Will President Hillary Clinton Heal Divide?
Her opportunity is great… if she can overcome her flaws.
Donald Trump, riddled with self-inflicted wounds, is a dead man walking, so it’s time to start thinking about what President Hillary Clinton could do in her first hundred days to pull this horribly divided country back to some measure of consensus.
It is no longer a question of whether Trump will fall short of the 270 electoral votes needed to win, it is only a question of how badly will he go down.
Trump gives every indication of being a sore loser. A prickly character who reacts or over-reacts to every offense or perceived offense, he says he will sue adversaries and possibly challenge the outcome.
Will his surprisingly large base of supporters keep the rancor going after even a big defeat? Probably yes, but how President Clinton handles the two months before inauguration and the first 100 days on the job will have a lot to do with the level of divisiveness going forward.
For instance, multilateral trade pacts are dead for the foreseeable future. For instance, immigration border enforcement will be much stiffer going forward. For instance, foundations, like his and hers, will get much greater scrutiny for payouts that look like political patronage.
In some ways, he could declare a degree of victory in defeat. But I’m not betting on that kind of wisdom or concern for the collective good. His race has always been more about him than others. In the worst case, he will be vindictive, play the role of victim and insist that the outcome was rigged.
Because he largely “rigged” himself, Clinton will have no mandate. For many, she is the lesser of two bad choices. And she certainly has ascertained that the anger and frustration that fueled his rise and Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong run in her own party.
She needs to give the country a sense that it is on the move again and, like it or not, we Americans are all in this together. Here are some of the moves she could make to offset his divisiveness:
- She could put a few Republicans in her cabinet, as Lincoln did with his rivals as he tried to heal Civil War wounds.
- To offset her proclivity for secrecy and the scars from Trump’s war on the press, she could schedule monthly press conferences for her duration in office at blue and red states around the country. She could be ultra-transparent.
- She could immediately reach beyond her base to GOP congressional leaders, regardless of which part controls the two houses. She agrees with them on some issues, like getting the deficit under control.
- She could promise to appoint justices, like Obama appointee Merrick Garland, who are not too far from the mainstream of American politics.
- She could mitigate the never-to-be-solved division over abortion by pragmatic steps, such as the support of LARCs. Twenty-one states have dramatically reduced unwanted pregnancies (UPs) by making long acting reversible contraceptives more affordable and accessible. Fewer UPs equals fewer abortions. LARCs should not be a partisan issue.
- She could show she is pragmatic and innovative, not left wing ideological, on health care by appointing John Toussaint of Theda Care Health of Appleton to head Medicare. He is the country’s leading expert on introducing lean disciplines to the heath care industry, showing the way to driving out waste, hospital-induced infections, defects and cost at hospitals and clinics. The country’s access issue is a direct result of its grossly under-managed health costs. Smart cost management could put $5000 into every U.S. household, going a long way to the restoration of a sense of upward prosperity.
- Appoint a trade czar with the mission of balancing trade with China, drawing the line on further job losses to that country.
- Appoint a deficit and debt hawk to head the Treasury.
- Establish a bipartisan foreign policy to take out ISIS.
- As she applies higher tax rates to the super-rich, long overdue, and installs a minimum corporate tax rate in return for a lower top rate, use the proceeds the right way. Spread the wealth by tying subsidies to work like Tommy Thompson did in Wisconsin and her like her husband did when in office. The country needs more workers.
- Cut a middle ground on immigration: tighter borders; continued deportation of bad actors; work permits for illegals, but not citizenship. Ideologues on both sides will not be happy, but it’s a workable compromise.
As Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, has pointed out, she is going to get a lot of Republican and independent votes. If she pays attention to them, even while adhering to the major goals of her base, and if she addresses issues raised by Sanders and Trump, she could be a healing, transformational president.
If she stays in character — secretive, calculating, politics- first — it’s going to a long four years, even more divisive than President Obama’s eight years. And those flaws will dog her forever.
On the other side of aisle, Republicans need to wise up to the hard political reality that they will have been out of the Oval Office for 20 of 28 years. If she throws out an olive branch and offers pragmatic solutions, they need to pick it up and start the rebuilding the brand of the GOP as a party that can do more than obstruct.