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2016 AAA Invited Session: THE 2016 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Title cont. ANTHROPOLOGISTS REFLECT ON WHAT JUST HAPPENED A little over a week ago on Tuesday, November 7, voters elected the 45th U.S. President and the 115th U.S. Congress. The election season highlighted deep social, political, generational, and ideological divisions within the country, and served to galvanize social movements on both the left and the right. Moral issues such as abortion and LGBT rights that have recently polarized public political debate did not gain substantial traction during the primary season. Instead, voters expressed widespread frustration with so-called establishment candidates and politics as usual (including the role of big money in politics). Dominant news media obsessed over the unexpected rise and unpredictable antics of Donald Trump, as Bernie Sanders’ ability to amass large crowds and donations demonstrated widespread appeal for his populist message and opposition to super-PACs. Hillary Clinton’s assumed nomination on the Democratic side was threatened in part by debates in Black social media about her husband’s legacy, by generational divides about gender loyalty among women, and by questions about her hawkish foreign policy history and her close association with Wall Street. Ted Cruz struggled to bridge divides among conservative talking heads, the establishment, and an ideologically conservative base. The summer’s National Conventions provided a forum for spectacular political performances that further eclipsed substantive issues and amplified cleavages between the parties. The Republican National Convention featured a public crisis of identity within the GOP, while Democrats grappled with how to unify the Sanders and Clinton factions and position their candidate vis-a-vis Obama’s legacy. As the country faces increasing inequality, declining real wages, anti-immigration rhetoric, gun debates, the Black Lives Matter movement, and global trade imbalances, while remaining bogged down in Middle East wars, once extreme positions have gained acceptance. In a political climate shaped by discussions of campaign finance reform, social safety nets, increasing healthcare costs, and voters’ rights, citizens faced stark choices over the regulatory and redistributive roles and powers of the federal government. The participants in this roundtable will draw on anthropological insights to explore the dynamics, coverage, and implications of the 2016 elections. Participants will be asked questions on issues such as the role of new and corporate media, race, gender, surging wealth inequality domestically and globally, deindustrialization, failed military interventions, protests, grassroots movements, pundits, and satirical activism. Audience members will have a chance to pose questions and join the conversation.