It was a true political upset which will almost certainly have
a large impact on U.S. politics for some time to come, but its
shock to most (but not all) political observers, should not turn
any heads from realizing it was also a very close presidential
election in 2016.
The very fact that the losing presidential nominee narrowly
won the popular vote, and that the vote margins in several
states that went finally to the winning candidate were small,
underlines this caution.
On the other hand, the close election does not presuppose that
President-elect Donald Trump does not now have what is often
called a “mandate” to keep his promises, and for the
Republican Party, now in control of both the executive and
legislative branches of the federal government (and most state
governments as well) not to enact bold legislation and policies
to try to reverse the decline of the nation. In fact, the very
closeness of the vote compels the conservative party to act
boldly and quickly, because if it does not do so, and promptly, it
would be relatively easy for the liberal party to recover in 2020.
Promises were made, and voters expect the promises to be kept.
The so-called first 100 days in 2017 are as critical in many ways
as they were beginning in March, 1933 when a newly-inaugurated
President Franklin Roosevelt and a Democratic Congress acted
with so much resolve that an economic disaster (and probably an
actual revolution) was averted. Confidence in government was
restored then. Mistakes were made, and then revised, but the
voters who had fired President Herbert Hoover were not
disappointed or made to feel they had been fooled by political
rhetoric. The Republican Party of 1933 then lurched into reaction,
and leaderless, went into decades of political decline.
The early reaction so far from Democrats echoes some of this.
If defeat provokes the liberal party further to the left, as the
Labour Party did recently in Great Britain after its defeat by
the Conservative Party, they will marginalize themselves for
years. If the Bernie Sanders wing of the party takes over, with a
radical party leader, this is likely to happen. (Many forget that
in 2005, the Democratic Party turned to Howard Dean, who had
failed to win its 2004 presidential nomination, and who --- to the
surprise of many --- pragmatically put the party back on its feet,
and set the stage for its recovery in 2008.)
The suspense of the presidential campaign is now over. The
suspense of how the new president will form and conduct his
government in partnership with the two houses of Congress
which his party controls has begun.
When Jimmy Carter came into the White House in 1977 as a
fresh face, there was much hope for a new political era, but he
failed to act promptly and to work with the Congress. It was his
successor, Ronald Reagan who did and created a realignment.
President George W. Bush was bogged down by foreign wars,
but his successor thumbed his nose to Congress and failed to
satisfy even his own base of voters, and this has led to Donald
It will be interesting to observe what Mr. Trump, not known to
be a student of history, will do now. He was dismissed as a
political neophyte, but he pulled off one of the great political
upsets in U.S. history, so perhaps being a reader of history
is not as necessary as other qualities for a new president.
In any event, we will find out soon enough whether this is the
onset of a new political era or just another political hiccup.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.