The Next Four Years
A Trump Presidency will negatively alter American politics
November 22, 2016
Filed under Opinions
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This historic election, unprecedented in its candidates, issues and results, has greatly impacted political demographics, party platforms and political discourse. In Donald Trump’s successful movement, he has instilled radicalization and consequential animosity between establishment and extremist politicians as the basis for our new political environment. These shifts toward increasing radicalism will inevitably fuel long-term polarization in almost all of the aspects of our political environment.
Trump is quite different from any other Republican presidential candidate in history. His campaign has been marred by controversies regarding his outlandish statements. Trump’s platform is left-wing in some areas, like his college tuition plan, and far right in others, like his immigration and tax plans. However, Trump’s appeal doesn’t come from his politics—it comes from what he represents.
As a businessman who has never held public office before, Trump is a political outsider. His main support group comes from the white working class that was, prior to the start of his campaign, predominantly disenchanted with the American electoral process.
Trump’s role as a polarizing agent for political discourse is coupled with a shift in the nature of the Republican Party itself. He has laid the groundwork for a political atmosphere that prides radicalism over practicalism and thus, one that also rejects the notion of non-partisanship in the discussion and creation of legislation.
This atmosphere will inevitably be furthered by the recently established Republican control over both parts of Congress. Republicans will no longer need to compromise with Democrats, meaning that their resulting policies will be more right-wing than ever before.
Built upon previously established tensions between the so-called “Common Man” and the establishment, Trump’s candidacy painted itself as a neo-populist movement that gave a voice to the struggles of the white working class. However, the so-called movement’s official characterization as an extension of Republicanism means that changes must be made to the conservative party to account for the rise of new voters.
As the election results rolled in, commentators began to say how this election would redraw the political map as we know it.
The region known as the Rust Belt, located around the Great Lakes, has been a stronghold for Democrats for several decades. The Clinton campaign neglected the Rust Belt for the last weeks of the campaign. Then, Trump surprised experts by winning Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, states that had previously voted Democratic since 1992.
“I don’t think that she necessarily took the Rust Belt as a given,” senior Jessica Boyer said. “But she definitely overlooked it as a conscious choice in favor of millennials, in favor of people that have social reform as their wedge issues.”
So how did the states that just four years ago elected President Barack Obama by huge margins choose the founder of the birther movement?
The answer can be found in the poor, uneducated blue collar workers who live in the small towns scattered around the Rust Belt. The new president-elect appealed to workers who felt they had been hurt by the outsourcing of factories and labor. They wished to return to the old days when people could graduate high school and move directly to a manufacturing job that would offer a steady, middle class life.
According to exit polls compiled by The New York Times, Trump received 67 percent of votes from whites without a college degree, in contrast to Hillary’s 28 percent. These people point toward income inequality as a major concern.
“Over the past 30-plus years, distribution of wealth has gotten more and more skewed,” AP Government teacher Ian Howell said. “People will get more desperate and they’ll cling to dreams or ideas as opposed to practical realities or plans. The more desperate you are, the more you’re willing to retain illogical or desperate ideas, or scapegoating.”
Despite the overall impracticality of Trump’s trade plan, his focus on bringing jobs back to the U.S. through the use of high tariffs and renegotiating trade deals appealed to members of the working class. The appeal of his trade plan was furthered in its links to Republicans’ current and future proposed economic plans. The Republican Party’s platform already saw a shift this year away from its standard free trade policy. Considering how successful this was, the trend will likely continue on into the future.
Not only will the Trump presidency’s extreme stance on trade cause an overall shift in the Republican Party’s economic policies, but it will fundamentally shift the party further right.
Now that Republicans have control of both the executive and legislative branches, they will have unchecked power and will no longer need to try to compromise with the Democrats, meaning the policies they pass will be more drastic.
“I think that this country is taking a turn for the right for sure,” Boyer said. “Even if Trump doesn’t pass anything that’s revolutionary, we’ll just be seeing a lot more conservative legislation for the next four years. Obamacare, for example, is definitely on its way out. Social reform, anything that was happening, is going to become stagnant now, and possibly regress a bit.”
Trump himself, a man elected by alt-right groups, will also have a hand in moving Republican policies even further to the right.
One of the biggest questions for political analysts is whether the Republican Congress will cooperate with President-Elect Trump. During the election, many members of Congress refused to endorse him, called him out on his bigoted comments and even denounced him. Although Speaker Paul Ryan, who falls into the aforementioned group, has made peace with Trump to a certain degree, it is possible that some established Republican lawmakers will make a point to continue defending the Constitutional and moral values that Trump appears to oppose, possibly leading to a greater split in the already fractured Republican Party.
However, without a large portion of the GOP turning against the president-elect, he will have the power to pass virtually any legislation, which places minorities at great risk. Trump’s backpedaling on certain extreme policy proposals following his victory, such as his original plan to abolish Obamacare and his assertion that the Mexican government will pay for the construction of his border wall, indicates an ultimate failure to maintain the promises that allowed him to get so many votes from the white working class. This expressed hesitance to follow through with such extreme propositions illuminates the inconcrete nature of Trump’s concern with his low-income white supporters.
The overtly bigoted nature of his proposed platform coupled with the overall unpredictability of his actual policies and their implementation makes the projected characterizations of our political environment in the next four years less definite.
This hesitation to enact such polarizing and detrimental policies is also inevitably rooted in a fundamental tie to establishment Republicans, whom Trump has already given great exposure to in his proposition to place traditional Republican politicians such as Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie in his Cabinet.
“I think what we’re going to see that will be interesting is how Trump’s administration will continue to accommodate or fail to accommodate the radical voters that supported him during the campaign,” Boyer said. “[Establishment Republicans are] certainly not going to be content to fall back under the radar, now that they’ve had this major victory, [and] Trump so far has not been making many efforts to show that he will keep his promises to them in terms of disestablishing the establishment.”
As a whole, Trump’s polarizing rhetoric and policies, despite his current efforts to reduce their severity, will have a great impact on our political environment. Trump has already and will most likely continue to build a political atmosphere with a basis in radicalism that will be an inevitable detriment to both minority members and the white, working class to whom Trump gave faulty promises of economic progression.