By about this time next week we will know, I hope, who will be our next president. What we will not know, however, is what else the election will have decided.
Both major candidates told us over and over again how terrible the other candidate was. They persuaded us. As a result, the new president will have no post-election honeymoon. The war to defeat the new president in 2020 begins November 9.
The negative personal focus of both campaigns made for little substantive discussion of the real challenges and decisions facing our country. Therefore, the winner has no clear mandate for action on urgent matters such as:
Immigration: Both candidates talked incessantly about immigration. Trump told us how important it was to stop the flow of illegal migrants from Mexico. He promised to build a 2,000-mile wall. But he gave us nothing in the way of a workable, practical, and sound immigration program.
Hillary Clinton properly criticized Donald Trump’s ranting. But neither she nor Trump made an effort to develop and sell a plan to bring the country together to adjust and then enforce its immigration laws. We are left without a program that could pass the Senate and the House, no matter how this year’s congressional elections turn out or who becomes president.
Supreme Court: Both candidates gave us hard-nosed political talk about the Supreme Court. But neither showed a pathway to a workable solution to the unbelievable acrimony surrounding court appointments. It will be virtually impossible to have a Supreme Court justice confirmed no matter who wins the presidency.
If Clinton wins, her appointments can be blocked by the majority in a Republican-controlled Senate or by a strong Senate Republican minority if there is a thin Democratic majority. Democrats, whether they are in the majority or in the minority, will be determined to thwart Trump’s appointment of any justice who would swing the Supreme Court to the right. Whoever is elected president, the Supreme Court appointment process promises to be a mess.
Foreign affairs: Although Clinton showed a deeper understanding of foreign affairs than Trump, neither candidate gave us hope that our election results would lead to practical, winnable solutions to the challenges of Russia in Ukraine and Syria, China in the South China Sea, the Middle East or North Korea.
Race: During the election season, the country suffered from further deaths of young blacks in encounters with law enforcement officers. The terrible disruptions and demonstrations that followed were agonizing reminders of how far the country has to go to deal with its racial divide. Neither candidate brought forth plans or programs to move forward on the incredibly slow resolution of our racial challenges.
Trade policy: Much talk there was about trade, mostly by Trump. But both candidates parroted a growing angry consensus in the country that trading goods and services with businesses in other countries is bad for America and its people. Still, many economists believe that abandonment of ongoing trade arrangements and termination of efforts to expand international trading would harm many Americans and our economy. Thus, the day after the election, the country will have no trade policy. And there is no clear pathway to finding one that is beneficial for most Americans and can gain the support of a majority of our people.
Health care: Whichever candidate is elected, attention is needed for the modification or replacement of the current Affordable Care Act. But whoever is elected will find it impossible to craft a workable solution that can gain the support of the majority of Americans.
There is much more. More to assure that the angry politics of this election season will continue long after Election Day.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.