By Annie Hayes
During our morning academic session on Tuesday, we had the opportunity to hear from a panel of experts within the political science field who analyzed the outcome of the 2016 election. The panel included Ruy Teixiera, a fellow at The Century Foundation and American Progress, John Hudak, a fellow at The Brookings Institution, and David Lauter of the LA Times who moderated the discussion. One topic they covered which I found to be interesting was the relationship between campaign rhetoric and the reality of what the winning candidate actually achieves once he/she takes office.
There is no doubt that the 2016 election cycle was anything but conventional, with a majority of the rhetoric between the two general election candidates hardly ever consisting of serious policy proposals that many were yearning for. This mainly started with the rhetoric coming from then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the very beginning of his campaign. From building a wall across the southern border of the United States, bringing back jobs that have been sent overseas or to Mexico, and repealing Obamacare just to name a few, Trump has made very controversial and complicated campaign promises. To many people, he was the candidate that had the guts so say what others within the party elites have usually been reluctant to speak about, which clearly appealed to a large number of voters (although Hilary Clinton did win the popular vote by a wide margin). His promise of bringing manufacturing jobs back into the country heavily contributed to his appeal to white, blue collar voters in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. These states ultimately led to his Electoral College victory in the early hours of November 9th, 2016. He ran on these promises for the entirety of his campaign, including his infamous line claiming to “Drainthe Swamp,” should he make it to the White House – he has pledged to tackle some of these during his first 100 days in office. But how realistic is this?
For someone who has taken pride in his lack of governmental experience, as John Hudak expressed today, draining the swamp would be the worst thing he [Trump] could do. If he is to get his agenda passed as quickly as he has promised to do, he needs to understand how the legislative process works, and how little power the President has in influencing the policy initiatives he is pushing for. Look at what we have seen so far in his picks for his cabinet positions such as Senator Jeff Sessions, Reince Priebus, and his Vice Presidential pick Governor Mike Pence. All of these men have extensive experience in Washington D.C. and national party politics. Based on these picks alone, the President-Elect has already walked back on one of his fundamental campaign promises as the “outsider” candidate.
The main takeaway I have from this topic is that voters should not hold their breath on candidates fulfilling their promises. Candidates will say whatever they need to, to create a certain image for themselves and win votes. Those coming into office do not have any idea what the political reality will be when it comes time to get something done. But in Trump’s case, the very voters who helped him win the election are supporting him based on his promise to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.
What is to come if Trump follows through on this in the same way he did with draining the swamp? Most likely a one-term presidency. His rhetoric during the campaign, and what is to come in the next four years realistically, (I think) are hardly going to pan out as anticipated.