In over a decade running my own businesses, and in over two decades as a senior executive in larger corporations, I developed and learned to use a technique for making decisions [particularly when they involved choosing from among several options] that I knew would have a significant impact on the company’s overall performance. That technique served me very well during the course of my career, not only in my business and employment situations, but in other areas of my life. Using available supporting facts and incorporating whatever assumptions I had to make to fill in the gaps [which there always are], I would do the best I could to come up with the decision I thought was probably best. All decision-makers do that part, whether they describe it the same way I just did or with different words. The technique I would then apply would be to project, under the assumption that my chosen option had been the decision, what things would probably be like in six months, in a year, in three years, and in five years. In business, the accuracy of such projections reduces exponentially beyond three years, making projections beyond five years a somewhat useless endeavor.
However, much longer-range [decades into the future] impacts of this election can be projected with considerable accuracy because of the huge differences between Democrat and Republican philosophies in at least three areas: 1) long-range financial stability [how to overcome our debt situation and move in that direction]; 2) the ideological balance of the Supreme Court [what it should be]; and 3) world reputation and influence [again, what it should be]. We can predict now — before we vote — the very long-range impact of decisions the next President [and the Legislature and Supreme Court he/she will be working with] will make in these three areas — and frankly, if we don’t make the right decisions in these three areas, the accuracy of our decisions in other areas probably won’t matter much.
So let’s do some “back to the future” thinking here, using the title and logic of the famous 1985 movie in which the characters went back to the past, found a situation that clearly caused a problem that existed in their time, changed the circumstances [and therefore the outcome] at that point in the past, and then went “back to the future” to find the better result. Of course, we know that we can’t actually do that, so I will use my technique as described above in an attempt to depict the same overall scenario — i.e., we look forward a few decades into the future under the assumption that Clinton [any Democrat] won the 11/8/16 election, and then do the same thing under the assumption that Trump [any Republican] won.
Note: If you think there is some chance that a person who is not either a Democrat or a Republican can win, please see my previous blogs — even under the scenario in which neither Clinton nor Trump gets the required 270 Electoral votes on November 8, the end result will still be that the new president will be a Democrat or a Republican. Nothing is ever absolutely certain, but for all practical purposes, the probability that any of the other candidates [or anyone else who is not a Democrat or a Republican] will ultimately be inaugurated as president on January 20 is zero.
Assumption A: A Democrat Became President on January 20, 2017
Long-Range Financial Stability
Probably at some point during the President’s first term, and most definitely within his/her second term if applicable, a true crisis will cause very drastic cost-cutting measures to necessarily be taken. The window of opportunity for “kicking the can down the road” has almost closed already, but by then it will have long since passed. The exact nature and form of the crisis is difficult to predict, but at least two of the outcomes are not — there will definitely be cuts to the Social Security benefits of current retirees, and for current Medicare beneficiaries, diminished benefit levels more than likely in addition to higher premiums.
It is quite possible that Justice Ginsberg [who is 80] would retire in this situation, which along with the already-vacant seat of Justice Scalia, will create an immediate situation in which two liberal justices will be replacing one liberal [Ginsberg] and one conservative [Scalia].
If Justice Ginsberg doesn’t retire, the odds are substantial that she will die during the President’s first term, and they are even higher that she will die during his/her second term, if applicable. In either event, the court will have shifted to the left even with one appointment by this President [Scalia’s replacement], and even farther left with two.
Justice Kennedy [generally left of center, but not always siding with liberals] is 80, and Justice Breyer [liberal] is 78. A Breyer replacement under this President would not affect the left-right mix [i.e., he would be replaced by another liberal], but a Kennedy replacement would shift the court clearly at least liberal-leaning, and it would remain that way for a generation.
Another key factor to consider regarding the Supreme Court is how President Obama has used Executive Orders to drive his policy positions. Although the number of his Executive Orders isn’t alarming vis-a-vis that of his predecessors, the scope of them is alarming. If another Democrat is in the White House and Republicans are able to hang on to their majorities in both the House and the Senate, or if they retain House control but lose their Senate majority, the new president will face the same challenges as the current one. Since Senate Republicans even in a minority could exercise the same “blocking by the minority” ability the Democrats have now, the Supreme Court could become the way the President could drive a liberal agenda.
World Reputation And Influence
Our reputation and stature on the world stage will continue to decline. We will have clearly ceased to be considered a major power, maybe even a major influence. This will be brought about both by continuation of the Obama foreign policies and by the huge financial problems that will literally be consuming our attention. It is almost a certainty that North Korea will be a nuclear power, and it is highly likely that Iran will be.
Assumption B: A Republican Became President on January 20, 2017
Long-Range Financial Stability
Although some painful financial decisions will have to be made during the President’s first term, they will be made [i.e., the “can” won’t continue to be “kicked down the road”]. If these decisions are made wisely, cuts to the Social Security benefits of current retirees will probably not be required, but cuts to benefits of future retirees will probably still be required [we’ve been “kicking this can down the road” for too many years already]. For current Medicare beneficiaries, diminished benefit levels may not be required, but it is likely that higher premiums, and probably a means-adjusted premium scale, will be necessary.
Justice Scalia’s replacement will probably be considerably more conservative than any Democrat-appointed Justice would have been — at a minimum, he/she would be a strict constitutionalist. Justice Ginsberg [who is 80] would not likely retire in this situation. If she doesn’t retire, the odds are substantial that she will die during the President’s first term, and they are even higher that she will die during his/her second term, if applicable, which along with the already-vacant seat of Justice Scalia, will create an immediate situation in which two conservative justices will be replacing one liberal [Ginsberg] and one conservative [Scalia].
In either event, the court will have shifted very slightly to the right even with one appointment by this President [Scalia’s replacement], and even farther right with two.
Justice Kennedy [general left of center, but not always siding with liberals] is 80, and Justice Breyer [liberal] is 78. A Breyer replacement under this President would not affect the left-right mix [i.e., he would be replaced by another liberal], but a Kennedy replacement would shift the court clearly conservative, and it would remain that way for a generation.
Many, probably most, of the Executive Orders Barack Obama used to drive his policy positions will be cancelled. The Supreme Court will then have to become the adjudicating mechanism in any reversals of direction those cancelations will require. It is unlikely that a Republican president will subsequently engage in as many congressional by-pass maneuvers as did Obama.
World Reputation And Influence
Our reputation and stature on the world stage will improve, but by how much remains to be seen. We will definitely get back to being considered a major power, maybe even more of a major influence. This will be brought about by a clear reversal of the Obama foreign policies and a more decisive leader in the White House, but what will remain unclear [until it becomes more evident] is the degree to which domestic financial problems can be averted fairly quickly [i.e., by getting us onto a more sustainable fiscal path], thereby giving us more capacity to deal with our international status. Whether renewed American strength and more decisive leadership internationally can prevent or at least substantially delay North Korea and Iran becoming nuclear powers is not certain, but our level of influence in both of these situations will certainly be higher.
And In Either Case ..,
The two-dominant-party system, if not completely dead with their control over the election process totally gone, at a minimum will have lost even more of its influence. The far left wing of the Democrat Party [Sanders, Warren et al] will be even stronger if still within the party at all. The far right wing of the Republican Party [Cruz et al] will be even stronger if still within the party at all. The moderate / centrist segments of both parties will be much weaker if they are still in their current parties. Even if they have merged to form another party, their influence will be lower than it is now if they are essentially all “Old Guard” politicians [McConnell, Pelosi et al] — perhaps not as much lower if their ranks include a significant element of younger, more visionary members.
To try and predict more specifically how all of this will infold would be pure conjecture at this point. One thing is certain, though: what I have labeled in previous posts as the Trump/Sanders Phenomenon is not going away. It is here to stay, and it will “evolve” and mature into whatever it is going to become — but in any event, it will have a dramatic impact on American Politics.
So we’re back to an underlying theme in all of my previous posts, and in the pages at this web site — it’s not about the people who are the candidates; it’s about the platforms [ideologies] of the parties of which they are a part.
Depending on how this week’s news unfolds, I may offer in my next post [which will be this week] a perspective on the 10/27 decision by FBI Director Comey to revisit the Clinton email scandal.
Charles M. Jones