RealClearPolicy Newsletters: Original Articles

Referendum, Mandate, Repeat.

Referendum, Mandate, Repeat.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File

Dear Reader —

As journalists and the public struggle to separate fiction from fact, the 115th Congress is gearing up for the legislative reversals that, for better or worse, will surely define its legacy. Just as 2008 was the electorate’s answer to the neo-conservative policies of George W. Bush, so Donald Trump’s victory is a referendum on the technocratic progressivism of Barack Obama’s Democratic Party. No surprise that repealing the Affordable Care Act — the signature achievement of Obama’s domestic policy — is top of Congress’ list. 

One is tempted to see in all this seesawing of national politics evidence that our republic is slouching towards something like a parliamentary system, in which each election brings about an entirely new government. Though most presidents in recent memory have won the electoral college with slim (if any) popular majorities, each new president is nevertheless supposed to possess a “mandate” to impose the policies of one party onto the entire country — rather than the authority to execute the laws enacted by a bipartisan Congress. Naturally, our system’s checks and balances begin to look like nothing more than tools for obstructionism to be wielded by the minority or blunted by the majority, mere vestiges of an outmoded constitutionalism.

But Trumpism is more than a referendum on Obama. It is also, clearly, a rejection of the “globalism” common to Obama and Clinton no less than Romney and Bush. Less clear is what will replace this erstwhile political consensus — and whether it will embrace or repudiate the expanded powers of the executive. The Left is rediscovering the value of decentralization; the Right weighs principle against opportunity.

These are some of the many issues taken up at RealClearPolicy over the past week. Below you will find just a few highlights. 

— M. Anthony Mills, editor | RealClearPolicy


The Center Has Fallen; White Nationalism Is Filling the Vacuum. In Think Progress, Ned Resnikoff asserts that racial sentiments produced both Trump’s rise and “third-way” liberalism’s demise.

What Happens to the Democratic Party After Obama? The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein, urges the Democratic Party, which “narrowed” its appeal under President Obama, to adopt an “overarching message” with a “meaningful economic component.”

Those Factory Jobs Aren’t Coming Back. In Salon, Conor Lynch maintains that the rise of automation means the “glory days” of manufacturing are long gone but that new jobs may be on the horizon. 

Obama Saved the Economy, But Not the Middle Class. In Vox, Jim Tankersley praises the outgoing president for lifting the country out of recession, but faults him for failing to deliver the “broad wage gains” and “strong job growth” he promised voters.

U.S. Poverty Policy Is Outdated and Ineffective. For Washington Monthly, Joel Berg offers a new framework for fighting poverty.

The GOP’s Secret Weapon? Regular Order. Opportunity Lives’ John Hart calls on congressional Republicans to embrace a “fully functioning appropriations process” as a way to “reshape government” and advance their policy goals.

Health Care Is a Commodity, Not a Right. In National Review, Ben Shapiro contends that medical care is not a right because it derives from “individual need” rather than “individual autonomy.” 

Toward a National Productive Strategy. Also in National Review, Robert Atkinson outlines an economic agenda that blends conservative principles with populist methods.

Want More Productivity? Avoid “National” Strategies. RealClearMarkets’ John Tamny counters Atkinson’s proposal, arguing that we need less government involvement in the economy.

The Rise of Political Correctness. For Claremont Review of Books, Angelo M. Codevilla suggests that the concept of political correctness can be traced back to the Marxist idea of “cultural hegemony.” 

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