Tag Archives: election 2016

What to Expect from Trump’s First Hundred Days as President

The first hundred days of Donald Trump’s America will soon be upon us.

Despite the breakout protests and outrage following Donald Trump’s surprise victory at the polls, most people still aren’t sure what to expect of his administration.

Will he fulfill his promise of making America great again, or will the next four years be a cartoonish nightmare?

Why the First Hundred Days Matter

The first hundred days of any president’s administration are critical. Trump may be a strong example, but the opening act of a presidential term sets the stage for the years to follow.

Trump has to choose his cabinet, and decide what policies to make priorities. Which of his campaign promises, if any, will make it to the Oval Office? For Trump, whose election platform offered few details on policy, but was rich with “personality,” the first hundred days will be a furtive glimpse into the future.

The start of the first term is also when most presidents have their highest levels of support, and therefore, the most potential to pass parts of their campaign agenda.

For those who don’t know, the precedent for the first hundred days was set by FDR during a radio broadcast in 1933, where he outlined a plan to pass the New Deal during the hundred-day session of the 73rd Congress. The phrase quickly changed meaning, and became a label for the first hundred days of FDR’s first term in office, and later, the first term for any new president.

Crash Course has a more detailed explanation of the New Deal and FDR’s early days in office. Take a look for a quick history refresher:

FDR’s first hundred days were productive ones. If Trump can be even half as effective as FDR was, it should be clear why liberal voters are worried.

President Trump: What We Know So Far

To recap, the first standard by which all United States Presidents are judged, established during one of the most difficult periods in American history by this guy:

FDR set the precedent for the first hundred days during his first term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

…is now about to be applied to this guy:

Nervous yet?

Trump was so vague about his policies during the campaign that he really could do just about anything. All we have to go on is his recent “Contract with the American Voter,” released in late October.

It’s hard to make any real predictions on this yet, but some news outlets have made a stab at it anyway. NPR copied the whole contract into an article last week, and the San Francisco Chronicle published a similar article a few days ago.

The thing about government is that it’s not easy to summarize. For those who really want to know what Trump will do, the best information is still straight from his website, but some highlights are included below:

The Supreme Court, Social Justice, and Minority Activism

There are number of issues, such as the rights of the LGBT community, that Trump’s contract doesn’t address.

There are other issues, such as the Supreme Court and Obama’s executive orders, that it addresses thoroughly.

Justice Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court is still vacant, and three more justices are past or approaching 80 years old.  While liberal justices might decide to wait a little longer to retire, if they were to die in office, it’s likely they would be replaced by conservatives.

LGBT Americans are already concerned about what Trump’s administration will do, especially when he has a Republican Congress behind him, but if the Supreme Court becomes conservative, would it really be a stretch to see same-sex marriage get the axe?

What about America’s burgeoning police state, or movements like Black Lives Matter? How many Syrian refugees, if any, will be allowed into the country? Will President Trump get his wall, and if he does, what will happen to immigrants that are already here?

Conservatives may not always care for social issues, and they may even support the rollback of the last eight years of liberalism. Hopefully, they do not let ideology take precedent over disenfranchisement and human suffering.

Regardless of political affiliation, it would seem that for social issues, if the last eight years equaled two steps forward, the next four might equal a dozen steps back.

Term Limits

“Drain the Swamp” was a big rallying point for Trump’s campaign, aimed at reducing corruption in D.C. by limiting terms in Congress and curtailing the influence of lobbyists.

This is certainly a goal that most Americans can get behind. But it’s also hard to see Trump making much progress when his cabinet is a veritable rogue’s gallery of Washington insiders.

On paper, term limits curb corruption, since fresh people are always fed into office.

New blood could also help to pass more popular legislation. It’s easy to imagine government losing touch with people, since the average congressman is around 60, while the the median age in America is 36.

But term limits might be easier said than done. Even Trump knows that term limits would require a constitutional amendment, and members of Congress likely won’t support any bill that would force them out of a job.

If Trump somehow gets his amendment passed, it might create other problems. Members of Congress will cycle more frequently, but lobbyists wouldn’t be affected by term limits, creating a big shift in the balance of political power compared to what we have now.

But lobbyists wouldn’t be completely off the hook.

Restrictions on Foreign Lobbyists

It’s important to note that it’s already illegal for candidates in federal elections to take money from foreign donors, but not necessarily for foreign lobbyists to raise money on their behalf. Trump would eliminate this loophole.

White House officials would also be banned from lobbying for foreign governments, and would not be allowed to lobby in the United States for five years after leaving government.

The revolving door between the private sector and government is no secret. US officials with ties to foreign governments can (and should) make voters nervous, and this is still without mentioning that countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are some of the more generous contributors to the D.C. machine.

While it’s hard to pick any one reason for Hillary Clinton’s defeat, alleged ties to foreign governments were definitely a sticky point for her during the election.

Clinton may not have taken foreign money for her campaign, but she did accept it for the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state, despite President Obama’s wishes. Depending on how strictly Trump’s proposals would be enforced, gray areas like this might become more black and white.

Infrastructure and Energy

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave infrastructure in the United States a D+. The society suggests an investment of $3.6 trillion to fix this problem.

To address this, Trump has proposed the American Energy and Infrastructure Act. The act would rely on partnerships with the private sector to raise $1 trillion for infrastructure projects.

Trump has yet to specify how this proposal would work. What incentive will the private sector have to invest in public works projects? How will the government pay for their share? Where will the other $2.6 trillion needed to fix our infrastructure come from?

Will a Republican Congress really authorize funds for bridges, dams, and roads?

Maybe not. But they probably will support the Keystone pipeline and increased fossil fuel production, which Trump has also proposed.

This might help keep gas prices down, but it doesn’t bode well for the environment, or for the people who don’t want leaky pipelines in their backyard. Is the possibility of cheaper energy really worth flaming drinking water?

The Immediate Horizon is Cloudy, at Best

Trump, unlike most presidents, does not have a record of policy making and statesmanship behind him. He tends to act impulsively, and breaks with tradition often; he may not even live in the White House.

One hundred days does not a president make, one week after election day is not enough time to adequately predict the future of the entire country, and no pundit, liberal or conservative, was able to see any of this coming.

The reality of the situation is that we do not fully grasp the reality of the situation. If you’re a died-in-the-wool conservative, you probably won’t complain too much. If not, you probably won’t know what to make of anything for a while.

Until we do, we can only keep watching the news, and hope for the best.

 

Daniel Durand is a writer who like politics, but admits that it’s a lot less fun lately. He can be reached at ddurand.specialprojects@gmail.com.

So You Elected Donald Trump for President

by Daniel J. Durand

Good morning, America; sleep well? I would like to take a moment to briefly talk about what happened last night.

Last night, on November 8th, 2016, we, the American people chose Donald Trump as our new president.

To those of you who voted for him, congratulations! You did it! To everyone else… sorry. I’m so sorry. The following is an open letter, which I’m going to break down into parts in order to better address each of the major groups I see in play right now. Here goes:

The Democratic Party

You guys really blew this one, you know?

At best, before the election, you controlled maybe eight states–now you have nothing.

You threw all your eggs in the Hillary basket, kicked Bernie and the Millenials to the curb, ignored the problems facing organized labor, African-Americans, the LGBT community, and everyone else, all somehow in hopes of getting Hillary to the White House. Don’t believe me? Look at the early exit polling–you guys lost everyone you claim to represent, and by a scary margin.

The party structure is now drained of resources, and Democrats are fractured into those who supported the establishment and those who supported a Bernie-style movement. The party is now meaningless outside of the northeast and the west coast, where strongholds still remain.

In short, you guys done fucked up proper, and now you have a lot of work to do.

The Republican Party

You guys are asssholes, but you won this round despite that. Kudos! I still hate your guts, but mad props for pulling it off.

Politically, I will never agree with Republicans, and I doubt many liberal voters will, either–but we all understand how dangerous Trump’s presidency could be, and if The Donald goes nuclear, Republicans and Democrats have to be ready to work together

Try not to get us into another war, okay? If Trump turns out to be the nightmare president we are all afraid of, you, the Republicans, are the only group capable of stopping him. .

Hillary Clinton

There is no way you don’t have this coming. Now, suck it up, and put your incredible political machine to work alongside Bernie Sanders’ movement.

You weren’t the right candidate to go up against Trump, and it cost America. Voters made themselves clear last night that we don’t trust you, we don’t like you–but you still have the DNC at your fingertips, you still won the nomination and made it this far, and you still have serious clout.

Don’t retreat. Keep moving forward for progress, for the Democratic party, and most of all, for Bernie Sanders and the movement he started.

You are never going to rule the land–you can, however, be a key to power for the next generation of liberals. I know you don’t play second fiddle well, but for the sake of the progressive future we could have had, that we should have had, you have to try.

Donald Trump

Because of you, I woke up this morning and realized that I am living in the plot of a bad 80s action movie. You have no clear policies, no plan, just a bunch of hopeless conservative platitudes and a boorish personality.

And yet, you won.

So, Mr. Trump, do the country a huge solid, and surprise us. Earn the office you’ve somehow taken. Prove your opponents wrong, stand for the future America needs and not the apocalypse that we expect you to usher in. Rise above the petty.

Don’t fuck this up.

The Voters

Okay, you guys are the group that matters most. Whoever you voted for individually, I doubt anyone who voted last night is happy with where the country is right now. Those feelings probably spurred you to vote in the first place, and guided you to the candidate you ultimately chose.

But regardless of whether your candidate of choice won, there is something very important that voters need to remember: the fight did not end at the ballot box.

Healthcare still sucks. Education still sucks. We’re still bombing or at war with seven countries. Our government is still spying on us. Money still has too much influence in politics. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, times a million, ad infinitum.

If you believe that your vote every four years is all it takes to fix these problems, then you are a fool.

We are the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. We are the people. We are the masters of our own fates. We will not solve our problems with one election, but we should also not let our problems hold us back.

Take a moment to relax and recuperate. As a country, we need a breather. But then, get ready for the next round of elections–local, state, midterm, whatever. Do volunteer work. Write to Congress. Look for ways to better yourselves and to help those around you.

No matter what side you were on before, now, more than any other time, we need to be in this together.

We made ourselves sick with insanity over the last 18 months. Now, let’s make ourselves sick pushing forward, working to fix the problems that led to this terrible, awful election cycle in the first place.

Hell, let’s even start a hashtag, and stick it on everything: #progressisours, until we think of something catchier.

Own your country. Own your fate. Own your passions. Don’t wait for the White House to solve your problems; it’s time we banded together as an electorate, and took care of ourselves.

End of rant. Have a nice day, everyone.

Daniel Durand is a Boise-based writer who wants a stiff drink and a vacation. He can be reached at ddurand.specialprojects@gmail.com

A House Divided, or a House Party?

by Mikel Ham

The 2016 presidential race has reinforced the belief that America’s current political party system is flawed, at best. Two factions, often seen as polar opposites, dominate the national discussion on every issue, while smaller parties and independent voters are left disenfranchised.

To choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, in the minds of many voters, is to choose the candidate they see as the lesser of two evils. The question is, how long can voters choose the lesser evil, before there is no distinction between the two? And how can the voices of all be heard, so that, perhaps, there could candidates who aren’t evil at all?

Two Parties, and a House Divided

The biggest issue with bipartisan voting is it creates an “us or them” mentality; congress will destroy a bill, regardless of its merit, for the sole reason that it was brought forth by the opposing party.

Bringing a bill in front of Congress is almost like selling a used car. Representatives and senators will write the bill with way more in it than what they want to accomplish, in order to be “talked down” to what they actually want.

Given the kind of partisan bickering and lack of cooperation seen over the last decade, is it any wonder that most Americans say they’re independent, rather than claiming to be a Democrat or Republican?

Important Issues are Being Ignored

Consider healthcare, a major issue frequently debated by both Republicans and Democrats. Who doesn’t want affordable health care for the entire public? Who doesn’t want the sick and disabled to be cared for? By taking the desired end results into account, bills that support these issues should, in theory, be highly desired by both parties.

Instead, we see gridlock.

For a long time, the Republican right has taken a position against socialized medicine, which runs a hard line against the party’s corporate backing. From the free market perspective, if the government is going to move from subsidizing industries to actively socializing them, many large companies will lose out on existing profits and control of the market. If the government provides healthcare to its citizens, then how would the private sector compete?

There is nothing wrong with a free market—but it shouldn’t cost someone $900 just to go an emergency room.

In fact, the free market for medicine is fairly new in American history, only starting during WWII—since the country could not fund both the war effort and the population’s medical needs, the private sector emerged to fill the gap. Healthcare is a great example of a public need that has been privatized, and needs to be reigned back in by government.

Most people would probably agree that there are problems with the current healthcare system in the United States, even if they can’t always agree on how to fix them—58 percent of Americans support single-payer healthcare, for example, and public opinion of the Affordable Care Act is all over the map.

But healthcare is only one issue—what about the cost and quality of education, military spending, or paying for maintenance of roads and bridges across the country?

It seems that on every major problem facing the United States, Democrats and Republicans can’t see eye to eye. If the two dominant parties in our system can’t agree on what’s best for the country, and are in fact operating largely out of spite for each other, then how can we trust either party to choose candidates for the Presidency?

Decision 2016: Who Chooses the Choosers?

As it stands, the 2016 presidential campaign has been loud, and ugly. What started with over 23 candidates and some of the most caucus participation in history, is ending in email scandals and comparisons of hand size. Two candidates remain, each one appealing to voters as being less toxic than the other.

But has it all been sound and fury, signifying nothing?

The primary elections are already flawed systems, where the popular votes have no direct effect on the outcome. Each party has a convention, where delegates chosen at the primaries and caucuses meet and cast the final vote to choose the final nominees—and that doesn’t even consider superdelegates or contested conventions, mechanisms where parties can override the popular vote altogether.

So, what about votes in the general election, where we choose from the party nominees?

The Electoral College is set up so that the electors are private parties, and while they usually vote along the lines of the party that chose them, they have no obligation to do so. Electors who vote opposite of the party that selected them are known as faithless electors.

The most surprising and little known thing in regards to electors is that the ability of the public (or more practically, political parties formed from groups of the public) to vote on electors is a tradition, and not a rule.

The original right to choose electors belonged to the state government, and still technically resides there. It wouldn’t make sense in a logical world for the person receiving the most popular votes to not receive the delegate votes that decide candidacy or seat of office, but it has been known to happen multiple times in history.

The most recent case was in 2000, when George W. Bush was declared the winner over Al Gore, even though he had approximately 540,000 less popular votes.

Other instances include Adams in 1824, with 38,000 less votes than Jackson; Hayes over Tilden in 1876, with 250,000 less votes; and Harrison’s victory over Cleveland in 1888, with 90,000 less votes in the popular election.

Fewer Choices, Louder Voices

Another issue is that, when thinking of the primaries or the general election, only Republicans and Democrats come to mind. Where are the independent parties? Why do they have no representation? Why is it that you can only vote in the primary if you register as a Democrat or Republican?

The primary system, in and of itself, ensures that voters will get the extreme right or the extreme left candidates running for office. Rarely will voters be presented with middle-ground candidates, willing to compromise across party lines and ideals, and this further alienates voters who themselves are not far right or far left.

With no third-party candidates able to step in when the major two parties’ only mission is to shut each other down, the system can only produce legislative gridlock. With no third-party candidates to challenge the distribution of electoral votes, the system guarantees the victory of the same old tired politics over progress—you have two choices, they were the same choices four years ago, and no one is going to be happy.

People seem to vote based on party lines because, in their minds, the established parties are simply the way it’s always been. What most people don’t realize is that the modern two-party system was never meant to exist; many of the founding fathers, John Adams among them, were against such a system. In a letter from Adams to Jonathan Jackson, Adams stated:

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our constitution.”

Two parties constantly fighting leave an ideologically barren political landscape in their wake. Independent voters and third parties could help to break up the deadlock, but only if voters understand that they can challenge the system and are active in taking that challenge to the ballot box.

The Republic Remains

If we have established that there is an issue with the current two-party system, how do we, as a country, go about resolving it?

The answer is simple in theory, if difficult in practice. Americans reside in a democratic republic. Our government is of the people, by the people, for the people—in many ways, that mentality seems to have been lost.

If Americans refuse to vote based on party lines, and vote instead based on the issues, they show the party leadership that politicians can’t just campaign as polar opposites of each other, and instead will have to do more to entertain the policies and positions of the other side—work together, or be out of work.

If Americans show they are more willing to vote for a third party, instead of voting for the most extreme candidates from the far left or far right, they tell party leadership that there is an expiration date on the platform of slinging mud across the aisle—play nice, or the people will choose another player.

The people can change the kinds of candidates put in front of them during elections, and they can change the tone and course of policies, by being active and reminding politicians who they’re supposed to represent.

 

Mikel Ham is a 25-year-old writer and military veteran, working towards becoming a teacher. Contact him at mikel.ham54@gmail.com

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