The worst presidential election in my lifetime is about over. Good riddance.
What have we learned over the course of the campaign about the two major candidates? Not much good.
Hillary Clinton, unsurprisingly, is clearly a mendacious politician willing to cut corners when it benefits her. That’s why she set up the private server. She wanted to stay plugged in on the political side while serving as Secretary of State. That same corner cutting led to her ridiculous treatment of classified material. And, then, there is the Clinton Foundation. It extracted funds for its charitable purposes by offering political access. Ick.
Trump is not off the hook either. Despite his denials, I have little doubt he is an aggressive sexual predator. His petty fixations on the Khan family, the former Ms. Universe and so many others were just plain weird. And, there was Trump’s willingness to play the race card (something I thought we got away from in the 1960s). Ick. Ick.
Those diversions kept the big issues on the side burner. Slow economic growth is our biggest challenge. Neither candidate articulated a viable approach to move forward. The deficit? Hardly discussed. The future, frightening growth of Social Security and Medicare? Neither Trump nor Clinton stepped up to the table on that one.
Instead, Trump pandered to fears on trade and immigration. Threatening a trade war would particularly smash Idaho – our biggest trade partner is Canada and Mexico is the primary foreign market for our agricultural products. His immigration policies would cripple Idaho’s farms and dairies.
Clinton wasn’t any better. On issue after issue – taxes, healthcare, etc. -- Clinton tacked hard left. Many Idaho families are feeling the impact of soaring health premiums and her prescriptions would hurt rather than help. Why? She made the political calculation to attract the acolytes of Bernie Sanders rather than reaching out to muddled middle where most Americans are.
Conservatism was a big loser this year. Trump is a big government guy. Clinton is an even bigger government girl. Neither wants to shift responsibilities from the federal level to the states. The Supreme Court? Don’t count on either on that one.
More seriously, this election has put our standing in the world is at risk. Our allies from Europe to Asia are uncertain. Russia and its petty dictator Vladimir Putin, after their cost-free meddling in the U.S. election, are emboldened. China is eyeing opportunities in Asia. It will be harder to confront ISIS in this environment.
My guess is Clinton will narrowly win despite Trump’s strong closing in the last week. The Real Clear Politics’ map (on Friday) gives Clinton 297 electoral votes and Trump 241. Polling brought the race close over the past week. But, there are indications the past couple days of a slight shift back towards Clinton. I believe the race will be decided in Florida, North Carolina and Nevada. Trump needs to win all three. He probably won’t get all of them.
Trump’s late surge has made the U.S. Senate more competitive. Right now, Republicans have 54 seats. They will lose Illinois and Pennsylvania. The undecided races are New Hampshire, North Carolina, Indiana, Wisconsin (a late surprise), Nevada and, maybe, Missouri. My sense is Democrats will probably take a narrow majority but it will be close. In 2018, Republican will retake the Senate if they lose it this year.
The House should stay Republican. Speaker Paul Ryan may step aside because of the actions of dissenters like Idaho Representative Raul Labrador. Any future GOP speaker will struggle to hold the Republican caucus together.
Regardless of the outcome, the American Republic will survive. The system set up by the Founders withstood the Civil War. It will remain standing after the mess of 2016.
I just hope we can do better as a country in 2020 with candidates of a higher character and a more elevated policy debate.