Last Call from the Ballot Box



The 2016 election is over and there are two important stories to know.

The first one is popular in the big cities. It says, with good reason, that President-elect Donald Trump is dangerously incompetent; that he neither knows nor cares about the issues he’ll soon face as president and has promised an agenda that is contrary to American values such as tolerance and religious free practice. This story is tremendously disappointing.

The second narrative is popular in rural America. It’s a story about millions of people who felt unrepresented, whose voice was ignored by both parties in Washington, and who were openly ridiculed in an urban-liberal media landscape. That they succeeded in guiding a rogue Republican all the way to the White House against his own party’s efforts and without a modern campaign or donor base is a triumph of democracy and evidence that American government is not as stale as we’ve feared. This story is tremendously encouraging.

As we all know, the future exists where these two lines meet. I won’t offer a prognosis or pontificate beyond this point but I’d like to say that government functions like any other business – it gives its customers what they want. So regardless of which story you buy, it’s on you to continue your engagement to see things through, or perhaps re-write the script entirely.

Lastly, here are some things I am thinking about as we head into a new era. They’re important questions and stories that are just beginning to unfold:

  • Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are currently sitting on the bench. What might have happened if this was an open primary for the Democratic Party?
  • Donald Trump is nominally a Republican but when it comes to policy, he’s in a different party from Congressional leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. What this means for a Republican agenda is a big question. Expect some fireworks.
  • Trump’s win doesn’t feel sustainable. The truth about a Rust Belt uprising is that the economics to support it don’t exist. At the end of the day, high-wage, low-skilled jobs aren’t coming back to PA, OH, WI, etc., because of forces larger than the ballot box. These forces are industrial automation and a global marketplace that guarantees someone will always make it cheaper.
  • Despite the non-sustainability of Trump’s coalition, his Supreme Court will create a firewall for conservatives for the foreseeable future. Don’t panic though, no one is going to overturn Roe v. Wade or deny gay marriage. These issues are more useful to motivate low-information voters than to achieve actual gains. Where you’ll see this advantage play out is in how the Supreme Court handles controversial administrative decisions that agencies like the EPA, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Department of Health and Human Services will make pursuant to the Obama Administration’s legislative victories and executive orders.
  • Trump’s win is a seismic event in D.C., where lobbyists and political appointees trade jobs the way NFL coaches do – you know, the same guys, just on different teams. The President-elect’s promise to name a cabinet drawn from the private sector (and not the D.C. cartel) will turn the federal government upside down, for better or for worse.
  • Obamacare probably isn’t going away. The GOP has never had a real alternative to the President health care reform, mostly because plans B, C, and D are all bad too. Expect some nibbles around its edges but I doubt the new Republican government wants to be on the hook for whatever sloppy product replaces President Obama’s signature reform.
  • Who is going to take over the Democratic Party? The Democrats have been on the losing end of every state, local, and Congressional election since 2010. The hangover from this is a lost generation of talent. There are some bright spots in Senator Corey Booker (NJ) and First Lady Michelle Obama, but the bench is pretty thin after that.
  • Conversely, what is happening to the Republicans? All of us political “experts” assumed that Trump’s inevitable defeat would catalyze the right’s implosion. But as an embryonic and often incoherent “Alt-Right” president takes up residence down Pennsylvania Avenue from a Congress that’s managed by old school Reagan Republicans, we can be sure that the future holds a different type of reckoning for conservatives – and it’s going to be messy.
  • In that line, what is the Republican agenda? It’s been six years since backlash against President Obama’s over reaches re-awakened a Republican Party deemed dead in 2008. But there still isn’t evidence that conservatives’ emotional sentiment has a unified agenda to match.
  • And in closing, Hillary Clinton’s concession speech was the best of her career. Watch it here. Seriously. It’ll move you, even if didn’t vote for her.
  • Oh and BTW, Trump’s victory speech was pretty great too. Check it out.

And now I would be remiss if I didn’t end this post with the same words my mom, who covered the Kentucky General Assembly for 15 years, emails me after every election. They’ve sweetened victories and they’ve softened defeats, and on this day, we should remember the great miracle of democracy and the peaceful transition of power in these four words: The Republic carries on.


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