Five big questions for 2017

15 Nov 2016

Have a scroll down your twitter timeline and you might find that everyone is still, at worst, professing about the apocalypse, or at best offering election post-mortems based on pundits who predicted a Trump win. Seemingly contrary to popular belief, after Trump’s election, the sun did not cease to shine and life has carried on.


So instead of looking back in anger, we should be focusing on some of the big questions that will arise over the next 3-12 months.


How will the Republican Congress Act?


The constitution extends legislative powers exclusively to Congress, a branch now dominated by Republicans. On the surface this offers President Trump a full four-year term of legislative ease. Or does it?


It’s very easy to unite against a common enemy as Republicans did so effectively for the last eight years against President Obama, however when you have the opportunity to legislate, you become the target not only for Democrats but also for ambitious Republicans within the broad umbrella of conservatism. Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan is a social and fiscal conservative, his Reagan-Republican ideals clash with the populist strand of Republicanism which propelled Trump to the White House. When the spotlight is on you, these differences become more pronounced. Can they, and the rest of the Congressional Republicans cooperate effectively?


How will Democrats use the Filibuster?


Many Democrats were highly critical of the filibustering techniques used by the Republicans that led to two of the most unproductive Congress’s ever. Now, the shoe is suddenly on the other food, after eight years in the White House, suddenly the Founding Fathers emergency check on the power of Congress appears to make sense to worried Democrats.

Will fear of a powerful demagogue in the White House and a Republican controlled Congress, push Democrats towards use of the Filibuster to destroy Trump’s legislative programme? This poses two obvious issues: it would be highly hypocritical of Democrats who lamented Republican use of the filibuster for nearly the last decade. Secondly Trump was elected President in part as a protest and statement of anger against the way Washington works, and how nothing ever happens on Capitol Hill. If Democrats were to use the Filibuster and block Trump’s legislative programme, surely this anger would only grow? If Democrats don’t use the filibuster, they could be at risk of seeing everything accomplished in the past eight years undone. A tricky one.


The makeup of the Supreme Court


 After Justice Scalia passed away this year, Democrats thought they might be able to replace the ultra-conservative justice with a young liberal to alter the balance of the court in their favour for the foreseeable future. It’s highly unlikely Democrats will block a court nominee for four years, so Trump will be able to nominate a conservative justice to replace the deceased conservative justice.

However, an interesting phenomenon has occurred recently with the court. Although naturally right wing in its makeup, the court often voted for the liberal cause during the Obama years, with Chief Justice Roberts siding with the four liberals on the landmark Obamacare case, and Kennedy on big cases in recent times such as the gay-marriage ruling. Was this a true reflection of these justice’s ideologies or did they come to bat for Obama to balance a disobedient Congress? Will they accept Trump’s mandate and legislate in a right wing manner or will they protect those who are completely unrepresented in any government office?


How do Democrats reshape the narrative?


As any political science student will tell you, the narrative is often more important than reality on the ground. Watching Trump’s campaign, this has never been so apparent; Hillary become synonymous for crooked or corrupt for something do with emails that no one quite understood (despite twice being declared innocent by the FBI). Democrats desperately need to recapture and reshape this narrative.

People are angry, people are confused, people are scared. How do Democrats capture these feelings and use them to propel a progressive platform and nationwide campaign? There is no easy answer but the Democrats must start winning, and soon. The best place is to start is locally. Start collecting State Legislatures and Governorships; fuel this by listening to local concerns and adjusting campaigning and policy accordingly. Take this energy all the way to the top, through districts, states and the nation. It will be a long road, but better to start afresh and stable at the bottom than to continue on an uncertain path from the middle. The question is whether the upper-echelons are willing to do this.


Can pollsters ever regain the trust of the public?


Not one, not two, but three of the last big votes have been read incorrectly by polls. One could even go as far back as 2012, where the polls underestimated Obama’s victory by 3 whole points.

Many now question what are pollsters going to do? Are internet and telephone polls now an outdated method of gauging political opinion? Is there room for new technology in this sector such as measuring google searches, TV viewing figures, some other unforeseen method? Again, I’m no expert but it seems there are some fundamental problems in play.


Read more by this commentator here. 


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