A Third Take on Trump

Fol­low­ing two other posts on Trump, I think there is a third view­point which seems more true af­ter ob­serv­ing the first few months.

The elec­tion of Trump could be a net pos­i­tive vs Clin­ton, but not be­cause he is a bet­ter pres­i­dent.

This is based on two as­sump­tions:

  1. The pres­i­dent’s party loses seats at ev­ery other level of government

  2. The pres­i­dent doesn’t ac­tu­ally have that much power

For the first point you can see how many losses there have been for Democrats since 2008. Los­ing the House and the Se­nate, as well as over a thou­sand state leg­is­la­tors and go­ing from 29 gov­er­nors to 16.1 This isn’t unique to Democrats, since 1944 the pres­i­dent’s party has lost, on av­er­age, 8 seats in the Se­nate, 36 in the House and over 450 state leg­is­la­tor seats.2

For the sec­ond point there is less hard ev­i­dence but even with ex­ec­u­tive or­ders, the ma­jor­ity are ei­ther state­ments of in­tent or ac­tions that will have to be passed through congress oth­er­wise the next pres­i­dent will roll it back in­stantly.3 The pres­i­dent does have more power than any other per­son, but not 100% and prob­a­bly not even 10%. It’s not just the other branches of gov­ern­ment, it’s also state gov­ern­ments, me­dia, lob­by­ists, in­dus­try, the bu­reau­cracy and even the White House is split be­tween var­i­ous groups.4

If we take these two as­sump­tions as plau­si­ble and think how the next decade will pan out we can see two very differ­ent sce­nar­ios. If Clin­ton had won there would still be a Repub­li­can House and Se­nate and it would be hard to pass leg­is­la­tion on ar­eas Democrats care about. It’s likely there would be con­tinued elec­tion losses for Democrats as their usual vot­ers would be less mo­ti­vated to vote and in 2020 the Repub­li­cans would take con­trol of ev­ery level of gov­ern­ment. They could be even more sta­ble with a less di­vi­sive figure than Trump and have the pres­i­dency un­til 2028.

Alter­na­tively, with Trump win­ning in 2016, there seems to have been a large mo­bil­i­sa­tion of Democrats, reg­istered vot­ers more likely to turn out, more likely to vol­un­teer, vol­un­teers more likely to or­ganise and go to town halls and stand for elec­tion.5 There is po­ten­tial for the House to swap in 2018 and for Democrats to sweep more seats in a 2020 elec­tion against a figure at least as mo­ti­vat­ing as Obama and Clin­ton were for Repub­li­cans.

If Clin­ton had won, it’s likely Democrats would have to wait un­til 2028 un­til they con­trol the Pres­i­dency and Congress whereas now there is a higher chance it could hap­pen 8 years ear­lier, rather than wait­ing nearly two decades since they last held all three in 2010.

What does that mean for in­di­vi­d­u­als in­ter­ested in effec­tive al­tru­ism?

If you’re pas­sion­ate about poli­tics and in Amer­ica, than get­ting in­volved now seems like a po­ten­tially pos­i­tive ac­tion but it wont be ne­glected if you al­ign with Demo­crat po­si­tions (but po­ten­tially eas­ier to get in­volved if you are Repub­li­can).

Other­wise it may be more im­por­tant for poli­ti­cally minded peo­ple to fo­cus on coun­tries that have less sta­ble poli­ti­cal struc­tures and more po­ten­tial to im­prove policy.