When the race to the bottom is over, the real work begins.
History will be made in 2016. Either the country will elect the first woman president or the first president without political or military experience of any kind.
If Donald Trump pulls his way out of the cellar and wins the election by the skin of his teeth, he’s going to head to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue an enigma. He will have run on a platform of “making America great again” by a series of promises to lower taxes, stop over-regulation, negotiate better trade deals, “bomb the sh**” out of ISIS, impose harsh restrictions on immigration, repeal Obamacare, and establish safety through law and order. But no one quite knows what a nominee who threatens to blow up the system would actually do if he were put in control of it. There’s no telling which would compel him more — his exaggerated view of his own abilities, or the enormous power we’ve perilously invested in an unaccountable executive branch. There’s really no way of knowing what President Trump would, or wouldn’t, accomplish with the power of the modern presidency.
Hillary Clinton would be less of an enigma. She’s flipped and flopped on huge issues but what’s amazing about Hillary is that she often embraces the issue in front of her as if it’s her deepest devotion. She was arguably the best cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the most conservative Democrat on the questions of marriage and illegal immigration. She had a very liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate, surpassed only by Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, but all of that really points to Hillary Clinton’s true nature: a panderer of the highest order, ruthlessly ambitious, and tin-eared to a degree that L. Frank Baumcouldn’t illustrate.
A President Clinton would inherit some good will for “cracking the glass ceiling” but she’s basically running on picking up the progressive agenda where Barack Obama fell short. Obama was stymied by Congress, and if current trends hold, the American people will once again return the Republicans to control at least one branch of Congress. It’s the one that actually matters, though, since the Senate is run under a de factocloture requirement of sixty votes to do anything.
Clinton is seen as more likely to do the back-scratching, glad handing, horse-trading that Obama proved reticent to handle. Her Senate colleagues point to her ability to form friendships with members from across the aisle, but, rest assured, not every Republican is Lindsey Graham. The Republican Party, more conservative than ever, turned to nationalist populism for the presidency but most members of Congress are more attuned to Reagan-era conservatism than “making America great again.” If Clinton starts by offering some ideas popular with the beltway Republicans like immigration reform and infrastructure spending, there might be some room for her legislation to get a hearing. The best-case scenario in the event of Hillary Clinton’s victory would be proving her critics wrong and taking her place among the past presidents, having proven that she can be an inestimable leader in times of great uncertainty instead of a voice encouraging further division.
But the 2018 midterms will be right around the corner. Republican voters would be out for blood, and Republicans would be expected to deliver the red meat raw in order to appease them. Policies that can get a green light from progressives will surely contain something that will enrage conservative voters. Republicans will be worried about primary challenges and reluctant to support passing any legislation with the help of Democrats. If Hillary Clinton returns to the White House a damaged president, with low approval ratings, the incentive to oppose her every desire will grow stronger. She might even face impeachment for lying to the FBI and deleting government records. Trump promised to appoint a special prosecutor “to look into her situation” and plenty will be clamoring for Republicans to act accordingly.
Despite glowing profiles stressing her “reasonableness”, she’s a proven failure, ineffective, and unaccomplished. There’s no reason to assume a President Clinton could work with Congress to pass any legislation. The tawdry laundry list that has become our State of the Union Address was built for people like her - a president willing to promise everything under the sun and the sky so long as it’s popular and has little chance of being entertained in Congress. For conservatives, the best case would be that she fails as she has before, walloped in the 2018 midterms, and forced to fight for reelection against a Republican nominee running on a disciplined, popular message of “turning the page” on this tired experiment before it’s too late.
Worst-case? By then, it will be too late.
Just as Trump would inherit a dangerously overpowered executive bureaucracy, Clinton and the progressives would sweep into D.C. to quietly but assuredly remake as much of society as they can without putting any of it up for public scrutiny. They would usurp the Constitution at every turn, implementing permanent policy based on fads and fashionability. They would then turn to pack the courts with judges that she promises would focus on delivering results, acquiescing to the whims of Clinton and the progressives, not the Constitution. Here, it’s important to remember that Citizens United concerned censoring a political documentary called Hillary: The Movie, and that Clinton has pledged to overturn Heller v. D.C., which declares the right to own a firearm an individual, civil right, as the Second Amendment intends. Our most fundamental rights would come under direct assault from unelected bureaucrats and puppet judges.
At the same time, Bill and Hillary would bring with them confidants and friends that paid their way into the global cabal of corruption best regarded as Clinton INC. Never before has a power couple turned their careers in “public service” into a multi-billion-dollar operation that can influence everything from political appointments to declarations of war. There isn’t a department of government, at any level, that can avoid being remodeled into a tool of the of the Clintons’ vast empire. If and when Hillary Clinton is elected President, the Senate is going to have to establish a standing committee to investigate every one of her decisions - every appointment, trade deal, treaty, and executive directive - to see how it might benefit her, Bill, Chelsea, and the hundreds of thousands of influence-peddlers that cling to them like parasites.
And, make no mistake, they are parasites. They’ve been waiting at the gates, some even legally barred from having anything to do with the Clintons while Hillary ran the State Department. Of course, the Clintons didn’t listen. Laws are not for them, so they found a way, such as housing a private email server on their property, to stay connected to the friends and parasites feeding off access to their Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, and State Department contracts. Now, apply this access to the 61 agencies and 400+ departments of the federal government and you’ll start to get a glimpse of the level of corruption we could expect. I call it the Washington Favor Factory, and it can’t be trusted in anyone’s hands, but especially not her’s.
The worst-case scenario is the Clintons’ life story - they get away with it. Republicans are too busy fighting with each other to focus on stopping her; the Democrats reveal themselves as purely self-interested sycophants that acquiesce to her every whim; everyone stonewalls congressional inquiries to death; and they corrupt every agency of the government to steal away with total control of the federal leviathan.
The Clintons would be the most powerful people in the world, with Congress paralyzed by partisanship and powerless to stop them. Big business already colludes with big government for taxpayer subsidies, loans, and bailouts. These corporate interests help write regulations and then maneuver people into high-paying positions at the very firms they were regulating, a revolving door between Washington and Wall Street that is already spinning wildly out of control. No matter how many times the progressives say they want to control big business, it is often big business that controls the bureaucracies their policies empower. A Clinton restoration would be the status quo on steroids. Even the Republicans could start to see good reason, mainly the influence of corporate donors, to make peace with this corrupt enterprise and feed at the trough themselves.
We could become all that we swear we aren’t. This has been a slow evolution into the world’s largest welfare state for the benefit of those with access to wealth and power. It wouldn’t be any less corrupt in Trump’s hands, which is probably why he only rails against it in rhetoric instead of offering a realistic plan to eliminate it. Regardless of who gets elected, we’re going to need some principled leaders to assume the role of guard dogs against presidential ambitions, and they better bark loudly.
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When the race to the bottom is over, the real work begins.