them all, or tap these links to jump ahead to your own adventure.

"Global suicide machines"
"Or we won't survive"
"Confront this menace in the streets"
"Certain students will be terrorized"
"The potential to substantially undermine the 4th Amendment, which is already on life support"
"Regional alliances are...unraveling"
"Impressive example of working democracy"
"Ecological disaster"
"No one in Europe or East Asia will trust us"
"Most damaging for unions and low wage workers"
"What are politically unsophisticated white people supposed to do?"
"History provides no road map"
"As a climate scientist, I'm appalled"
"Relations with China will clearly worsen."
"He told countries that want the bomb to 'have a good time.'"
"His presidency will mobilize millions"
"Weep for mother earth"
"We have no idea"
"Considerable harm—to the Constitution"
"Undocumented migrants"
"Decline of conservative Christianity"
"The worst could come true, but only if we don't fight"
"Significant employment losses"
"A large barrel of snakes!"

David Grinspoon
Senior scientist
Planetary Science Institute

The one truly apocalyptic fear I have is about nuclear weapons. Damage in all other areas – as frightening as it can be to contemplate – can to some extent be repaired and rolled back.

But as long as these thermonuclear arsenals exist there is always the possibility of a genuine doomsday sequence of events that would quickly lead to the deaths of hundreds of millions and the end of modern civilization. Having that power in such unpredictable, inexperienced, vindictive and volatile hands is genuinely frightening.

I am somewhat consoled by the fact that Trump will not really be running the government. He cannot because he is not equipped to do so. My hope is that whoever is actually in power understands that these are not really weapons but global suicide machines.

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Yu-chin Chen
Associate Professor of Economics
University of Washington

What happened on Nov. 8 does not represent a doomsday scenario for the global economic system. It's deeper than that.

Yes, a Trump administration with a compliant Republican Congress will most likely cause grave domestic economic wounds – catastrophic regressive tax cuts, unpaid-for spikes in military spending, a mauled safety net, an erosion in the efficacy of the Federal Reserve (assuming it survives), and tens of millions losing health insurance. Same for the global economy.

Taking a knife to international trade will arrest the great recent triumph in economic history – the emergence of hundreds of millions of the world’s poor from grinding poverty.

Yu-chin Chen

Misguided economic policy will make us poorer and more insecure than we would have been. But the critical story of election night makes all of this just a detail.

The profound issue facing us is whether we as a people can find a way to tolerate each other, to stay out of gratuitous wars, to control our tribal and tyrannical impulses, to manage our collective resources as well as the powerful yet potentially destructive explosives and AI/bio-systems we so speedily invent.  

In this election, we and our countrymen voted to manage ourselves via simple scapegoating and pure indulgence in fantasy. We voted against facts. If we persist in this we won’t survive.

So it misses the point to say that the election outcome raises vague doomsday prospects for the world or the world economy. It raises the very direct question whether human beings can muster the wisdom to govern themselves and persist for, say, a few more centuries.

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Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Professor of African American Studies, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
Princeton University

It is a total shock that Trump has become president of the United States. It presents profound challenges to all of our struggles.  

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Credit Twitter

Trump and his hangers-on have declared Black Lives Matter to be a terrorist movement and a terrorist organization. That is dangerous. Trump has declared himself the law and order candidate in direct defiance of the BLM movement.  

So we are faced with a challenge. It is not an insurmountable challenge but one that requires us to immediately begin to strategize and intensify our collaboration with the many different groups of people who have been organizing.  

We need to build on the connections BLM has already made with the anti-pipeline protests in North Dakota; we will have to build solidarity with the the Muslim and Arab communities;

We must strengthen our bonds with the immigrant communities;

We must connect with the existing struggles for public education and living wage campaigns across the country.  

The reality is that there are important struggles we can build on. We are not starting from scratch.  But there is no time to spare. We have to confront this menace in the streets with demonstrations, pickets and protests. We should begin with the inauguration in January. Today we can despair and be angry. But in the coming days, we must begin to map out the contours of our struggle against Trump and Trumpism.

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Megan Ming Francis
Asst. Professor of Political Science
History and Political Development Director, Washington Institute for the Study of Inequality and Race (WISIR)
University of Washington

I feel I lost most of what I value in a fire… a fire that is still smoldering and refuses to be put out.

President-elect Trump’s win spells doom for many people. I woke up on Wednesday to emails from students … marginalized students whose lives and prospects for the future have changed dramatically in one day.

Megan Ming Francis
Credit Courtesy of Emile Pitre

Students who are undocumented and scared and don't know what is going to happen to their families; students who have been sexually assaulted and now feel as if our political system legitimizes such acts of violence; and Muslim students who have incurred heightened levels of discrimination over the past few months.

These are the realities of the students I teach. I do not wish to undercut their pain and their truths with banal statements like, “It’s not that bad,” or, “In time it will get better.” Because the truth is that many people do not have the luxury of time.  Families will be deported and certain students will be terrorized. To understand the importance and consequences of this election; we must look past our privilege and listen to the voices of those acutely impacted.

For those of us who are privileged, we must get to work. History teaches us that people have power and that when we harness that power through organizing—we can shift the conversation and the entire operation of political institutions. I feel broken but I also feel hopeful about the level of organizing and activism I’ve witnessed the past few days.

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Katherine Beckett
Professor of Sociology
Joint Appointment with Law, Societies, and Justice Program
University of Washington

The election of Donald Trump represents a significant step backward for the criminal justice reform movement, and, more generally, for the protection of civil rights. In recent years, many conservatives reversed course and joined progressives in calling for criminal justice reform. By contrast, Donald Trump drew heavily on racially charged calls for “law and order,” minimized the problem of police violence, and stoked fear by exaggerating the threat of crime.

Of course, what he will do once in office remains to be seen, and the fact that criminal justice is largely a state and local affair means that states and localities can continue to enact reforms. Still, President Trump will be in a position to reverse many gains at the federal level, including efforts to investigate and deter police misconduct, curtail the use of solitary confinement and private prisons, and redress racial inequities in drug sentencing. His judicial appointments also have the potential to substantially undermine the 4th Amendment, which is already on life support, and notably expand the use of capital punishment.

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Saadia Pekkanen
Associate Director, Jackson School of International Studies; Founding Director, JSIS Ph.D. Program
University of Washington

The U.S. is already marked as a declining power in Asia. In a recent book I cover how the major powers of Asia like China, Japan, and South Korea have been preparing for a post-American – and frankly for that matter a post-Western – world.  The outcome of the U.S. election will further diminish U.S. influence in Asia.

This had already begun to decline under the divisive campaign rhetoric in the 2016 election, which roused widespread concerns about the stability and durability of U.S. alliances around the world. In the aftermath of the election and even if President-elect Trump stays the course, Asian powers simply do not know what to expect, and cannot afford to trust their security to the whims or paralysis of U.S. domestic politics.  

Saadia Pekkanen
Credit University of Washington

Regional alliances are either unraveling or cannot be taken for granted.

The big regional winner is China, which has already drawn in both the Philippines and Malaysia into its orbit.

In Japan, long hailed as a stalwart ally of the U.S., there have already been a lot of questions about U.S. commitments to and deterrence credibility in the region. Defending themselves will become an even bigger priority for all Asian powers, fueling arms races and nuclear proliferation.

Asian countries will continue their quest to militarize further and faster, keeping up or surpassing their reputations as some of the biggest arms importers in the world. The likelihood of their going toward the nuclear option has also increased.

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William Talbott
Professor of philosophy
University of Washington

The election of Donald Trump represents a watershed in American politics.  

The only comparable election I can think of is the 1876 election of Rutherford Hayes, which led to the withdrawal of American troops from the South and the end of Reconstruction. The results of Trump’s election will be awful in more ways than I can count.  

William Talbott
Credit University of Washington

In the aftermath of Trump’s election, thoughtful people all around the globe are asking themselves:  Is Trump’s election an indictment of democracy itself? I would suggest that the answer is that it is not.

So long as opponents of Trump have the right to organize to oppose his policies and to condemn his racism and sexism, his election is just a particularly unsavory example of how democracy works.

Even if you think that Trump’s supporters are mistaken about how to restore their economic security and their self-esteem, the fact that they were able to channel their anger and frustration into a campaign that consistently and repeatedly defied the predictions of pollsters and commentators throughout the primaries and, perhaps most surprising of all, in the general election, is an impressive example of the working of democracy.  

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Laura Prugh
Assistant Professor, Environmental and Forest Sciences
University of Washington

The election of Trump portends an ecological disaster of epic proportions. Landmark agreements made by Obama to fight the looming threat of climate change will almost certainly be undone.

Trump’s top contender for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Myron Ebell, is a climate skeptic. Forrest Lucas, an oil executive, is a top contender for Secretary of Interior, and Sarah Palin is likewise under consideration.

Laura Prugh

This post oversees oil and gas drilling on public lands, as well as offshore drilling. Lax regulation and a permitting free-for-all will lead to devastating oil spills and habitat destruction.

Trump’s administration, backed by a Republican congress and Supreme Court, could repeal the Endangered Species Act. This landmark legislation was championed and signed by President Nixon in 1973 to protect species at risk of extinction and their habitats.

Dark days are ahead for the natural ecosystems that sustain us and the wild species we cherish.

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Daniel Chirot
Professor of International Studies
University of Washington

A nuclear war is only very slightly more likely under Trump. One assumes he and his advisors are not suicidal. But his administration is more likely to blunder into some kind of conflict by accident.

NATO is in big trouble. No one in Europe or East Asia will trust us, so this give Russia and China a stronger hand. But if Trump starts a trade war with China, that could unchain a world depression, and China would be hurt even more than us. That would make it more dangerous.

Daniel Chirot
Credit University of Washington

Mexico will have a hostile relation with us, and that will make it even harder to control the drug traffic. A wall would be of no help.

Poor people and minorities will be badly hurt as there will be less money to help them, and more overt discrimination. Curtailing of voting rights for minorities will increase.

The new Supreme Court will ban abortion, and of course, poorer women in poorer states will be the most hurt.

Any hope of action on climate change, remote at best, is now gone. The changes that are coming would in any case be very difficult to reverse. Now it will be impossible. Watch out Florida!

On the other, the stock market might do well, and the inequality gap will increase.

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Michael McCann
Gordon Hirabayashi Professor for the Advancement of Citizenship and Director of the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies
University of Washington

Mr. Trump’s personal record of dealing with unions as a real estate mogul was not promising; his relationships with strong New York unions in the building trades during the 1980s were mixed, he was charged many times with racial discrimination and stiffing workers, and he recently has taken a nasty, union-busting posture toward restaurant and hotel workers in his Las Vegas casino. 

More concerning is his overtly racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, and generally hateful, scapegoating campaign rhetoric, which is cause for very deep concern among those African American, Hispanic, Muslim, female and undocumented workers who disproportionately inhabit the lowest wage and most insecure job sectors. 

Candidate Trump was vague and contradictory on most policy issues, but nearly all of his proposed policies portend harm for the interests of workers.  

He has openly opposed increases in the minimum wage and sick pay guarantees, wage theft restrictions, and meaningful family leave policies; he supports “right to work” legislation, which allows workers to avoid paying dues necessary to union viability and strength; he vows to repeal Obamacare, thus removing affordable health coverage for low income workers.  

President Trump’s authority over future appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission along with nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court will enable him to reverse a host of advances made by the Obama administration on all these fronts. 

Trump also promised to undo a host of executive actions by Obama affecting workers, especially in federal contracts and immigration matters. Candidate Trump cavalierly vowed to reduce a wide range of federal regulations, which will result in less safe and healthy workplaces.

The Trump administration, largely freed from the usual institutional checks and balances, is likely to be the most damaging for unions and low wage workers of all types in my life time.

For social justice activists in the broad labor community, this prospect is distressing, but it also defines a challenge and an opportunity to point the way to alternative futures.

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Robert B. Horwitz
Author of America’s Right: Anti-establishment Conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party
University of California, San Diego

The financial crisis of 2008 put an exclamation point on 40 or so years of declining wages and growing economic inequality, for which immigrants from Mexico and Latin America were an easy scapegoat.    

Since the late 1970s, the Republican Party successfully captured and stoked these anxieties, managing to tie the discontent of the white working class and small business owners and conservative evangelicals to policies largely unconnected to their immediate concerns: deregulation of industry, tax cuts for the wealthy, and the demonization of federal spending for social welfare programs. 

For decades a central political question for white people was whether government benefits go to the “deserving” or the “undeserving,” with themselves constituting the former and minorities comprising the latter.  In the past, unionism and a growing economy were able to lessen status anxiety; the decline of unions and a weak economy are of course now part of the problem.

If black people and gays/lesbians and Latinos and others all identify and act politically in group ways, asserting a politics of difference, what are politically unsophisticated white people supposed to do? 

They (re)create their own white identity group.  And because identity politics feeds on and fuels a sense of victimhood, victimhood becomes the currency of politics.  Ergo, white people are now victims.

Trump in particular was able to articulate a version of white populist nationalism.  Media of course played a part here.  Trump had been a strong presence in television, having performed in the very popular reality TV show, The Apprentice, for more than a decade.  His charismatic embodiment of celebrity culture was finessed into a palpable political resource. 

Read Prof. Horwitz' full essay, 'The rise of Trumpism.'

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Christopher McKnight Nichols
Professor of history
Oregon State University

This election is a harbinger of bad things to come.

Border security is likely to be enhanced and deportations of undocumented immigrants will certainly commence in greater numbers in 2017, even if no large wall is built.

Christopher Nichols

Regarding U.S. alliances and collective security organizations, such as NATO, and hemispheric relations, particularly with Mexico, as well as the future of nuclear nonproliferation, there is much trepidation in the world community. U.S. allies—and even the nation’s own intelligence community—are uneasy about the U.S.’s course as well as its credibility on the world stage. Its commitment to back up past pledges of support to long-standing global friends, as well as to partnerships with even the most lukewarm allies, seems suspect.

The unraveling of trade treaties and accords, some that have lasted more than a generation, as well as recent climate change agreements, the gutting of environmental regulations, and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, are all within the grasp of the GOP.

But what is most doomsday-ish is that the Trump campaign never revolved around precise policy prescriptions. What agenda there has been was built on vague promises of “greatness” and the return of jobs commingled with visceral grievance politics highlighted by bigotry and the alienation of “others” at home and abroad.

In terms of turning points, the election years 1876, 1964, 1968, 2000 pale in comparison. One possible precedent might be 1860. There has never been a president like Donald Trump; the U.S. has never vested a neophyte leader with this kind of power: unified one-party government across virtually all-federal and state jurisdictions. History provides no road map except the solace that this too shall pass. We simply cannot know what will come next.

Not anchored to ideology but molded by instinct and convenience, Trump’s agenda combined with the astonishing 2016 ascent of the GOP, legitimizes the racist, sexist, xenophobic impulses and fear-mongering we witnessed in the campaign. If the tone of the campaign serves as any guide to domestic and foreign affairs and political life, Americans are right to fear the future.

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Gerard Roe
Professor, Earth and Space Sciences
University of Washington

As a climate scientist, I'm appalled and also just plain embarrassed to have an avowed climate-change denier as president-elect.

Gerard Roe

Beyond the man himself, I’m perhaps more concerned about the potential for unqualified and loosely controlled political appointees to run rampant through the federal government structure, and who seem likely to de-prioritize a whole raft of environmental issues.

I’m quietly optimistic that enough momentum has been built into the international climate-treaty process that, even if the pace slows, it won’t be obliterated in four years.

Of course, the documentation and scientific understanding of the fundamentals of climate change are beyond rational dispute, and are not going anywhere. Action is urgent, and I sorely want to see the U.S. on the right-side of history on this.

I’m also deeply disappointed that initiative 732 (carbon-tax swap) failed to pass. It was a tremendous opportunity for our state to take a lead on the kind of economic policies that ultimately must be implemented if we are to balance our collective lifestyles with the need to limit the ongoing warming.

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David Bachman
Henry M. Jackson Professor of International Studies
University of Washington  

Relations with China will clearly worsen.  

In the short-term, if President-elect Trump follows through with a promise to raise tariffs on Chinese imports to 45 percent unless China stops “manipulating” its currency.

China will not change the way its currency trades against the dollar, and China would retaliate, perhaps by cancelling a series of orders of Boeing commercial jets.  

The Chinese response will likely trigger an action-reaction cycle between the U.S. and China. U.S.-China trade is highly imbalanced in China’s favor, but China is the U.S.’s 3rd largest export market. A trade war will hurt both sides.  

Moreover, if U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports were raised unilaterally, China would likely take the U.S. to the World Trade Organization, where China would have a good case that the U.S. is violating global trade rules. Were the WTO to side with China, the Trump administration would likely ignore the ruling, undermining the global trade regime.

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Jeffrey Lewis
Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program
Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey

I'd hate for "doomsday" scenarios to take attention away from the everyday ways in which a Trump Administration will hurt the poor, people of color, women, LGBT people and so on.

Maybe those harms are small compared to nuclear war, but they won't be small to people who lose their health insurance or are victims of a hate crime. My thoughts are with them first and foremost.

In terms of arms control? It depends whether we take Trump literally. He has said he won't defend some allies, that he will tear up arms control and nonproliferation agreements, and he told countries that want the bomb to "have a good time." That sounds like a world with a lot more nuclear weapons, which makes it more likely they might be used.  

But maybe we'll muddle through. And then there is this cheery thought: The good news about Doomsday is that it can only happen once.

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Patrick Christie
Professor, School of Marine Affairs & Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
University of Washington

I’m an environmental sociologist who studies how people perceive the ocean and conservation efforts. I conduct research in Puget Sound and many countries. I’ve also lived in and worked with many small coastal communities to support their aspirations for sustainable and vibrant economies. Many of my fisher friends have politically conservative views. We retain friendships and our mutual high regard.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that people’s perceptions of the ocean and conservation efforts are filtered through their personal worldviews—or ways that they think about and make sense of the world. Personal worldviews are shaped by class, race, gender, education, culture and many other factors.

President-elect Trump denies that climate change is happening. He believes that current attempts to improve environmental management are ineffective and anti-economic growth. These are based on his world views, and are shared by a portion of U.S. society.

I predict that his presidency will mobilize millions around the world who do not share this worldview and sense that governments are not addressing their interests for long-term prosperity. While U.S. commitments to international climate or environmental protocols may be undermined in the short term, popular commitment to environmental security will rise because billions of lives are dependent on a healthy environment. These issues will define the 21st century whether our political leaders stand by us or not.

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Stevan Harrell
Professor of Anthropology and of Environmental and Forest Sciences
University of Washington

As progressives’ nightmares shift from what President Trump would do to what President Trump will do, we need to be careful. The lesson of failed predictions looms too large for us to ignore. He won’t keep all his promises—no candidate ever does—and I don’t expect a wall paid for by Mexico or 11 million deportations or a ban on Muslims. But I do expect a huge setback for the local and planetary environment.

So much of the precarious progress that the Obama administration has made—killing a pipeline or two, instituting clean power regulations, joining the Paris Climate agreement, cautious support for alternative energy—has been done by executive order, bypassing a resolutely oppositional Republican congress. Trump can and probably will undo most or all of this progress within the first few weeks. And without the threat of a presidential veto, friends of the fossil fuel industry in Congress will pass whatever they want.

Coal stocks have soared in the past few days. Weep for mother earth.

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Daniel Bessner
Anne H.H. and Kenneth B. Pyle Assistant Professor of American Foreign Policy
University of Washington

This election was a game changer, one we haven't seen since the early 1930s, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the presidency and established the institutional order we live in today.

Economic, political, social, cultural, and demographic fundamentals are changing, and these are the problems with which any politician must deal. Trump, as an outsider with few institutional ties to the Republican Party (which nonetheless controls the Congress), might very well be given the chance to enact radical institutional changes – what they are, though, we can't know.

We have no idea how Trump will govern, let alone make foreign policy. He has no political experience and no military experience. I imagine that, like many presidents, the critical answer to this question will be found in those with whom he chooses to surround himself. Since he hasn't chosen his team yet, it is very difficult to know what the Trump presidency will look like.

Trump's election will not present a doomsday scenario to the world. We, as Americans, must be careful not to diagnose a crisis that could increase the trend toward anti-democratic behaviors, such as warrantless searching and decreased transparency, that were revealed by Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and other whistleblowers. We must work together to ensure that our democracy survives any future attacks against it. 

One can only hope that people will organize to help protect the most vulnerable among us—people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, undocumented immigrants, and the economically impoverished—to let them know that many Americans support diversity in all its forms – we want diverse people, diverse thoughts, and diverse ways of looking at the world in our polity. No matter who is in office, this is the cosmopolitan ideal to which we all must aspire.

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Mark C. Carnes
Professor of history
Barnard College (Columbia University)

Mr. Trump is accustomed to getting his own way, and he has little patience. Now he will be occupying the most powerful position in the world, and he has promised decisive changes “within hours” of taking office. But he does not understand how fully presidential power is circumscribed by the Constitution.

The temptation for any president, but especially for Trump, is to assume that the vast powers of the presidency entitle him to ignore Constitutional constraints. Congress, and a Trump-packed Supreme Court, will likely accede to his will—at least initially. But sooner or later, Trump, having effortlessly squashed all political rivals, will go too far.  Someday he will encounter politicians who take him seriously—and devise plans carefully. After he’s been trapped and cornered during a Constitutional crisis, Trump will likely thrash around, causing considerable harm—to the Constitution especially.

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Carolyn Piñedo Turnovsky
Assistant Professor, Department of American Ethnic Studies and Law, Societies and Justice Program
University of Washington

Trump’s rhetoric of exclusion that supported racism and sexism throughout his campaign, in particular about immigrants, was disturbing to many of us.

Carolyn Piñedo Turnovsky

Astonishing to many, he began his campaign frankly preaching about the criminal element as the norm when speaking about Mexican undocumented immigrants. His win now compels us to see what he will do as president. For undocumented communities, the fear is real. He’s promised to end DACA, an executive action that provides about 750,000 undocumented young students and workers with a temporary shield from deportation.

Millions more have little hope for concrete efforts in passing immigration reform. His speech on Tuesday night suggested a change in rhetoric, perhaps even an effort for outreach. Sans a heartfelt apology and regret for all that he has done and said already was a poor start.

There’s little comfort in a fight that falls short, narrowly in many states, and when we learn that once again, the Democratic nominee lost the electoral college and won the popular vote!

But this does mean the majority of Americans do share in our beliefs about workers’ rights, health care, climate change and yes, immigration. Last March the PEW Research Center stated that a majority of Democratic (88 percent) and Republican (57 percent) registered voters favor a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. Early results from the national network exit polls reaffirm this reporting that most voting Americans believe that undocumented immigrants should be given a path to legalization (71 percent).

In an August poll, PEW also reported that most Americans see immigrants having a more positive impact in the U.S. and on the U.S. workforce. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reported last February that undocumented immigrants paid $11.64 billion in state and local taxes. Their contributions in Washington state comprised $292.17 million. But this was not part of the prevailing discourse when competing with discussions about “the wall.”

So what’s missing? We need leadership, who share in the majority vision and will fight for it. A president’s power is vested in the people and that includes all of us. Our fight for change, equity and justice is now harder, but continues. It’s imperative that we change how we talk about unauthorized immigration –- it’s a civil violation, not a crime. We must change how we talk about undocumented migrants –- they are our family, neighbors, students, workers, members of our community. Drop the i-word!

Tonight’s marches and community gatherings echo loudly a doomsday on the parties that will allow or endorse divisive rhetoric that translates into policy. Our struggles link across race, gender, immigration, class and more. We will continue to be involved and educated about the issues and about our leaders and bring in new ones who will fight. As an UndocuAlly and educator, “We are here, unafraid and here to stay!”

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Greg M. Epstein
Humanist Chaplain
Harvard University

First, you might think religion will reign supreme under a Trump presidency, particularly Christianity. But don’t be surprised when the coming years bring a continued decline in the kind of conservative, muscular Christianity that was victorious in this election. Loss breeds skepticism, so look for a continued dramatic rise in the ranks of the nonreligious. The good news is skepticism and doubt can be surprisingly healthy, motivating action in the here and now.

Greg Epstein
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Second, we don’t need religion, but we do need community to order to fight bigotry and systemic injustice. We must address our isolation. Cultural institutions of past generations too often left us feeling alone in our houses and cars, TV and radio voices helping us to ignore the threat of nuclear war in the absent-minded company of our nuclear families.

This is how we became demographics to one another. Let us build new communities that reach beyond living as isolated interest groups, as we learn to be flawed people who know one another and care about one another.

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Michael Brune
Executive Director
Sierra Club

Given the fear-mongering tactics and extremely divisive rhetoric of Trump's campaign, it's easy to understand why so many expect the worst out of his presidency. That’s not to mention the fact that he ignores one of the greatest crises we face by denying climate science.

The pain, the anger, and the fear of millions who are targeted are very real. The worst could come true, but only if we don't fight back – and the Sierra Club is built to fight back. We are committed to fighting in solidarity alongside all those Trump targets; to fighting for clean air, clean water and our children's future against a man whose promises threaten all three; and for a nation that is stronger together. We can't just be scared. We all have a choice, and we've made ours: we will organize more forcefully than ever and, united, will protect our communities, our climate, and our rights.

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Fabio Ghironi
Professor of economics
University of Washington

Much depends on whether President Trump will do what he promised during the campaign.  

If he does, the consequences for international trade and the global economy will be extremely negative. Not only it is a mistake to derail the TPP, it would be disastrous to abandon established pillars of the U.S. role in international trade such as NAFTA or the WTO (World Trade Organization).

Punitive tariffs on products from China, Mexico, or other countries would disproportionately hurt low income households whose consumption baskets depend more heavily on imports.  Predictable retaliation by China and others would have a severe negative impact on U.S. exports. U.S. and global production have become integrated in global supply chains that would be disrupted by a run-up in protectionism, with very negative effects on productivity and growth, not just in the U.S. but globally.

At the more local level, a study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics finds that the State of Washington would suffer the most significant employment losses across U.S. states if a trade war were to happen.

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Haideh Salehi-Esfahani
Principal lecturer in economics
University of Washington

Trump’s challenges in international political and economic negotiations:

By his own claims, Mr. Trump has mastered the art of making business deals. However, economic and political negotiations across international borders are far more complex events with smaller set of choices and a narrower path to a successful contract. Barring some natural talent in this area – which as of yet is untested—he lacks any experience and may therefore delegate the long, tedious, and boring process of negotiating on minute points of trade pacts and the numerous details they entail to members of his cabinet.

Re-opening the agreements and renegotiating them is like opening not just a can of worms but a large barrel of snakes! On TPP, for example, there are a myriad of issues from environmental, health and safety standards for workers, regulatory provisions, intellectual property rights to reductions in non-tariff barriers. If the U.S. makes new demands, it will face reciprocated demands for other countries’ negotiators. If negotiations are not successful and tariff wars break out, millions of consumers in the U.S. including the very people who voted for Mr. Trump will feel the brunt of higher prices, possibly by 30% or higher.

On U.S.-Iran relations, if we take the rhetoric of his presidential campaign seriously, I expect some hardening of the positions, possibly by both governments. However, depending on how closely Mr. Trump aligns himself with the Europeans, Iran’s economy may or may not be further harmed. If the Trump administration closes the door, Iran will seek trade and investment from Europe, China, and Russia.

This post has been updated to include the correct attribution of Prof. Haideh Salehi-Esfahani's contribution, and to include the contributions of Prof. Stevan Harrell and Prof. Katherine Beckett.

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