We’ve had bad presidents in the past, but it would be hard to find a time when the consensus opinion going into a presidential election was both major party candidates weren’t up to par. It happened in 2016. Do we really want a repeat in 2020? In our last two posts we looked at the Democrats2017 The Year the World Ends an d Republicans AND THEN THE REPUBLICANS looking forward. On the upside, the Democrats could move away from Old Progressives who pander only to the radical wing of their party. When the Party faced a really bad stretch, three consecutive losses, they went with the young Bill Clinton. Leading up to his nomination he was a leader of the more middle of the road New Democrats . A consummate politician, he was beloved by all democrats but also lauded by conservatives such as Art Laffer of the “curve” fame. Turning to a similar young but experienced politician (two term Governor?) would up the choice level on the part of Democrats. A docile Trump sticking to the congressional leadership’s program could achieve some much-needed reforms all could applaud in the vein of Clinton Era Budget, welfare and tax reforms. In other words Trump morphs into John Kasich. No need to lose sleep over the 2020 choice.
After just a few weeks into Trump administration, we can see just how unrealistic these notions are.. Trump put his energy in meeting every pledge he made to his base. Build the wall while threatening Mexico with a stiff tariff if they didn’t pay for it,travel bans from some Muslim countries,bully corporate CEOs to support a mecantalist economic policy, rein in Obamacare but promising everyone will still be covered and dump TPP. Not exactly the traditional Republican wish list. He did push all his Republican favored cabinet nominees, but then relied on his inner circle for the sudden travel ban. A window dressing cabinet? Also, Republicans received two pipelines and a Supreme Court Justice. May seem pretty good until you realize Trump had no choice on these. While the pipelines were normal business that never should’ve been banned, Judge Gorsuch was an express promise to conservatives, without which he probably wouldn’t have been elected. Democrats reaction to all this was marches and demonstrations and more marches and demonstrations. Their powerless representatives made noise and walked out. No outreach to anyone but already convinced progressives. If you were pro-life but wanted to join the Women’ Marches you weren’t welcome. What can we draw from this start? Both sides have simply retreated to their respective bases. Neither seem to think they need anyone else. Trump because he won and he thinks he won big. He didn’t, but Trump believes what he believes. The Democrats because they won the popular vote and believe future demographics are in their favor. Each side increasingly turns to outlets mirroring their views. Since the election, Fox News has seen an increase in prime-time viewers while Steven Colbert has pulled even to Jimmy Fallon in late night. This allows each side to utter inanities such as “alternate facts” or “settled science”. The national divide continues widen.
To us this in some ways an odd war. As we wrote in TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE Trump and the progressives aren’t so dissimilar. Trump’s travel ban could illuminate this point. Trump’s order derives from an expansive view of presidential powers. Progressives generally favor this view of presidential power. They strongly backed all of Pres. Obama’s executive orders. The progressive members on the Supreme court have voted that way. After all you’re a progressive because you believe in expansive government. It sets up the possibility of an interesting scenario. The case winds its way to the supreme court and a now sitting Neil Gorsuch true to his limited government and highly protective First amendment views votes against the President’s ban while the progressives on the court favor the ban. If he loses, would Trump ever nominate a similar justice?
As this bitter war is waged between two factions believing in an expanding government to set the nations course but in a death match over who gets to steer, what do the rest of us do? The one thing we can’t do is sit around till 2020 and find we are presented with the same type of horrible choice for president as 2016. the The other choices,the underfunded not quite ready for prime time Libertarians, the heretofore unheard Evan McMullin and , well, Jill Stein, failed to widen the choices in real terms.. If we want the choices our country deserves, the time to start is now not 2020. If we don’t, the undeserved rational middle of the electorate, those socially inclusive but skeptical of governments ability to provide the answers to a better lives and those with a global outlook will again have no viable choice. Third parties both actual and potential together with prospective monetary supporters need get organized now.
Let’s start with the third parties that made a visible showing in 2016, the Green and Libertarian. The Green party will know if it even has a reason to exist after the tentative 2/23 to 2/26 DNC winter meeting. There a new DNC chairman will selected. The two front-runners are Progressive favorite Representative Keith Ellison and establishment favorite former Labor Secretary Tom Perez(No young blood here). If Ellison wins, the party will officially be in the hands of its progressive wing. Just as the Republicans party is in the hands of the Trump populists, the Democrats will have moved towards an extreme. There simply wouldn’t be room on the far left for the Greens. Or you could say the Green types took over the Democrat Party. Even if the Democratic Establishment following Joe Biden’s lead elect Perez, fear of the progressive wing has already pushed the party far to the left. Remember Hillary Clinton dumped TPP after she said ” This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.” So much for Democratic International outlook no matter who wins.
The Libertarians would seem to be the best positioned to fill the void for the abandoned middle of the electorate. Their ticket was on the ballot in every state in 2016 with no reason to believe they wouldn’t be in 2020. Being socially inclusive but pro small government, free trade and immigration, should have wide appeal. Of course they’ll need high quality candidates able to communicate their positions. That means finding communicators even better than the two successful two term governors they ran in 2016. No backsliding. With the possibility of quality office holders in both parties being primaried simply because they aren’t extreme enough for the Trump Populists or the Sanders-Warren progressives, the Libertarians should provide a welcoming new home. A place on the ballot could do wonders for these orphans and the party. One caveat is the Libertarians have to have a coherent policy for protecting the people and interests of the country. Non-intervention isn’t a policy. For instance free trade still has to be protected. In the first 15 years of our nation existence, we were involved in two shooting conflicts and were even involved in a possible regime change. The founding fathers were under no illusions about the world and Libertarians shouldn’t be either.
Starting a new party from scratch, say on the bones of Evan McMullin’s late in the day 2016 run, would be even harder. Just getting on the ballot in all 50 states would be a major challenge. You really have had to start yesterday. Still, if the libertarians fail to get their act together, it maybe the only choice.
In any case choices without support especially in the early stages and we mean monetary support will have difficulty getting their heads above water. According to the US Chamber of Commerce 41 million jobs depend on trade. The USDA reports fully 20% of our farm produce is exported. Our great high-tech industry exists on the world stage and is dependent on the constant infusion of the best minds available no matter where in the world they came from. Yet neither candidate in 2016 supported free trade as evidenced by their opposition to TTP. Nor did they favor for an expansive immigration policy. One could agree those favoring trade and immigration were taken by surprise by Trump and Hillary’s abrupt about-face, but they have no excuses going forward. The 127 companies signing on to oppose Trump’s travel ban should have no illusions where the President stands. Democrats historically have been less favorable to a World Economic view than Republicans but even in that party there are those who embrace a Global view. Writing in the 2/6 Washington Post, former Clinton era Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers wrote:
The truth too often denied by both sides in this debate is that incremental agreements such as TPP have been largely irrelevant to the fate of middle-class workers. The real strategic choice Americans face is whether the objective of their policies is to see the economies of the rest of the world grow and prosper. Or, does the United States want to keep the rest of the world from threatening it by slowing global growth and walling off products and people?Framed this way, the solution appears obvious. A strategy of returning to the protectionism of the past and seeking to thwart the growth of other nations is untenable and would likely lead to a downward spiral in the global economy. The right approach is to maintain openness while finding ways to help workers at home who are displaced by technical progress, trade or other challenges.
Democrats such as Secretary Summers with a global outlook need somewhere to join like-minded Republicans. Those with businesses that would be irreparably harmed by the walling off of America better figure out a way to provide that place. A word of caution though, don’t do what donors did with Jeb Bush and try to dictate through funding a particular candidate. You want top quality candidates and let the best person win. Just don’t get caught up in a chicken or egg situation with donors and parties waiting for on the other to moved first. This needs to be simultaneous. and now.