TWC Talk: John Hudak's Big Myths of the 2016 Election
Dr. John Hudak, Deputy Director for the Center of Effective Public Management and senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, identified three myths of the 2016 election as part of panel hosted by the Washington Center.
1. This was a change election
Intuitively this may seem like a change election, but it’s not. Trump supporters did not oppose Democratic politics, policy, or the status quo. Democrats picked up seats in both chambers and 99 percent of House representatives were reelected. This makes it hard to conclude voters wanted to “throw the bums out.”
President Obama has a 57 percent approval rating, a lot of people like his policies, and many progressive initiatives passed in red states. The focus was keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House. Also, Donald Trump saw things in the electorate that no one else saw. He beat sixteen qualified challengers and the most qualified Democratic candidate ever. This relied on a strategy of speaking to white, working class voters.
2. Donald Trump has a mandate
Mandates exist, but presidents' ability to understand and process them often gets lost. Interpreting what losing the popular vote will mean for Trump is unclear. President Obama crossed the line and paid dearly in two midterm elections. If Trump gets this right, he will have eight good years. If he miscalculates, it will be devastating to his presidency.
3. Donald Trump’s business experience prepared him for the presidency
The biggest challenge facing President Trump is the collapse of a president who over-promises. Trump faces a real possibility of short changing those who put him in power. He has never been in or near DC. 90 percent of getting what you want done is knowing how the city works.
Trump will have to navigate between what he wants and what the median Republican member of Congress wants, which are two different things. This reflects how Trump was elected in spite of his party, not because of it. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are the institutional leaders. If Trump does not work well with Congress he will be a one-term president. Trump has demonstrated a capacity to break norms, so he could be a bipartisan president.
Trump’s biggest limiting factor from a public administration perspective is his lack of political experience. Trump was the king of a real estate empire. The presidency doesn’t work that way. This is true for many of his Cabinet members as well, who are accustomed to getting what they want.
In fact, the worse thing a president with no experience could do is “drain the swamp.” For this reason, Reince Priebus was a great pick for Chief of Staff. Priebus can only do part of the work, however; cabinet members need to do most of it.