Former congressman Barney Frank speaks in post-election forum

by Chelsea Cabral, Staff Writer

“What just happened? What now? How do we progress?” These are the questions arising from the state of Massachusetts—a traditionally blue state—and from individuals across the nation following Trump’s presidential victory.

On Friday, November 18, former Democratic Congressman Barney Frank answered those very questions that rested in the minds of many disgruntled voters, academics, and political pundits at the Claire T. Carney Library.

In a forum moderated by UMass Dartmouth Journalism Professor Caitlin O’Neil, the Library Grand Reading Room was at its full capacity, leaving room only for attendees and spectators to stand and listen as Frank theorized his insights on the aftermath of the election and what he believes is yet to come.

Frank, whose vast political career has spread across several decades, and who helped bring forth key legislation to reform the financial industry in 2010, speculated that Trump’s victory in early November over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton signified the refusal of some of the nation’s most core principles: that America should be the maintainer of democracy in the world and hold an assertive stance in international affairs.

“Trump abandoned the notion that America needs this strong role in the world,” says Frank. He then continued to discuss that Trump’s isolationist views and his stance of dealing with economic disparities appealed to most voters in the election—especially white working-class voters.

O’Neil then proceeded to ask Frank for his thoughts on the media and its effects on the election, referencing Carl Bernstein’s notion of “the best version of the obtainable truth,” which is the concept that journalists should strive to bring forth thoroughness, quality, and accuracy in the content they release to the general public.

“I bring that up because I think the mainstream media failed us in finding that truth,” said O’Neil. “They failed to report seriously on Trump or gave him free air time [along with] social media outlets spreading false news.”

Frank agreed that media coverage throughout the entire election season had been very irregular and sporadic which in turn created a major divide between Trump and Clinton.

“I think the media was unduly critical of Hillary Clinton,” Frank said. “[The media] gave Trump uncritical exposure and didn’t take him seriously, almost as an entertainer.” Frank also communicated his frustrations about social media as well, calling the Internet “the greatest purveyor of misinformation in the history of the world.”

As Frank began to take questions from audience members, he stressed the importance of the current Supreme Court vacancy and how he believes that a conservative majority, after Trump’s new judicial appointments, will affect key Supreme Court rulings that championed women’s issues and human rights.

“I have no doubt that Roe v. Wade will be overturned within the next few years” said Frank. “It’ll then be up to state legislatures to preserve it.”

While Frank is doubtful that the same-sex marriage ruling will be overturned, he does believe that a new conservative court will begin to recognize the rights of individuals to evoke their own personal religious views as a justification for denying people services. Frank thinks that it’ll put the protections of the many members of the LGBTQ community at direct risk.

“There aren’t enough moderate representatives in Congress to put pressure on Trump’s more dangerous proposals,” said Frank. “It’s really up to Congress and state legislatures in 2018 during midterm elections.”

One audience member asked why there was such little discussion on the environment during the election and the climate, most notably as Trump has looked at not participating in the Paris Climate Agreement from earlier this year. Frank said that it just does not simply roll well in elections because people feel as the issue isn’t immediately impacting them.

“If you look at environmental issues, they have rarely motivated people as much as a lot of other issues do,” Frank explained.

While Frank looks towards the future as he believes Democrats will become more unified and win during the midterm elections, he also trusts that if the promises of Trump’s campaign go unfulfilled, both parties will actually find themselves with much more in common.

“We need to come together on the issues that we agree with,” said Frank. “We need to stop acting as if the relatively small differences among us are at all relevant when the huge differences between us and the Republicans should be occupied.”

In all, Frank is certain that without the national electorate’s commitment to good government, the frustration in the nation will only deepen.

“Avoid being rooted in your grievances from the past,” says Frank. “[Democrats] need to talk to each other, get organized, and focus on going forward in the 2018 elections.”


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