Thursday, June 30, 2016


Political Mayhem Thursday: The Issues of the 2016 election

We all pretty much know who will be running for president this fall: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

What is relatively unclear is what the key issues will be. Today, I will guess, and invite you to do the same in the comments section.

1.  Terrorism

Especially if there is a terroristic event (or more that one) during the heart of the campaign, this will be a crucial issue. Trump probably has an advantage on the issue, even though he has no articulated plan for dealing with it.  I suspect people see him as "stronger," for good or bad.

2.  Immigration

This will be an issue if Donald Trump makes it an issue, as he did in the primary. Illegal immigration is actually at a low ebb right now, so it really should not merit such attention.

3.  Free Trade

As I pointed out a few days ago, this is a very real issue globally at the moment-- and one in which Trump (like Bernie Sanders) has articulated a worthwhile point. Clinton is stuck with a wishy-washy history on this.

4.  Health Care

For seven of the eight years of the Obama presidency, Republicans were focused on getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. Now, no one seems to be talking about it much.

5.  Clemency policy

Please? Maybe one question at a debate?

What issues do you think will be most important?

Yesterday the Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump, said that America needs to be more vicious and violent than Isis. He added that only then we would be "winners". He was serious. That this firm stance of his could give him an advantage makes me afraid for our country.
I think there are a few deeper issues in play as well, such as the nature of our Republic. How Trump treats the press, minorities, and others who disagree with him suggests a fundamental disregard for the Constitution of the United States. I agree with some who have said that if Trump (or Clinton) is elected, the value of our other two branches of government will be more apparent than ever.

It isn't just that he is "mean." The problem is that his attitude has the potential to cascade into policy, one domino affecting another.

For example, when asked what he would do if generals refused unlawful commands to slaughter innocent women and children, he responded with something like, "Oh they'll do it!"

Think about the implications. He is implying that people will disregard constitutional checks and balances or else. Or else what? I don't think it is an idle threat. I believe that if Donald Trump is elected President, people that oppose President Trump will do so at great risk to their freedom.

Law students and others often talk about what one can do in a way that implies that one can only do what is legal, forgetting that we each have the physical power to undertake actions that are illegal.

I fear that in response to those that would admonish Trump that he can't do this or that under the law, President Trump will simple respond with cruel indifference, "watch me!"

As Andrew Jackson is said to have said, "The Supreme Court has spoken, now let them enforce it."

(This apacrphal quote is attributed to Jackson's comment in a letter to John Coffee, commenting on Chief Justice Marshall's holding in Corcester v. Georgia, in which he stated, "...the decision of the Supreme Court has fell still born, and they find that they cannot coerce Georgia to yield to its mandate." (The case ultimately concerned the relationship between the Indian Nations, the states, and the United States.) )

Any presidential candidate that does not respect the rule of law, has the power within them to fundamentally change the Republic, and in in the process do great damage to the weak and the vulnerable, and all who stand in their way, because it will be very difficult to restrain them.

For these reasons, the candidacy of Donald Trump for the Presidency of the United States should be vigorously opposed.

What issues arise are secondary, when a person so disregards both the law and those in need, while playing on the fears of the masses.

I think terrorism, and maybe gun policy as a corollary, will be big issues. I hope I'm wrong, but if there are more incidents like the bombing in the Istanbul airport yesterday, and Orlando, and continued gun violence in Chicago and other cities, these will likely be issues.

I think immigration policy will be an issue whether it should or not, thanks to Trump.

Trade -- yes.

It seems to me that the big issues for voters come out of the debates, and maybe out of campaign ads (I say maybe because I live in DC, where nobody much cares what we think, and we have nobody running for House or Senate, and we're about 85% Democrats, so I don't see so many TV ads).

And it seems to me Trump is largely the one driving what become the issues. So they could be lots of other things. All of Hillary's political and personal baggage, including stuff Bill did, will come into play too.

I shudder to think what Trump would say about clemency. Maybe that's a reason to ask him . . .
One good thing about Brexit may be that the voters in Great Britain will see that the promises of the LEAVE leaders were empty--- they can't and won't do anything about trade and immigration.

Those are the two big issues and Trump has the upper hand. He claims he'll fix them. And in reality he won't.. because he can't.

Auto jobs and big manufacturing and coal mining are NOT coming back to the UK or the U.S. The tariffs that would be required to kill foreign imports will simply not be acceptable when people realize what they do to prices. Besides, the big manufacturing job killer is not robotization, not foreign imports.

Sadly, those are hard concepts to sell.
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I don't think Trump got a boost post-Orlando, so I wouldn't be so sure he's going to benefit at the polls from terrorist attacks.

Also, with Blue Cross Blue Shield pulling out of many states including Minnesota, I think Trump would be smart to make a huge issue out of the rapidly rising premiums that seem to be really hurting the middle class. This fall the companies will be seeking approval for their rate increases.
Preface: I agree with David Best at least in part. We have witnessed a pretty concerted and sustained assault on the idea of three co-equal branches of national government (and the idea of federalism) for decades.

Perversely, I predict the Donald might actually create a bipartisan coalition to stand up for the rights of the Article I branch--and, if not that, or, in addition to that, the states might find their voice again. That is, we might well see a "rebalancing" of power the likes of which we have not witnessed during the long "imperial presidency" period because Trump will not be able to count on a loyal partisan caucus in Congress. Surely, the political establishment (and fed courts and the media) are not going to lay down for this fellow to insert himself as an American Mussolini. Frankly, the liberal side of the divide (which has seen very little downside to runaway national government control for a long time) might suddenly rediscover the brilliance of institutional checks and balances and re-embrace the subtle American dance between liberty and power.
Advantage Trump. Lots of mistakes in the Obama-Clinton administration. ISIS is doomed to failure--but it is going to get worse before it gets better. ISIS is clearly a product of the ironically opposite but equally disastrous foreign policies of Presidents Bush and Obama. Lots of blame for Obama-Clinton also for Syria and Libya, which spawned the massive refugee crisis and unrest in Europe. The Obama admin seems unsure and muddled and apologetic when it come to terrorism. Trump creates the perception of strength and clarity and trades in Manichean distinctions.

Advantage Trump (but only slightly). Trump's immigration policies (like all his policies) are shallow and misguided and misinformed. On the other hand, we are a nation home to 45 million immigrants (foreign born), which represents a big chunk of our total pop--and projected to grow over the decades.* We have not thought through the ramifications of that change in American culture. Again, Obama and Clinton are skittish about questions of national identity and how much is too much, etc. In the absence of serious talk on immigration and national identity, Trump's silly talk seems less silly.

Free Trade:
Slight advantage Trump. Both Trump and Clinton are disingenuous, but Trump is a better salesman. So far, Trump has the best talking points. It is a serious issue I hope we continue to discuss on the Razor. But, aside from this space, I would not expect a very intelligent national conversation on this issue in the coming weeks and months.

Health Care:
Almost a non-issue. Our healthcare system is in trouble (has been in trouble for a long time) and will continue to be in trouble. When President Obama arrived we were on an unsustainable path. As I have said before, he did little to fix things, offered over-complicated solutions to manageable problems and laid the groundwork for a slow painful trajectory to a national health system. We continue to be on an unsustainable path. For the most part, except for some serious partisans and policy wonks, nobody cares.

Law and Order:
I don't think clemency will play a major role in the campaign (although I do expect clemency on an unprecedented scale after the election, which will engender a national firestorm and heated discussion).

But, mostly, and somewhat depending on the violence at the Cleveland convention (which I actually expect to be quite mild), I think we will talk a lot about the Ferguson Effect, reduced sentences for offenders, the accelerated release of convicted criminals, voting rights for ex-felons, and other issues of personal security versus the rights of the accused and convicted. That might be a slight advantage Trump--but mostly a wash, as it cuts both ways.

The Nature of Government & Religious Freedom & Regulation and Home Rule:
As Ronald Reagan said (way back in 1964): “This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

If Trump were to catch on (very unlikely), this would be the issue that might catapult him to a Brexit-like stunner in which a bunch of old mostly white married guys and dolls rallied around the flag and won one for the Gipper one more time.

There is a feeling in American (much like in England outside of London--evidently) that government is run by elites who resemble the corrupt Hunger Games technocrats who are so disconnected from real life and flyover country that they are blinded to the angst and sufferings of the governed by the heady perks of running the world.

And these demos represent almost in total Donald Trump's thin reed of hope to win the presidency in 2016.

*"U.S. Foreign-Born Population Reached 45 Million in 2015, Projected to Reach 78 Million by 2065": (
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