Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Assessing democracy in the aftermath of Trump's victory, Par XIV: Determining Trump's policy actions

Funny how I actually remember those useless Roman numerals.

Anyway, the problem posed by yesterday's post is that while it was easy to determine Clinton's policy positions, Trump's policy positions were nonexistent.  That doesn't mean we can't determine Trump's policy actions, at least in part.

Trump faces a unified Republican Congress, and it was predictable that a Trump Presidency would do so.  What does that mean?  Tax cuts.  Why?  Because legislation starts in Congress.  Trump's lack of policy commitment means that his actions will follow from those of Paul Ryan, and that means tax cuts.  Yes, we've heard a lot about "tax reform," which is supposed to mean simplifying the tax code at lower nominal rates with fewer deductions, but that means higher rates for someone, so that's always bullshit.  The last real tax reform we had, or anything close to it?  1986.  Not gonna happen.  What will happen?  Paul Ryan's priority-- tax cuts.

What else?  More conservative picks for the Supreme Court, obviously, thanks to Mitch McConnell.  Again, it's all about Congress.

And then, there's the Obamacare question, which I have tried to tackle before, but I still remain uncertain about whether or not the Republicans have the courage of their convictions on this one.

Generally, though, what does Trump do for the next two years?  He signs Paul Ryan's bills.

Notice, though, that I said "two" years?  What happens in 2018?  Well, you may have heard a piece of bullshit conventional wisdom that presidential election years are Democratic years because they have higher turnouts, but midterm years are Republican years because the electorates are older, smaller and whiter.  Yeah, bull-fucking-shit.  Presidential elections?  The economy plus the two-term-penalty.  See:  Abramowitz, Alan and the "Time for a Change" model.  Midterms?  They swing against the party of the president, unless there is something really weird going on, like the post-9/11 bump that George W. Bush still had in 2002.  The Republicans will be looking at some losses in 2018.  Possibly enough to lose a chamber or two in Congress, depending...

What does Trump do then?  We know what a normal president does:  oppose.  Trump, though, has no beliefs.  So, we have no clue how Trump will respond if he faces midterm losses in 2018 and finds himself facing a Democratic Congress.  He could completely flip-flop on everything because he doesn't actually believe anything.

Now, what does that mean for a rational voter trying to evaluate him in comparison to Hillary Clinton in 2016?  Um...

Believe it or not, we can actually model that mathematically.  There is a wide range of possible Trump locations in the post-2018 period, but in the 2017-8 period, Trump's position is effectively Paul Ryan's position.  So, where is Paul Ryan on our -1 to +1 scale?  0.8580.  Just a hair to the left of Ted Cruz.  Remember that Clinton was at -.4030, so by effectively just rubber-stamping Paul Ryan for two years, Trump will be way more extreme than Clinton.  That only balances out to a policy advantage for Trump if there is a final two years in his term where he is basically Susan Collins.  But, you know...

So, Trump can only have a policy advantage over Clinton if he can be deterministically assumed to take a position of somewhere near 0 for his final two years, given the extremism of rubber-stamping Paul Ryan for his first two years.  Otherwise, Clinton is more centrist than the policy positions that Trump would effectively take, given his lack of beliefs on anything.

OK, then, time to start putting this all together in the next post!


  1. Senate in 2018 is REALLY unlikely. The good guys already have the seats they can win there.
    But, the bigger deal to me isn't federal, it's states. 2018 + 35ish (I forget the exact number) governors up = me happy.

    1. The House was REALLY unlikely for the Dems too. Then 2006 came along. Let's see if the GOP throws the healthcare system into a death spiral, or something like that. In that case, all bets would be off.