This is a guest post by William Crotty, Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Public Life and Emeritus Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University, Boston. Dr. Crotty is author of Winning the Presidency 2016 (Routledge, 2017)
If Clinton wins:
Hillary Clinton is likely to continue to face the criticisms, accusations and even threats of violence that became familiar during the campaign. It was a negative campaign, intentionally on the part of Donald Trump, and it worked for him. Trumpism will not vanish with Election Day. Clinton’s victory will be questioned and its legitimacy challenges, in line with the campaign that got her into office. The next four years are not likely to be pleasant.
To succeed, Clinton needs:
1. To recognize the message of the election. Largely by default, Donald Trump fed into a level of anger and alienation from an America left-behind by the economic gains of recent decades. These are people who dread a changing, threatening multicultural America. Their fears go back 40 to 50 or more years but have yet to be effectively addressed. Establishing an agenda to begin to alleviate such fears and the conditions that give them life is a priority.
2. Hillary Clinton also needs to recognize the message of the Sanders’ campaign. A more even distribution of the nation’s wealth is a priority. Clinton made concessions on this, on college costs and on international trade agreements to attract Sanders’ support and the Millennials’ vote. These are not comfortable positions for her. In the Senate and both presidential campaigns, she did not see economic polarization as a problem, arguing that those who made the money should keep it. There is a degree of insensitivity here, as there was in accepting large speaking fees from Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions (“everyone does it”). She also reportedly praised Bill Clinton’s administration and its “business-friendly” approach. Bill Clinton repealed New Deal legislation meant to control financial industry excesses. He deregulated economic safeguards across the board and did his best to promote Wall Street interests. In this regards, his administration was a direct contributor to the financial collapse of 2007-2008. The promise of putting her husband in charge of the economy gives substance to Trump’s claims of the in-breeding of a political class running the country and one deaf to the needs of ordinary citizens. A number of Democrats distrust her in this regard and major liberal figures such as Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown and a handful of others have promised to insure she remains true to the compromises she made to get Sanders’ support. Her ties to the Clinton Foundation will remain an issue as will her belief in military solutions to international crises.
3. She needs to have a Democratic majority in at least one house of the Congress. This was an on-and-off concern, decidedly secondary to Clinton getting elected, in 2016. It should be an absolute priority in 2018 and 2020 in order to combat the nihilistic world view of a Tea Party-controlled legislature (“government is the problem”).
4. Finally, there is an urgent need to rebuild the Democratic party at all levels. President Obama was a disaster as party leader. He was not concerned with party development, did not believe it important in achieving his objectives, and devoted no time to it. There were consequences, as Republican gains in the Congress post-2010 and in capturing two-thirds of the state governorships and state legislatures were to attest. These adopted conservative Far Right agendas on voting rights, abortion, social services and the rest. Many implemented the Koch legislative agenda, designed explicitly as templates for enactment at the state level.
The result of Obama’s insensitivity to party politics has been, from the Congress to state legislatures and governorships, and even local bodies such as school committees, to concede the field to Koch Republicans and their allies. As one marking point, Republican/Tea party majorities now control all southern state legislatures (up from one-third when he took office). The Republican success in below-presidential-level election has been stunning, with consequences to last for years. The Democratic party will have to be rebuilt from the ground up, in itself a daunting task.
There is much to do and it will not be easy.
If Trump wins:
As for a Trump win, who knows. He acts on impulse and instinct; he listens to no one; he is ignorant of policy issues and government; he had no consistent political affiliation before running for president; he is not concerned with issues per se, as a look at his policy proposals makes clear; he likes to attack; and he is dismissive of government and has a predilection for one-man rule, an approach that has served him well. He makes no effort to modify his language or his accusatory behavior to appeal to centrists and moderate Republicans. He has gone as far as refusing to agree to accept the voters’ decision on Election Day (“wait and see’), with one qualification (if he wins). Meanwhile he has called the election “rigged” and has done his best to undermine confidence in government. He is an authoritarian and a demagogue and therefore is seen as a threat to the future of America’s democratic state. Given all of this, what can be said about his presidency?
Actually, quite a bit:
It will be a one-man rule. On economic issues, he is a committed advocate of Reaganism and a neoliberal agenda. He would cut the taxes of the wealthy and he says those at lower income levels also. He would increase the movement of the nation’s wealth upwards, to the tiny minority of billionaire, of which he claims to be one. On the environment, he says climate change is a fraud, perpetrated by the Chinese. He is against gun control He promises more Antonin Scalia-ideological appointments to the Supreme Court and has released a list of Far Right potential names he will choose from. On foreign policy issues, he likes Putin, his one-man rule and his boldness in aggressively pushing Russian interests. He would destroy ISIS, created he says by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He would reinstate stop-and-search police tactics to fight crime, highly discriminatory against blacks and other minorities and previously declared unconstitutional. In health care, he would repeal “Obamacare” and substitute block grants for the states to manage as they choose. He would greatly expand all branches of the military and increase the development of nuclear weaponry. (A side note: a Clinton issue in the campaign was to attack Trump as not having the “temperament” to be in charge of nuclear weapons.)
Yes, Trump is impulsive, as well as coming across as a misogynist and racist as some have charged. Yet in terms of the predictability of his agenda, it is quite clear even though not developed in the campaign. It is the exercise of the power of the office of president, his “suitability” in these terms, which raises questions.