This is the time of the year when we are supposed to reach out to one another with smiles, cheer, joy, good tidings, goodwill, friendship, love, and peace. Instead, the nation has never been more split between Blue and Red Americans.
This split has been widening for several years, especially over the last eight years of President Barack Obama’s administration. Four years before he was elected as president, he gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention when he was an Illinois state senator and a candidate for the US Senate. ”Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America--there is the United States of America.” Sadly, the country is less united since then.
In meetings with our institutional accounts in Toronto and Chicago last week, I found that many of them are bullish about the outcome of the latest presidential election, but unsettled by the worsening rancor between liberals and conservatives. Some of the former are clearly working hard to delegitimize President-elect Donald Trump because he didn’t win the popular vote. The latter counter that our Constitution provided for an Electoral College, not the popular vote, to determine the winner.
Today, 538 presidential electors will meet in their home states and Washington, D.C. in what is traditionally a formalistic footnote to the outcome of the November election. But some passionate opponents of Trump are calling on the electors to vote against him. In the 12/16 Los Angeles Times, the Editorial Board wrote: “Trump is profoundly problematic as a potential president--unfit, inexperienced, irresponsible, just for starters--which is why this editorial page strenuously opposed his election. …. Highly disturbing evidence that Russian intelligence agencies intervened to help Trump and hurt Clinton casts a serious shadow over Trump’s victory, even if it was only one of many factors in the outcome.” The editors argued that the Electoral College is anachronistic.
While Trump is likely to be elected today, imagine that he loses because 37 electors refuse to vote for Trump because they are convinced that he won on November 8 after the Russians hacked into the Democrats’ email servers. Reportedly, there is some evidence that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC). None of the emails on Clinton’s unsecured home server were ever released other than by Clinton, after quite a few were deleted. Reportedly, the Russians tried to hack the Republican National Committee too, but were stymied by spam filters. It’s not at all obvious how the DNC’s hacked emails changed anyone’s vote. They mostly showed that some reporters admitted to siding with the Clinton campaign.
In any event, the fact that we’re even discussing the prospect of electors going rogue is an example of how polarized our political system has become. That might have been bad for investors had the voters voted for Trump and gridlock. Instead, Trump has Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. That doesn’t mean that he will get his way on everything he proposed during the campaign. Indeed, he has already backed off on some of his more extreme ideas like deporting millions of illegal aliens and building a wall with Mexico. Even on trade, Wilbur Ross, Trump’s pick for secretary of Commerce, said that he wants to renegotiate some of our trade treaties, not abrogate them. He views tariffs as last-straw measures.
While it is true that Trump and most of his designated Cabinet appointees have no government experience, as charged by liberal critics, most of Trump’s picks are extremely successful business people. Many of them are dealmakers. That’s quite a change from the past eight years, when conservatives charged that the government was run by community organizers.
Dealmakers like to make deals. That explains why Trump picked Rex Tillerson, the head of ExxonMobil, as secretary of State. He has done many deals with the Russians, and is likely to push for more amicable relations with them. Of course, that just inflames the suspicions of liberals that Trump is a Russian stooge. Trump’s pick for US ambassador to China also has a long history of close ties with that country’s leaders.
Given all the billionaires and dealmakers Trump has chosen for his administration so far, the charge is that crony capitalism is making a big comeback under the leadership of a man who won because he claimed to be a populist, a man of the people. If that’s the case, then four years from now, Progressive Democrats will be back in power. Let’s hope that Trump makes some progress in “draining the swamp.” Personally, I am encouraged to see that the first item on “Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter" is term limits on all members of Congress. It will be important to see if Trump’s tax cuts really do benefit middle-class families and small business owners.
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