If voters are furious with Washington, D.C., now, they’ll be positively revolutionary in 2020 if none of the nation’s problems get addressed.
IF you think this presidential election campaign has been ugly, wait — the next four years could be much worse.
Assuming Hillary Clinton survives her email crisis and gets elected, House Republicans vow to spend “years” investigating her. Some are already talking about impeaching and prosecuting her.
An estimated half of Donald Trump supporters believe, if he loses, it’ll be because the election was stolen. Chances are, he’ll declare Clinton an illegitimate president. Senate Republicans may refuse to confirm Clinton’s Supreme Court nominees.
Meantime, GOP hard-liners are campaigning to oust House Speaker Paul Ryan, claiming he’s secretly Clintonian. Trump’s biggest media supporter, Breitbart News, is leading the charge.
What’s shaping up is four more years like (or probably worse than) the past six — utterly polarized politics in the nation’s capital and policy paralysis. Congressional Republicans will be under constant pressure from Trump (also 2020 aspirant U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and the House Freedom Caucus) never to cooperate with Clinton, which they may be disinclined to do anyway if she stays on a liberal policy course dictated by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
If voters are furious with Washington now, they’ll be positively revolutionary in 2020 if none of the nation’s problems get addressed. And if America’s adversaries — Russia, China and Iran — continue to take advantage of the weakness our divisions exude, Trump and Cruz will be back.
The upshot of all this is that the next four years represent the last chance for mainstream politicians — of both parties — to prove they can govern. If they can’t, they’re gone — and ideological firebrands will be in charge of both parties.
And the corollary of that is, for their own sakes as well as the country’s, they’d better negotiate, compromise and get stuff done.
Clinton, assuming she’s elected, should immediately assemble GOP and Democratic leaders and say, “I pledge to stand up to my left wing and risk a 2020 challenge if you find the courage to resist threats from your right. We’ve got to work together — or else.”
Job No. 1 should be to do what neither party has done for the past 20 years — ease the plight and address the needs of working-class families battered by the downside forces of globalization, technology and slow growth. That’s the cohort Trump has been inciting with calls for protectionism and nativism.
Clinton and GOP leaders could immediately resuscitate the deal that was being negotiated last year by Ryan, incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and GOP Sen. Rob Portman: a substantial cut in the corporate tax rate, a tax holiday for corporations repatriating profits held abroad and public-private investment in a well-planned and administered infrastructure-building program. It could get growth going.
Thereafter, Republicans should agree to Clinton proposals — also supported by the so-called “reformicon” movement in the GOP — to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit, the child tax credit and the child-care tax credit, plus measures to reduce the cost of college. And Clinton should agree to a tax-reform proposal that lowers individual rates and caps or eliminates most special-interest loopholes.
The two parties could come together to halt overregulation of small business — for example, freeing small- and medium-sized banks from onerous reporting requirements of the Dodd-Frank Act — and eliminate outrageous subsidies like the ethanol mandate.
And an essential step to secure the future of working- and poverty-class children is choice-based education reform at all levels: pre-K, K-12, vocational education, community college, job retraining. Clinton got booed at a teachers-union conference for endorsing charter schools. That’s a good sign.
Immigration reform and passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement will be heavy lifts in the present environment, but might be possible if the two parties get used to working together.
Combating extremism with collaboration would be aided considerably if America had a robust centrist movement — well-funded, nationally organized and idea-rich — to represent the plurality of Americans who identify every election year as moderates and to pressure the two parties to get problems solved.
A gaggle of centrist groups exists — No Labels, Third Way, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Centrist Project, Ripon Society, conservative Reform Network, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, New America, Represent.us, Democrats for Education Reform. These groups have lots of good reform policy ideas on everything from entitlements, health care and immigration to campaign finance and elections.
What these groups lack is oomph — money, convergence and national reach. They need to be endowed by reform-minded philanthropists — Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Howard Schultz, Mark Zuckerberg. Maybe even the Koch brothers. And support is needed for members of Congress who support bipartisan deals and punishment for those who don’t. There wouldn’t need to be a third party if Clinton and Republicans do right, but it could develop into one if they fail.
Given the mighty pressures from the right and left for continued polarization and paralysis, I’d put the chances of progress at no better than 5 to 10 percent. It portends a Trump-Warren contest in 2020, if America’s center fails to hold.