Bush Administration’s chief political strategist provides insight into 2016 election results

Meraal Hakeem

Many nationwide polls didn’t predict Donald Trump would win the presidency, but Matthew Dowd, a political strategist and chief political commentator for ABC News, said he saw Trump’s victory coming. 

At a lecture hosted Thursday by the UT Center for Politics and Governance in partnership with the New Politics Forum at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, Dowd unraveled the meaning behind the election results and analyzed what might lie in America’s political future. Dowd said every 75 to 80 years, there is a major change in history when institutions do not meet the demands of society, resulting in great shifts. 

“People always notice the hurricane, the volcanoes and earthquakes,” Dowd said. “But what they don’t realize is the shifting of tectonic plates long before they happen. The same is true of our politics. The tectonic plates of our culture, economy, political institutions have all been shifting over the past 15 to 20 years, and this year, there was an eruption.”

Dowd said some voters wanted a change after 15 to 20 years of policies that did not cater to their needs. Dowd said this need for change influenced many white working- and middle-class individuals to vote for Trump.

As technology advances and values change, political parties need to adapt to voters’ evolving mindsets, Dowd said.  

“I think the only way for a party to respond is if there is a threat to their existence,” Dowd said. “A threat comes from new arrivals, and new arrivals are independents.”

Dowd started the website ListenTo.Us to help establish and promote the policy issues most Americans agree on. UTCPG executive director Ryan Streeter said ListenTo.Us is a way for civilians to get involved in politics.

“It’s an effort to get people together to build consensus around ideas and issues that help people put country over party,” Streeter said. 

Psychology freshman Tyana Nixon, who attended the lecture, said Dowd’s focus on the good of the country over party preference was insightful, especially in the wake of the election.

“Although this seems to be a difficult time for America,” Nixon said, “I believe that as long as we all look at the bigger picture and not let our differences get to us, we will be able to overcome our different issues and focus on the growth of the nation as a whole.”