Trump, Brexit and a crisis of participation in universities

Tom Sperlinger is Reader in English Literature and Community Engagement at the University of Bristol.

A friend of mine recently posted a link on Facebook to a Wall Street Journal article, ‘Blue Feed, Red Feed’, which allows readers to pick a topic – Hillary Clinton, say, or abortion – and see how the ‘other’ side of Facebook is talking about it. My friend wrote:

I and everyone I know (well, nearly everyone) finds Trump utterly disgusting, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing. For others worried that we all (mostly) agree with each other, this is a useful side-by-side comparison of liberal and conservative Facebook.

I looked at the split screen on the topic of ‘guns’ and saw posts I recognised on the ‘blue’ side condemning Republican measures to reduce checks on those buying firearms. The ‘red’ side, meanwhile, included a link to a Federalist Papers website article criticising ‘leftists who don’t like guns’.

The divides that were exposed by Trump and Brexit are complex. Yet, in both votes, two sides emerged that were incomprehensible to each other and they split, above all, along levels of education. Continue reading

What does Trump mean for the environment?

Ed Atkins, PhD student in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies

Ed Atkins, PhD student in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol

Several weeks ago, I was walking along Avenida Paulista in São Paulo. Through the noise of the traffic, the familiar shout of one man’s name could be heard. ‘Trump, Trump, Trump’ echoed across the street.  Somehow I had stumbled upon a ‘Brazilians for Trump’ rally. A group of 40 people stood on the pavement, clutching signs that read ‘Women for Trump’, ‘Jews for Trump’, ‘Gays for Trump’. This struck me; such demographics holding such signage represented for me a similar message to ‘trees for deforestation’.

Yet, the votes are in. The electoral tally has been made and one fact is obvious: Donald Trump’s popularity transcended demography. As, House Speaker, Paul Ryan has said, Trump “heard a voice out in this country that no one else heard. He connected in ways with people that no one else did. He turned politics on its head.”

By Map by Robert Simmon, based on data from Woods Hole Research Center. (http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=76697) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2011 map of the United States above-ground woody biomass with 66 ecoregions delineated, showing tons of trees and their forests by hectare. Based on the map and palette created by NASA’s Earth Observatory employee Robert Simmon. Credit – Robert Simmon NASA/Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Key here is not only Trump’s victory, but also how the Republican Party has been able to ride his coattails to majorities across both the Senate and the House of Representatives. In doing so, the Grand Old Party (GOP), working with Trump, will likely have the freedom to pursue their political agenda. As a result, the Republican platform, published at the 2016 National Convention, provides a number of clues of what we can expect from this new administration. Continue reading

Post-truth politics: Why do facts no longer matter to so many people?

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair in Cognitive Psychology, University of Bristol

Virtually unknown a few years ago, the terms “post-fact” and “post-truth” have exploded onto the media scene in 2016, with thousands of articles around the globe expressing concern over the absence of a shared body of facts and evidence in public and political debate. This concern is buttressed by evidence that the public is misinformed about a range of issues, from vaccinations to climate change and the fabled Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

Politicians have always sought refuge in fantasy or subterfuge when confronted by uncomfortable facts. So why the sudden concern with the emergence of “post-truth” politics? Two factors can be identified that confirm that the landscape of public discourse has changed: first, the brazenness with which some politicians have unshackled themselves from the constraints of evidence and reality, and second, the public’s acquiescence with this flight into fantasy land. Continue reading

Donald Trump, the 2016 Election, and Historical Comparisons

Dr Julio Decker, Lecturer in North American History, University of Bristol

Dr Julio Decker, Lecturer in North American History, University of Bristol

In every American election cycle, superlatives abound. In 2016, they have been predominantly negative: the election is characterised as the worst or most depressing ever, but some have emphasised that the nation has recovered before after divisive campaigns. As a historian, I am acquainted with explaining the present through the past: we evaluate similarities, continuities and changes to explain the state of today’s world. But what can we actually learn from the past regarding the 2016 election?

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A ‘Jeffersonian’ wall or an Anglican Establishment

Tariq Modood, Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy

Tariq Modood, Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy

The US and UK’s contrasting approaches to incorporating Muslims

This article is reposted with the author’s permission from Democratic Audit.

Drawing on their recent research Nasar Meer and Tariq Modood consider whether the British or American social compact is conducive to the incorporation of Muslims, and find that while the US may be more of a secular state, the UK is a more secular society and with a more secularist political culture. They argue that both can offer meaningful routes to not only political participation, but also meaningful incorporation of Muslim minorities.

stevekeiretsu Wimbledon Park MosqueWimbledon Park Mosque (Credit: stevekeiretsu CC BY-NC 2.0)

Regardless of whether Donald Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination, his rhetoric on Muslims has enthralled American political discourse.  Meanwhile on this side of the Atlantic, Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the US triggered a petition, signed by over 570,000 people, seeking in turn to ban Trump from Britain.  While Islamophobia is certainly not absent from British political discourse, the Trump phenomena and reactions to it across both sides of the Atlantic raises an interesting question as to the comparative status of Muslims and Islam in the public square in the US and Britain.

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