After the Campaign, What Now?

As the historic election of Donald J. Trump starts to sink in, individuals across the country have begun to think through what this unprecedented populist victory will mean for them. Earlier this week, Edelman CEO, Richard Edelman laid out the impact that the election will have on businesses. Notably:

  • The gap in trust between the elites and mass population has reached unprecedented levels.
  • Twitter triumphed over The New York Times as Trump went directly to the people
  • Business has a role in calming the resentments that have formed in this country.
  • Business must lead the discussion on supply chain, free trade and immigration issues.
  • Many people reject established authority figures like academics and opinion leaders.
  • Think local as a rise in nationalism takes hold.
  • Businesses should become their own media company.

To help us understand just how Trump pulled off the largest upset in modern political history, and what a Trump administration means for business and the policy agenda, Edelman convened top political experts Republican Steve Schmidt and Democrat Bob Shrum to lead an exclusive discussion for clients. Below is an edited transcript of that discussion.

Steve Schmidt: The data was just wrong. “Looking at the data, the analytic models, the turnout models of the race, just across the board they were incorrect.”

Furthermore, the classic campaign battlefield has changed. The division is no longer between left and right, but now between “people who have benefited from the technological revolution and have benefited from globalization” and those who have been left behind. These individuals are angry after watching big banks get bailed out with trillions of dollars in the Great Recession, while not a single banker goes to jail. They see the game having two sets of rules — one for those at the top and another for everyone else.

Bob Shrum: The Democratic party was arrogant. They focused on Trump’s rhetoric, rather than developing any sense of substance, which “amplified her weaknesses in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan.”

Clinton focused her campaign on social issues at the expense of economic policy. “For the Democratic Party, the economy needs to be the engine that pulls the caboose of civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights up the hill. The Clinton campaign made the caboose the engine.”

For many blue collar voters that might have previously voted democratic, this was not the message they wanted to hear. They felt neglected and left out of the economic order — filling them with distrust and anger at the changes they see in every facet of the country.

Steve Schmidt. While this election is undoubtedly a massive rejection of Obama and the Democratic party’s policies, “it was also a repudiation of the Republican establishment.”

Notably, this is the end of the “Reagan Coalition” that had sat on a three-legged stool comprised of: “national security conservatives, social conservatives and economic conservatives.” This is now a party that is hostile to free trade, questions security commitments to institutions like NATO and is increasingly moving towards a post-social issue phrase. In short, the GOP now looks populist. This means potential hostility to corporate America — unlike the business-friendly Republicans of old. With Trump in the White House, it is likely that he will immediately sign a series of executive orders to dismantle many Obama-era regulations. He will quickly move to repeal Obamacare, while probably keeping popular provisions like coverage for pre-existing conditions, allowing children up to 26 to stay on their parent’s plan, etc. Likely, you’ll see Paul Ryan’s economic agenda — notably tax reform and cuts — start to move forward.

While elected under the Republican banner, there is no indication that he will be a rubber stamp for Congressional Republicans. During the campaign, Ryan was unsuccessful in getting Trump to blindly sign onto the GOP agenda. While he might prioritize getting a conservative Supreme Court justice in place to placate the party that supported him, there is no indication that he has any deep set ideological ties to the party. As a builder and a deal maker, it is likely that he will push for increased infrastructure spending — most likely through public-private partnerships —that he might partner with Democrats to set into motion as the GOP has not indicated that this is a priority.

At the end of the day, however, he is an open book. On the campaign trail he made promises like banning Muslims and having Mexico pay for a wall that were “somewhere on a range of unconstitutional to fantastical.” However, once he prepares for the awesome responsibilities of the office, it might be tempered into reality.

Bob Shrum: First of all, the Clinton era is over. With this loss, the party risked and lost a lot, considering that the GOP will look to unravel many of the policy achievements that the Democrats have made since the New Deal. The Democrats’ only posture will be to oppose, since they lack enough votes to stop anything.

They also face a bench problem, with no clear leader set to emerge and guide the party. There may be a future generation in individuals like Kirsten Gillibrand, Chis Van Hollen or Joe Kennedy, III — however they need to mature and be tested to gain national leadership potential.

At a deeper level, they must return to their economic roots and fight for economic justice. They cannot be the elitist party that is on the wrong side of the trust barometer.

Bob Shrum: So much of it is up in the air. Without any deep ideological beliefs, he might look to open up the NAFTA agreement just so he can make a few changes and sell it to his constituency by saying, “see, I made it better.”

Steve Schmidt: Trump has already pledge his intention to reopen and negotiate the NAFTA agreement, label China a currency manipulator, among other issues that could cause friction in the international community. In the upcoming lame-duck session, it is unlikely that the Obama administration will be able to get the TPP passed. However, once he starts seeing the unedited daily intelligence briefings and meets with White House officials, who knows – he has already been inconsistent on a whole host of issues.

With one of the most divisive elections in history behind us and a Trump administration ahead, we will now turn our attention to re-examining key policy issues in the run-up to the inauguration. Stay tuned as we navigate these uncharted waters.

Rob Rehg is a regional president in Washington D.C.