The contentious 2016 election came to an end early Nov. 9 with a result that surprised many — Donald Trump won the presidency. In his victory speech, Trump promised to be a president for all Americans. “Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division,” he said.
Below, Tower Center Academic Director Jim Hollifield gives his insight on what to possibly expect out of an unexpected Trump presidency.
Tower Center: What was your initial reaction to the election results?
Jim Hollifield: I was surprised but not too surprised. If the vote was going to be decided by white working class voters in the upper-Midwest then Clinton would lose the election, and that’s essentially what happened. These are the people who were once called “Reagan Democrats”, many of them are unionized voters. They were the critical swing vote that gave the election to Trump.
Trump has been seen as a wild card candidate. What do you expect to happen under a Trump Presidency?
He’s different, there’s no question about that. He has changed the whole dynamic of American politics — shuffled the deck. He’s breaking up what was the traditional consensus in American politics that we’ve seen since 1945 — that we need to work on protecting the rights of women, minorities and immigrants. That we need to continue to lead the world, open the world to trade, help to promote international business, and a stable financial and exchange rate system. He has really taken on the post-war liberal consensus and promised to upend that. We’ll see if he is able to pull it off.
What does this mean for international trade?
This is complicated. You can’t just snap your fingers and abrogate international trade agreements — there are all sorts of legal issues, not to mention political issues. Reversing these trade agreements, the president doesn’t really have the authority to do that. The Congress will have to be involved in this somehow, and this will take time. It will mean that the U.S. will have to repudiate, not just repeal, international binding agreements. This will affect many different businesses in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. This is potentially a big dagger in the heart of a North American community.
What are the implications of a President Trump for our relationships in Europe?
His policies are going to very dramatically affect our relationships in every region of the globe. He has an isolationist foreign policy. He wants to withdraw American commitments to NATO and Europe, as well as East Asia and the Middle East. This will clearly upset the balance of power in these regions. It will be a great opening for our adversaries — the Russians and the Chinese. There’s a reason why Vladimir Putin likes him so much. He plays right into the hands of the Russians. He gives the Russians an opportunity to sow discord and division within the Western democracies. This is a gift delivered on a silver platter to Vladimir Putin.
If Trump does what he says, this will create a lot of instability in world politics.
What about the Middle East?
The biggest thing is his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. He also says he has a plan for ISIS, that he knows better than the generals how to do this. I don’t know what that plan is. There’s going to be a tremendous amount of concern and uncertainty across the Middle East about his policies.
As Trump gained ground in battleground states Dow futures fell 750 points and the Mexican peso fell to a record low. What does a Trump victory mean for the economy?
This is a lot like Brexit. A lot of investors are unsure whether Trump really means what he says. The same was true in Brexit; people couldn’t really believe that Britain was going to leave the EU or how Britain was going to leave. The effects of the election are not going to be felt overnight. The markets are going to be much more focused on what the Federal Reserve is doing than what Trump is going to do. Trump doesn’t come to power until January. As we get closer to the transition of power, we will see who Trump’s advisers are going to be and who is on his team. If he does something that’s really scares the markets we could see a massive sell off and a very steep recession.
The executive power of the president has expanded in recent decades. To what extent will this allow Trump to implement his proposals unchecked?
This will be a test of the American constitutional system of separation of powers and a test of the American Republic. What you have to watch is what Congress is going to do, and how radical Trump will be in his policies and proposals.
The Republican Party is already split. If he’s not careful, there might be an anti-Trump alliance or coalition that will emerge in Congress that could then block many of the things he wants do to. All of this depends on how he deals with Congress. We don’t yet know how this is going to work.
One thing is for sure, he’s a neophyte. He’s never been elected, never tried to govern, so he will discover fairly quickly that this is not like running a business. It’s going to get much more complicated and I’m sure he’s going to get angry and frustrated very fast when he runs into a lot of political, institutional, constitutional and legal roadblocks.