All during the rise of Donald Trump, our political focus shifted from policy to personality. Trump successfully demonized his opponents long before policies could surface and the cable TV media searching for ratings was all too willing to go along. Candidates like Jeb Bush who came prepared with in-depth policy positions were instantly brushed aside with characterizations like “low energy”. More experienced candidates such as Ohio Governor John Kasich were relegated to a subordinate position without any focus on his Congressional work in bringing about our nations’ last balanced budget during the Clinton-Gingrich partnership. However, with the focus on the Trump personality attacks, there was no room for substance.
A few days ago, one of cable TV executives, CNN’s CEO Jeff Zucker, admitted that he regrets the way, that early on, CNN often aired “unfiltered” rallies for candidates, especially Trump. This is a significant step forward and hopefully signals a more serious focus for the remaining three weeks.
The central question that has not been asked is “How will the next President govern?” Continuing the gridlock is not an option. That is central to understanding the rising anger in America. If Hillary Clinton prevails, a divided government is most likely. This would give rise to governance that more closely resembles a parliamentary system with its emphasis on coalition building rather than strict party rule.
The acidic environment created by Donald Trump will undoubtedly continue particularly in a Republican House with a growing Freedom Caucus. Leading that GOP will be like herding cats. House Republicans can only unite in opposition to something, particularly President Obama or Secretary Clinton. Where is their positive agenda? They cannot even agree on the roundness of the earth let alone health care or foreign affairs. In order to govern and be productive, Speaker Paul Ryan will have to build a coalition with the Democrats and a President Clinton. Frankly, this is a most natural and pleasant outcome since both Ryan and Clinton are policy wonks. I'm optimistic that this relationship would succeed.
In the event the Senate remains with Republicans, their majority number will likely be reduced. Further, they have several members who fall into the more moderate camp making compromise with a President Clinton more likely.
What has been largely overlooked here is that Hillary Clinton as Senator excelled in working across the aisle. Even hard line right-wingers such as Representative Steve King of Iowa, praised her intelligence and capacity to develop bi-partisan policy initiatives. In this regard, her skill sets exceed those of Presidents Obama and George W. Bush.
Having said that, I am concerned that candidate Clinton has not been more specific concerning a role in her administration for dissatisfied Republicans. The country yearns for the promise of a working government.
In the remaining weeks, it is incumbent upon Hillary Clinton to demonstrate how she would govern for all Americans. We want the next President to succeed and rising above the partisan divide is essential.