November 9, 2016
After one of the longest, most volatile, and arguably most contentious presidential campaigns in modern American history, Donald Trump has emerged as the president-elect and will be the 45th President of the United States of America.
Mr. Trump and Gov. Mike Pence have stunned the political establishment, winning 279 Electoral College votes (with three states yet to be officially called) and garnering more than 59.3 million votes nationwide. While former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leading the national popular vote, Mr. Trump racked up wins in formerly dependable “blue wall” states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin that contributed enough Electoral College votes to put him over the edge. His victory was fueled by a coalition of traditional conservative Republicans, rural and small town voters, and working class households that have usually been reliable supporters of the Democratic Party.
In no small part, this new coalition allowed Republicans to hold their majority in the Senate and continue to hold a comfortable, though slightly smaller, majority in the House of Representatives. Whether this marks the beginning of a new Republican majority that will reshape the political landscape is unknown. What is clear is that Mr. Trump’s victory was largely fueled by deep voter discontent with economic opportunity for working class families and a sense of alienation from establishment policies that appear to have turned a blind eye to large segments of working class America. Mr. Trump will come to Washington with a set of policies and promises that are at odds with long-established norms of his own party and yet he will lead a government with complete control of the executive and legislative branches of government. The path forward for Mr. Trump and the Republican majority is not clear, but it is a path for Republicans to define from a position of strength.
As the immediate shock of the result subsides, the country will begin to sort-out the implications of the election over the coming days. This much is clear to political observers: Americans feel divided, are anxious with the direction of the country, and are looking for change. Given the vitriol of the campaign, the election results are not likely to provide a unifying moment for the country, but rather contribute to the sense of national angst. Nearly two-thirds of Americans think the US is on the “wrong track,” more than half hold an unfavorable view of the president-elect, and more than three-quarters disapprove of Congress. An NBC/WSJ poll found that 62% of voters said the election made them feel less proud of America – no doubt a product of the long-standing, simmering divisions in the country that were exposed throughout the campaign.
In this critical early period, the way Mr. Trump addresses the country – and how lawmakers, voters and constituency groups grapple with the outcome of the election – will likely determine the tone and tenor of the next two years in Washington. His conciliatory acceptance speech gave many hope that he intends to build bridges, saying it was “time to bind the wounds of division.”
In the immediate aftermath of the election, many Washington insiders are asking the following questions:
The answers to these questions will drive the politics for the critical weeks following the election and set the tone for the next two years.
During the campaign, Mr. Trump promised that tax reform, the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, infrastructure spending, criminal justice reform and immigration reform will be immediate priorities for his Administration. Mr. Trump promised that he would revisit trade deals and, if necessary, “tear them up.” What will be his approach and the approach of Republican leadership in meeting the expectations of the Trump coalition? With favorability numbers for Congress at all-time lows, Republicans will have to decide whether it is more beneficial to follow the lead of their president or adhere to long-held policy positions that are at odds with his campaign promises.
In 2016, both parties learned that the electorate was more divided, angry and in search of real results than previously thought. Voters of all backgrounds are looking for politicians who can deliver on policies that will provide real benefit to the lives of everyday Americans. President-elect Trump campaigned on a set of policies aimed at helping American families but his policy promises are not likely to survive his own party without serious adjustments. Will President-elect Trump and a fully Republican Congress be able to deliver?