Saint Reagan: Trends in conservatism following the Reagan Revolution

There are many examples of exceptional presidential leadership in American political history. Ronald Reagan is the most iconic figure of the Republican Party, and stands as an example of greatness for both liberals and conservatives. While Reagan’s popularity may not be in question, some academics assert that Reagan’s legacy was not a long lasting agent of unification for the Republican Party.  Historian Gil Troy advocates the idea that conservative unification brought on by the Reagan, was a “fleeting alliance, not an enduring coalition.”

Mr. Troy bases this claim on an increasing trend of liberalization in American politics. Troy emphasizes on the stance that conservatives were, “unable to consistently convert favorable public sentiment into legislative victories or effectively change or form public opinion. While once can accept the growing trend of liberalization in American politics, to discredit the effect Ronald Reagan had on the Republic Party would be a misrepresentation if historical events.

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Although Reagan became popularized by the media years after his presidency, many of his economic and security policies were heavily criticized while he was in office

Conservatism in 80’s was defined by the rise of the Christian right, as well as the Reagan Revolution.  This revolution was coined in recognition of the political shift in favor of conservative policy, both at home and abroad. Reagan’s strong stance against communism, support of supply-side economics, lowering taxes, and popularized traditionalism created a platform that the Republican Party would run off of for the next three decades.

To say that the conservative platform of traditionalism (that stemmed from the Reagan Revolution) is fighting a growing trend of liberalization of political ideology has merit when developing a historical representation of American politics. But this is a completely separate notion than the extent to which Reagan’s legacy unified specifically conservative demographics.

When analyzing polls of the republican primaries through-out the 80’s and 90’s, a clear trend in favor of Reaganesque conservatism (whatever candidate is waving that banner at the time). Those Republican’s that are endorsed by Reagan, have greater success in the primaries (i.e. George H.W. Bush 1988 & 1982, Bob Doll, and George W. Bush)

A majority of creditable polls show republican voters unified behind one nomination in all of the primaries following Reagan’s presidency. These trends do not support the idea that the unification of the Republican Party behind the Reagan campaign was simply a “fleeting alliance.”

~WDL

What Just Happened? Post Mortem Election Analysis

For anyone that has been paying attention to polling data over the last few months, you have probably realized by now how wrong most projections were. Virtually every poll showed Clinton leading a comfortable victory.

IBD/TIPP was the only forecast that predicted a Trump upset, showing him claiming a win with only two percentage points. IBD/TIPP is a collaboration between Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) and TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence (TIPP). IBD claims to have the most accurate polls to date, and looking at their data seems to corroborate that. In the last three election cycles IBD/TIPP has been the most accurate poll out there.

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So what did IBD/TIPP see that everyone else missed? According to their reports, it was two main issues. Employment and the economy.

Employment might seem odd as a main issue for Americans given the low unemployment rates projected by the Obama administration. IBD’s polls however, show that many American families are still suffering from job instability and after effects of the 2008 financial crisis.

IBD’s research, “…consistently show[s] that the share of households that were “job insecure” paint a far more dire picture than the official, and increasingly useless, unemployment number. And how the public was overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the direction of the country.” When analyzing employment rates many people (myself included) misrepresented the data. What most pollsters did not account for is, “How the number of people who’d dropped out of the labor force had grown at a faster rate than jobs.” Meaning while employment rates may be on the rise, this does not necessarily equate higher approval rates for the policies enacted by the left.

On the economy, one issue remains consistent- not only in IDB’s analysis but in most of the other accepted polling organizations as well. That issue is the Dodd-Frank Act, an attempt at Wall Street reform and consumer protection. Essentially collection of federal regulations instituted under the Obama administration, Dodd-Frank hoped to prevent the recurrence of events that caused the 2008 financial crisis.

These regulations had an unforeseen consequence on small business that were most effected by the 2008 financial crisis. Dodd-Frank makes it “far more difficult for small businesses to get credit.” The act also drives small community banks out of business because their competition is backed by the federal government.

While Hillary Clinton shouldn’t necessarily take the blame for the negative consequences of previous administrations, public perception still links her campaign with the Obama administration. Employment and economic concerns were in the front of voters’ minds this election. While Clinton was perceived as a vote for same policies many viewed as harmful to their wellbeing, Donald Trump was perceived as an extreme change to the establishment. That is where he fostered his support. Disenfranchised, working class voters turned out in huge numbers, and the Trump campaign owes them a big thanks you.

This election has exposed a misrepresentation and a misunderstanding of the concerns of the general public by mainstream media outlets. I’m curious to see if that trend continues in the next four years.

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~WDL

First Debate- The Expected and Unexpected

During the presidential debate Monday night, Hillary Clinton appeared confident (if not a little haughty) but overall well prepared when compared with Donald Trump’s brash and aggressive attacks on her policies and abilities. When it came to trade concerns; however, Clinton surprisingly stumbled on what could have been an opportunity to give attention to her economic strategies. For what seemed like an obvious attacking point for Trump, Clinton had very little to say in defense of her trading policies.

Trump is not the first presidential hopeful that has brought up Clinton’s support for NAFTA and TPP. During the 2008 election, the Obama campaign made the same allegations as Trump did over Clinton’s trading policies. The Clinton campaign was quick to rebuttal saying that Clinton, “like everybody else…[was] not supposed to deviate from the position of the administration… and that certainly applies to a first lady.” At the time, Clinton also told The Huffington Post, “I believe in the general principles it [NAFTA] represented. But what we have learned is that we have to drive a tougher bargain. Our market is the market that everybody wants to be in. We should quit giving it away so willy-nilly. I believe we need tougher enforcement of the trade agreements we already have.” Both explanations would have been enough to curb Trumps accusations, but even her voting record would have backed her credibility against Trumps claims. In 2005, Clinton voted against the Central America Free Trade Agreement. In 2015 she opposed Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

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Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State with President Obama at a cabinet meeting. Clinton put herself at odds with the president over her stance against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that Obama’s administration was pushing for. Photo Credit: NYT

If the 2008 attacks on her trade policy started to cobweb in the back of Clinton’s memory, Bernie Sanders was able dust them off again. In Michigan, voters rallied behind Sanders when he called out Clinton for her “disastrous trade deals.” Ultimately this cost Hillary the Michigan primary.

Recently polls have even reminded Clinton that trade policy is an issue that concerns many Americans and is something that they associate with job loss. So with an issue as big as trade is for Clinton and her campaign, why was this the one subject she appeared weak on?

There are two equal explanations. The first is that Hillary may realize that she needs to do more to ensure voters that all of her economic policies are sound. A Pew Research Poll reported that a large number of Americans think that Trump is better qualified to improve the economy than Hillary. The second reason is that Clinton’s struggle with this policy is also Trumps most valuable selling point.

On trade, Clinton knows that, “Donald Trump is formidable.” Former top White House economist Jared Bernstein describes is best when he told the Washington Post that Trump, “is talking about something real, and he is making many points that people on the left have been making.” This makes it hard for Clinton’s policy’s to stand out against Trump’s flagship campaign platform.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to reporters aboard his plane as he travels between campaign stops in Ohio

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to reporters aboard his plane as he travels between campaign stops in Ohio. Photo Credit: Tyler Durden

The 2016 Election stands to be neck and neck as voters make their final decision in November. If Hillary Clinton wants to widen the gap and sustain her lead, she is going to have to revitalize her trading policies. The best thing she can do for her campaign is to establish a strong, pro-American business trade policy (she currently has none in here released economic policy explanations). She needs to run that platform until voters see her as competent when it comes to trade and ensuring availability of jobs for the American people. Then, when Trump questions her trustworthiness on her trade policy she needs to refer to her voting history in the past 4 years.

In many ways this election is still up for grabs. It will be interesting to see how both candidates secure their policies, their agenda and in the end their voters.

~WDL