The next president has trumped Democrats, minority Republicans, political scientists and even the media.
The candidacy of President-elect Donald Trump was quite different than those of the past, and the presidency will likely follow suit. Nearly every section of American politics was or will be affected by the new president, and many of those changes can be seen already.
Trump’s campaign was one that influenced many staples of the American political system. Since he ran as a Republican, the party could not help but receive the effects of his wild-card campaign.
“I think, one thing he has done is bring in more of the working class union type voters from the Midwest that the Republican party had kind of lost way with, but he has also alienated some different parts of our party that we were working to bring in,” said Greg Butcher, president of the College Republicans. “Ultimately, I think our ideals and core principles are still the same, and I don’t think that every Republican even believes everything Donald Trump believes.”
Majority Republicans are likely content with the focuses of Trump’s presidency. Based on the topics he speaks most about, Butcher thinks Trump will focus on three main areas: repealing the Affordable Care Act, reforming the tax code and creating more blue-collar jobs.
The Democratic Party, who thought they had sealed a victory with Secretary Hillary Clinton, will not have control of any of the branches of government for at least the next two years. During this time, the party will most likely look to improve and prepare for the next election.
“Our party right now is very much in a phase of self-reflection,” said Fereoza Freeland, president of the College Democrats. “We’re very proud to have supported her (Clinton) and the values that we stood for and the policies that we stood for. Those are all of the same. I think that maybe what is going to change is our methods of outreach and kind of the ways in which we organize.”
Throughout his candidacy, Trump promised that, once elected president, he would repeal the Affordable Care Act that Democrats battled to pass through Congress in 2010. The repeal has already started in Congress, but right now there is not a plan to replace the act—one of the Democratic party’s biggest concerns.
“Not only his (Trump’s) biggest objective but Republicans in Congress are just barreling forward with this repeal of the Affordable Care Act,” Freeland said. “Even our own senator(s), Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander actually have said, ‘Hold on. We need to think this through. We need to have like a sufficient replacement plan in place.’”
Trump has been in stark opposition to the media, calling journalists dishonest or biased and referring to articles he dislikes as fake news. Although it is likely impossible for him to succeed in doing so, his dislike for media has led him to proposing the creation and enforcement of libel laws.
“I don’t think he can, as a president, change media laws or any laws that pertain to the media, nor do I think he should. I think he needs to concentrate on things that are far more important than defamation laws,” said Peter Gross, journalism professor.
Even if the businessman cannot make policy changes to affect journalism, he could potentially change the social climate against journalism. The total potential effect he could have may be slim as the majority of Americans already do not trust the media.
“Over the last 20 or 30 years, people really see journalists and the media in a really negative light, and instead of continuing on that path, I think that needs to change,” Gross said. “But that’s not going to change with the president saying one thing or another. It could make things worse of course, but how much worse I don’t know. I think we need to reverse the course and have people trust the media more than they do now.”
Trump’s inauguration day will come with protests from those against him. Although the protests may not seem to make a difference now, history implies they may make a difference in the midterms.
“The Tea Party proves that protests like this, they can be effective. They helped the Republicans take over congress during the 2010 election,” said Anthony Nowes, political science professor and director of undergraduate studies. “The key is, ‘can they be sustained?’ Things that just happen for a month or two and tend to peter out, that’s not going to have much of an effect. If this … amount of collective action continues for a couple of years, then I think it has the ability to make some difference.”
Although many Republicans have criticized protesters, the right to protest is protected by the first amendment. Butcher, though he disagrees with the meaning of the protests, believes the protests are still good because they display American spirit.
“I think it (protesting) happened because people are passionate, and I think that’s fine,” Bucher said. “I think it’s great when people protest because it shows that they care enough to express their opinion. If we have a country where people don’t care enough to protest, it’s not a country worth living in.”
Trump’s cabinet is currently going through the process of being affirmed by Congress. If affirmed, those under the president-elect will be a historically different group of Republicans.
“I see it (Trump’s cabinet) as a mix. I see it as he has done some things that seem quite conventional like naming Priebus as chief of staff and then some other things that are quite unconventional like his selection for secretary of state (Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon),” Nownes said.
Others who are more critical of Trump’s cabinet may see his decision to include those with no experience in government as irrational.
“I think it’s unprecedented in our country’s history to have not only blatantly white supremacists and kind of racist elements—I mean if you talk about Jeff Sessions, he was denied a federal judgeship in the 80s because of questions about his racism and racial prejudice. It’s not only that to me but also just completely and utterly unqualified nominees,” Freeland said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Although Trump’s campaign and platform may seem radical and unprecedented to Americans, it is actually falling in line with a global trend. More and more, countries are beginning to elect leaders that align with the radical right.
“This is something where the U.S. is, in a way, later than everywhere else. We’ve seen the rise of what may be turned the populist right or radical right in Europe over the course of the last 30 odd years. In some countries, they’ve made significant progress. In other countries, they’re still very small, but we’ve seen, overall, an increase in support for populist and radical right parties,” said Ian Down, political science professor and director of graduate studies who specializes in comparative politics. “Trump is reflective of that sort of trend.”
Internationally, the Trump administration has not specified many goals, and, given Trump’s wildcard approach to politics, it is anybody’s guess what he will try to do. From what he has said about international relations, the American people can assume he wants to create change.
“The one thing we can say with some degree of confidence is he wants to shake things up. He wants things to be different. Now, is that going to come back and bite him? Quite likely. We live in an interdependent world. It’s not possible just to beat up on the Chinese with no consequence,” Down said. “If he attempts to lash out, the U.S. is going to pay a price.”
Promised in the infancy of his campaign, Trump said that, if elected, he would build a wall on the southern border of the U.S. to slow immigration from Mexico. Although experts agree it is improbable, it remains to be seen whether Trump will attempt to make it happen.
“What he at least implies he would do, almost everyone agrees would be impossible,” Nowes said. “To build a 10-12 foot wall along the Mexican border would be virtually impossible; however, I do expect … he will push for it.”
Along with the promise of a wall, the President-elect also proclaimed that Mexico would be willing to pay for it to be built.
“I can’t see Mexico paying for the wall, and I can’t see any reason for the Mexicans to pay for the wall,” Down said. “What he needs from this is not the Mexicans paying for the wall (but) the Mexicans to be seen to be paying for the wall.”
Although speculation from experts and the past can aid in predicting the future of the presidency, only time can truly tell, and today, the American people will begin watching how President Trump’s next four years will unravel.