Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election 2016 / Question 4 / Predicting the Future with Reckless Abandon

An American Chimera [Hypothetical]

What will America, and the world, look like tomorrow?  This is the crux of things, isn't it?

I know people care about this because I keep getting asked about it - so I have come up with four wreckless, devil-may-care predictions about the future of the United States.  Enjoy, or lament, as you see fit.

[Note: All of these scenarios are based upon the assumption that the world would effectively have to end for the Republicans to lose control of the House of Representatives.   Imagining a scenario in the next two years in which the Democrats control that house is just - yeah.  No.]

[Note 2: I have decided, in the interest of keeping things comparable, to divide each scenario into five minor vignettes themed according to subject matter]

[Note 3: There is the possibility of a deadlock in the Senate, meaning the Democratic and Republican parties gain equal representation - this counts, essentially, as either a Republican or Democratic Senate, however, since the Vice-President then gains the tie-breaking vote - assuming, of course, that the Vice-President and the Senate members of his party are in some degree of accord.]

Scenario 1: Double-Whammy Democrat, Republican House

The Democratic party takes control of the Executive Branch and the Senate, giving them the ability to appoint judiciary members and bureaucrats with comparative ease - it may be painful sometimes, given that Republican officials may filibuster and fight cloture, but one has to imagine that these fights will be limited in number and one has to assume that if the Republicans seem particularly at odds there is a solid chance that the Rules Committee will undertake some series reforms at the beginning of the session [which itself could be a not insignificant outcome - one that the Republicans will want to avoid and therefore constituting a meaningful push for them to move towards compromise].


Expect a significantly more progressive Supreme Court - three of the currently serving justices are over the age of 77 - that means that if they retire, which most political watchers assume will happen if Clinton is elected, then Clinton will stack the court with four justices, defining a generation of judicial decisions.


Don't expect too much to change here - which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  The economy has slowly been recovering over the last few years and investors are likely to see a Clinton/Democrat double-whammy as the kind of outcome that makes things more predictable, which is exactly what the markets, domestic and international, like.  If this happens expect a surge in the major stock markets, American and otherwise.


Expect Clinton to continue pushing clean energy reforms and to do what she can to undercut American fossil fuel infrastructure expansion - or at least expect her to seem to be doing that.  Certainly energy independence or near-independence has had the effect, for Obama, of giving him more free reign to reform.  Expect that to continue to be a goal, and for investment in alternative resources to increase.


Clinton is more hawkish than Obama and more internationalist than Trump, but a Democratic Senate might restrain her attempts to do more.  Expect her to demand "renegotiation" of international trade deals that result in nearly no change and rapid Senate approvals.

Social Policy 

Clinton will nominate pro-choice judicial nominees, will support reforms and improvements to Federal welfare systems, and will continue to push for gay, lesbian, transexual, and bisexual rights, though Obama has done far more lifting than she is likely to have to do, so to speak.

Scenario 2: Triple-Whammy Republican

In this scenario Trump wins the presidency and the Republican party takes the Senate - so the Republicans hold everything, right?  Well, maybe.  The problem is that Trump is a maverick, a wild card, a nonconformist.  He is nearly as at odds with the more traditional members of his own party as he is with the members of the Democratic party and so it is difficult to imagine he is going to have a smooth tenure in pressing his legislative agenda (which, of course, remains somewhat ambiguous).


Looking at Trump's list of appointees, we see a list of constitutionalists - folks his campaign specifically compare to Scalia, who also will likely toe the line (at least prior to sitting) on issues of social significance. It seems likely most would get through fairly easily.


Trump is seen as a dangerous bet internationally and calls for a more isolationist line and protectionist policy than his peers in Congress.   Look for him to suspend deals and have some difficulty getting new deals negotiated or passed, leading to declining international trade and the breakdown of many of our more fragile bilateral alliances.


Trump is fairly luddite-ish - expect government investment in education and research to putter, while environmental legislation and treaties are gutted, all with the approval of Congress.

Social Policy 

Expect little to change except for Trump's nominations to the Supreme Court and the effects emergent therefrom.

Scenario 3: Democratic Presidency, Republican Senate, Republican House

This is the, "everything stays unpleasant for awhile" scenario {also known as the "invest in bourbon" scenario}  - imagine a Senate that lives up to the pledge of some of its members to prevent the appointment of the any Clinton judicial nominees, and imagine if that contention also spreads to other fields - international relations, bureaucratic leadership appointments, etc. - I heard someone describe this as the unpleasantness of this election, should it result in a scenario like this, as rendering his election "a comma, not a period."   Yoinks.


Expect few if any Clinton nominees to reach office, at least during this Congress - the Supreme Court may shrink to its smallest size in well over a century.


Uncertainty will certainly increase, and public, nasty battles over budgets ensue.   Expect this to effect international trade and investment and to, at least early in the Congress, slow growth.


Clinton will keep in place Obama's policies on environmental and energy law, by and large, but will be unable to implement much else.


Clinton will emphasize military reform, seek to have the State Department bolstered, and will generally maintain good relations with most nations - though relations with Russia and its allies will likely suffer and American efforts to counter-balance China are likely to surge, both with Republican support.   Women's issues and international public health may become more significant, though largely through means already available to the President.

Social Policy

Expect Clinton to continue along tracks already laid by Obama.   Appointments will be progressive on women's and gender issues - expect this to make little leeway in light of Republican discontent with nominees.

Scenario 4: Republican Presidency, Democratic Senate, Republican House

In this scenario, which seems unlikely to me (given the straight-ticket voting phenomenon), the very real possibility of a Democratic Senate at war with Trump, metaphorically of course, is significant - expect logjams at literally every turn and a Senate whose Democratic leadership touts itself as the levee against a flood, for better or worse.


Expect some pushback but most nominees will make it through; that said look for folk on the Supreme Court to die, rather than retire, before their seats become open.


Largely the same conundrums as under the all Republican scenario.


Look for the Senate to try to restrain reforms from the Republicans, Trump-supporters or more broadly; their success will be limited to efforts to peel back laws, not insignificant, but functionally problematic.

Social Policy 

Expect the Democratic Senate aim at doing everything it can to deadlock rollback efforts - whether they will be successful is unclear.

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