Mac Deford: It's All Over; Time to Worry About The ‘Now What?’
Thursday, October 20, 2016 9:20 AM
In less than three weeks, it’ll all be over. And about time.
Everyone knows that Hillary’s going to win — including of course Donald Trump, which is why “it’s rigged” (before, mind you, it’s even happened) has become his latest battle cry. (Of course, as the deadline for this was before last night’s final debate, I’m assuming as I write this that Trump didn’t suddenly develop the oratorical skills of Demosthenes.)
Even Anderson Cooper’s interview with third wife Melanka (as a friend accidentally called her — Trump wives do all seem to look alike) was not the deus ex machina husband Donald had hoped.
Trump’s claim of foul in response to his imminent loss is not surprising. What is, however, is that the boorish billionaire, the conceited loudmouth, and now, it turns out, the groping pervert will still somehow wind up with 40% or more of the popular vote.
The only serious remaining question then is not the identity of the winner, but how it is that such a personally unattractive non-politician can be doing so well?
And the answer of course is right there in the question: precisely because he is a non-politician.
Trump, after years with his own television show, hardly came out of nowhere. But of the 17 Republican candidates who were duking it out this time last year, it is not a coincidence that the last man standing was the only one who was not a lifelong politician.
A considerable percentage of the American population are fed up with just about everything: the economy for starters, but also our politics and our politicians, Washington, Congress, the direction they see the country heading. In short: the system.
Ask Trump supporters to name the three key policies, foreign or domestic, that he is promoting, and most will draw a blank. Or they’ll just mumble something about it being “rigged.” People are backing Trump not because of his political views, whatever they are, but because of what he represents: anti-establishment, anti-Washington, anti-status quo.
It’s ironic, and his good fortune, that his opponent, immersed in politics for three decades, is the epitome of just about everything Trump backers dislike. The serious competition Bernie Sanders provided against Hillary, running like Trump as the anti-politician, proves the point. The fact that a number of ex-Sanders supporters are now in Trump’s camp is additional evidence.
Political analysts have well explained the phenomenon: the economy has been on slow growth mode for decades. The good old jobs for those without a college education, at Bethlehem Steel or General Motors, with benefits and a nice retirement package, seem almost mythical these days. If the Chinese haven’t grabbed them, robots have. And when those less-educated whites who still have decent jobs look over their shoulders, they see immigrants and minorities too close behind.
So President Hillary Clinton will face two immediate challenges if she wants to be a successful president: first, how to find some way to successfully co-opt, or at least neutralize, those who voted against her. And, second, to solve the economic problems that have done so much to create the anti-Washington candidacies of Trump and Sanders.
Her two challenges are obviously closely related: solve the second and the first falls into place. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen: returning the US growth rate to what it was 30 or 40 years ago is beyond anyone’s expertise.
Trump’s major campaign claim, that the system is broken, is not all wrong. For many, it’s not just the economy; it’s our whole political system. There’s way too much money in politics. Presidential campaigns last well over a year; congressional ones never end. And while various laws in recent years have tried to deal with the problem, the fact is big political donors are well rewarded. As a result, increasing numbers of middle-class Americans feel left out, regardless of whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat in the White House.
To many, me included, Trump would be a disaster: he’s thin-skinned, inexperienced, and crude. His supporters have a positive view of these same traits: he’s politically incorrect; he’s an outsider; and he tells it like it is.
It’s impossible to imagine how Trump would fix the broken system that underwrites his candidacy. The good news is we’ll never know. (Though I have to admit, at times I think it would be interesting to see just what he would do.)
The real problem is that it’s almost equally difficult to imagine how Hillary is going to fix it. How can anyone get the money out of American politics? How can Washington get anything done in a system that so often has the executive and legislative branches at odds? How can anyone make our democracy seem real to the millions who feel they have no voice?
I’ve long thought switching to a parliamentary system would be advantageous. On the simplest level, power would no longer be split between a president and a legislative branch too often headed by an opposing party. Deadlock would be a thing of the past; policies that the majority of Americans had voted for could actually be implemented.
But of course such a fundamental change is never going to happen.
So what can be done to improve our political system? Get rid of gerrymandered districts for starters. Implement serious regulations to ban big money from politics. Set terms in the House of Representatives at four years, in the Senate at eight, thus eliminating both “off-year” politicking and permanent congressional campaigning.
But of course none of that is going to happen either.
So four years down the road, it’ll be Hillary running against a different Republican. But whether it’ll be a variation on Trump or a return to a traditional insider, the key focus will once again be on how to fix what’s broken in Washington.