November 17, 2016 – White House strategist David Simas pointed to three factors during the Obama administration that he believes led to the 2016 election outcome during Georgetown’s fourth installment of “The Exit Interview” series last night.
He said economic transitions, demographic shifts and changes in technology resulted in the election of Donald Trump.
“The reason I raise [these factors] is because the changes that occur on a community-by-community basis are unlike anything that we have seen before,” said Simas, assistant to the president and director of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach at the White House. “This isn’t a statement on racism or bigotry, it is simply a level of change and disruption that has no precedent.”
Simas’ Exit Interview talk, sponsored by the McCourt School of Public Policy’s Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics), was part of a six-part series designed to explore policy successes and challenges in the current administration and give advice to the next president.
Mo Elleithee, executive director of GU Politics, moderated the conversation in Lohrfink Auditorium, where the White House official participated in a Q&A with students following the conversation.
Simas noted that while the economy recovered from the economic recession inherited by the Obama administration after winning the 2008 election, falling unemployment rates have been accompanied by longstanding wage stagnation.
He described the demographic shifts occurring in the country as unmatched.
“The electorate that elected Bill Clinton in 1992 was either 87 or 88 percent white,” he explained. “The electorate that just elected Donald Trump was probably 70 percent white. The electorate in 2020 will be 67 or 68 percent white.”
The third factor Simas noted involves the impact of social media.
“The way we communicate with one another is unlike anything that has happened before,” he said. “So you take these three factors into an election like 2016 [along with] … the fighting that has been occurring in Washington; the new Citizens-United dynamic in terms of where money can go … and you have the turbulence I think you’ve seen over the past two years in the United States.”
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell have been among the top officials in the administration to participate in the series that began Sept. 15.
The fifth Exit Interview featuring U.S. Secretary of Treasury Jacob Lew (L‘83) took place today, and the final conversation will feature Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.