VOL. 9 | NO. 45 | Saturday, November 5, 2016
Election Fallout: What a Trump Or Clinton Presidency Means for State
By Sam Stockard
Donald Trump is going to win easily in Tennessee.
Everyone, most of all the campaigns for both Trump and Hillary Clinton, accept this fact, as evidenced by the lack of campaign time spent in the state – and most of the South, for that matter – during this contentious campaign cycle.
But what happens when all the Electoral College votes are counted matters very much for Tennessee. From health care to roads to education, decisions on the federal level affect every Tennessean.
Here’s a look at how a Trump and Clinton presidency would likely affect the Volunteer State.
DONALD TRUMP (Memphis News File/Andrew J. Breig)
IF TRUMP WINS
Radical change may be the cry of Donald Trump supporters, but questions loom large over a potential presidency for the Republican nominee.
His policies are largely undefined, and his relationship with the Republican Party is tenuous at best. His slogan is “Make America Great Again,” but he’s been unclear how he will achieve such a goal. And whether Republicans get on board with a Trump administration is a mystery, too.
“It’s pretty hard to really gauge on a lot of issues what will happen with Trump because you don’t necessarily know what he really means he’s going to do and whether or not he’ll really do it. Then, you don’t know whether he can get it through Congress,” says Kent Syler, Middle Tennessee State University political scientist who served as chief of staff for former Democratic Congressman Bart Gordon.
For instance, would a Trump administration try to – as he has promised – round up millions of undocumented immigrants across the nation and ship them back to their home countries, or will he work toward passage of legislation creating a path to citizenship?
Sometimes he says yes and sometimes he says no, Syler points out.
On international trade, Trump does consistently say he will renegotiate U.S. trade deals and abolish or overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Taking effect in 1994, NAFTA opened free trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico, in part an effort to develop manufacturing in Mexico.
But while the program draws blame for sending thousands of U.S. jobs south of the border, Tennessee has become a mecca for foreign investment, particularly from Japan, Korea and Germany, serving as a key location for the auto industry.
Syler says it’s difficult to figure out how renegotiation of trade pacts would affect workers and families in Tennessee. Passing such measures in Congress would likely prove “pretty difficult,” Syler adds.
The Republican nominee’s personality also turns a monkey wrench on otherwise conventional thought.
In light of Trump’s scorched-earth moves to campaign without Republican help – as GOP leaders criticized his candidacy and called for him to step down – it’s hard to know whether he can get things done in Washington, D.C.
“It may well be that nothing would change. It might even double down on itself in terms of the gridlock,” says Pat Nolan, a Nashville political commentator.
If Trump were to win the presidency Nov. 8 and Republicans maintain control of the House and Senate, Nolan questions how well he would work with House Speaker Paul Ryan, an outspoken critic, and with Senate Speaker Mitch McConnell.
Under the same party banner, most onlookers would say they can unite on at least some part of a common agenda, Nolan says.
But with Trump saying “he’s now unfettered from having to run as a Republican, that he can run the campaign as he wants to, that’s kind of hard to figure out,” Nolan explains.
A third of U.S. senators backed completely away from Trump, and numerous governors nationwide, including Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, called for Trump to step aside and let Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, his vice presidential candidate, take the nomination.
Much of that has fallen into the dust bin of campaign history in the wake of the FBI’s decision to investigate more emails related to Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.
Still, such an attitude could come back to haunt Trump when it comes to nominating a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Nolan adds. Potential Trump nominees could be OK with Republican leaders, but some could balk at them simply because they come from Trump.
“Because Republicans have gotten themselves into this civil war or just because Republicans still control all those things in Washington, including the White House (if Trump wins), it’s not clear to me how well they’ll work together,” Nolan says.
At one point, Trump talked about initiating some sort of squad to round up illegal immigrants. Nolan says he has “fuzzed up” his intentions in the last month or so, possibly for political palatability. Yet he wants to make immigration more difficult, especially in regard to refugees trying to enter the country, calling it “extreme vetting,” Nolan points out.
State Rep. Glen Casada, chairman of the House Republican Majority Caucus, says a Trump presidency would be a polar opposite of a Hillary Clinton administration.
“I do see him lessening government regulations and tightening the borders. Those are two positive signs,” Casada adds.
The Franklin Republican, who is positioning himself for the House Majority leadership position, doesn’t consider Trump to be a “budget hawk,” which concerns him because of the “long-term ramifications” for budget growth.
In fact, a report from the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Budget shows Trump’s budget plans would make the national debt increase by $5.3 trillion over a decade, much higher than Clinton’s proposals would, according to a Wall Street Journal article.
Clinton is proposing tax increases on wealthy households and businesses to cover $1.65 trillion in increased spending over 10 years, mainly for college education, infrastructure and paid family leave, according to the article, while Trump is proposing to cut spending by $1.2 trillion but trim revenue by $5.8 trillion through tax reductions and repeal of the Affordable Care Act. His plans also include increased federal borrowing.
The Trump campaign contends the study doesn’t factor in his plans to improve the economy by cutting regulation and restructuring NAFTA and other trade agreements, the article states.
In line with those projections, state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh says a Trump presidency could prove detrimental to Tennessee as its economy rebuilds from the stagnation of 2008-09, especially amid Democratic efforts to stabilize health care insurance markets in the early years of the Affordable Care Act.
“I know people are frustrated and they want ‘change,’ things like that, but if Mr. Trump were elected, it appears to me the uncertainty of having no plan, having no agenda, really, would be a very unfortunate thing for Tennessee and the country as a whole,” says Fitzhugh, a Ripley Democrat and House Democratic Minority Caucus leader.
That type of suspicion could stop economic recovery, and his plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act could undermine efforts to provide health care insurance to more Tennesseans, says Fitzhugh, a longtime advocate for Medicaid expansion and Haslam’s Insure Tennessee, a proposal to catch about 290,000 in a gap between TennCare and Obamacare.
Fitzhugh says the biggest problem with Trump’s hope to kill the Affordable Care Act is the lack of a “solution” to replace it. He concedes the law has problems, pointing toward marketplace premium increases allowed by the Department of Commerce and Insurance and the subsequent pullout of BlueCross BlueShield Tennessee from individual marketplace plans for 2017.
“They need to be worked through and changed. But the bottom line to the positive is we’ve got a lot more people that have health insurance that are not dependent on the public to support them through their own health insurance,” Fitzhugh says.
He points out Obamacare was originally a Republican plan created by former presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.
Casada, an opponent of Obamacare and all its trappings, hopes a Trump presidency would entertain the concept of sending the states block grants of Medicaid money and letting them design their own health care programs.
“I think that will be on the table. It’s a total paradigm change for the federal government. I think we could do it and do it well,” he says.
Though the federal government already provides funds for TennCare, Casada says that Medicaid money comes with “a lot of strings,” or mandates. It is unclear whether such block grants would be allowed without states being required to follow federal rules.
Just as many questions remain about health care insurance in Tennessee, undocumented immigrants are caught in the great unknown.
Fitzhugh says a Trump presidency would be “terrible” for the immigrant population, many of whom fear being rounded up and bused out of the United States.
The House Democratic leader says he knows people who have been trying to get their citizenship for years, worked hard to survive and paid taxes.
Trump has espoused construction of a wall at the U.S. border with Mexico several times during the campaign, raising the ire of the Hispanic population and Mexicans themselves. In fact, one of the key points of NAFTA was to create a manufacturing base in Mexico to create more jobs there.
While American companies have moved thousands of jobs there, millions of Hispanic immigrants have come here over the last 30 years because employers are offering them jobs, Fitzhugh points out.
“We have to remember what that Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor’s all about,” he says.
Casada, though, argues the idea of an immigration force rounding up immigrants and shipping them out is illogical. He believes Trump would put “some kind of system in place” to account for undocumented immigrants in an effort to weed out terrorists and other bad actors.
“But logistically and financially, I don’t see how we can afford to round up 12 million illegals and take them back to wherever. It can’t be done,” he adds.
Fitzhugh also says Trump’s economic proposals don’t hold up, especially when it comes to foreign trade, because he has a history of using foreign labor.
“He’s outsourced everything. His clothing products are made in China, and he talks about how he’s gonna bring back jobs?” Fitzhugh says.
Congressman Scott DesJarlais, the first member of the Tennessee delegation to come out in support of Trump, is not backing away from endorsing the real estate mogul, despite women’s allegations of sexual misconduct.
The South Pittsburg Republican points out Trump will carry Tennessee on Nov. 8, as has been expected since the primary early in 2016.
“I don’t think there’s any question a Trump administration would have a much more favorable view of Tennessee than that of a Clinton administration,” he says via email.
“That said, if government performs as it should, Tennessee should receive its fair share and receive equal consideration for programmatic funding regardless of whichever party is in power.
“The mere fact that we even discuss the impact that election choices will have on how our state is treated highlights the anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction that our citizens have with the political process. That is why they are voicing their desire for independent leadership and not elitist establishment insiders,” he says.
Congressman Jim Cooper, however, says a Trump presidency’s impact on Tennessee is “a big unknown.”
“He has been very sketchy in his policy analysis and he’s had a very short list of advisers,” says Cooper, a Nashville Democrat considered a budget conservative.
Cooper points out U.S. Sen. Bob Corker “flirted” with being a foreign policy adviser for Trump as the Republican sought to bolster his expertise. Health care advisers are lacking, though, Cooper says.
Considering Trump and the Republican Party are fighting a “civil war” of sorts, Trump as president might have trouble recruiting Republicans to fill administration slots, Cooper adds. He notes a number of House colleagues were “burned” by endorsing Trump, then changing their minds about the nominee.
“I can’t ever recall a more dangerous candidacy to endorse. Because if you tie your faith to what he’s gonna say in his next Twitter war, you don’t know if he’s going to be taking on Miss Venezuela or the Gold Star parents of the soldier who died in Iraq or John McCain. It’s kind of amazing,” Cooper says.
On the health care front, Cooper says Trump will have a hard time turning back the Affordable Care Act because several measures it contains are popular, even with Republicans, including required coverage of pre-existing conditions and the provision allowing children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.
“He’s such a rookie student of policy it’ll probably take him two years to figure out what he wanted to do,” Cooper says.
HILLARY CLINTON (Memphis News File/Andrew J. Breig)
IF CLINTON WINS
A Hillary Clinton presidency is likely to maintain many of the key policies of President Barack Obama, continuing the clear split between Republicans and Democrats over policies nationally and in Tennessee.
Under that status quo of an administration led by the Democratic nominee, the Republican-dominated state Legislature is expected to continue balking at Clinton’s proposals for health care, as well as immigration.
Clinton has a political history people can track. Trump, on the other hand, is making his first real foray into politics and ascended to the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
With Haslam’s market-based Insure Tennessee proposal on the shelf, in part because of its ties to Obamacare funds, legislators are studying a 3-Star Healthy plan put forward by House Speaker Beth Harwell to offer health insurance for people caught in an insurance gap between TennCare and the Affordable Care Act.
A pilot project in the works is expected to offer a coverage plan to veterans and people with mental health problems before expanding to some 290,000 people.
It’s not guaranteed to advance, though.
“A lot of the Republicans, if indeed this has now been OK’d by the Clinton White House, they may want to oppose it just like they opposed everything that had Barack Obama on it,” says Nashville political commentator Pat Nolan.
“I would say it’s gonna be tough, and there may well be a feeling among the lawmakers, that let’s wait and see what the new president wants to do about health care, whether that’s Trump or Clinton, and we’ll make our decision about Tennessee.”
Clinton indicates she would keep the Affordable Care Act intact but tweak it, while Trump says he would abolish the program.
Syler, the MTSU political science professor, predicts the impact of either Clinton or Trump would derive from their national policies.
With Clinton at the helm, Syler sees “more of the same” from two Obama terms and even further back.
“And that’s not necessarily meant to be negative, but a lot of people will see that as negative,” Syler says. “I think she will carry on with a lot of the policies we’ve seen the last eight years and, to some extent, the eight years before that and the eight years before that.”
Traditionalists would argue consistency is good, Syler notes, while people looking for change would be more attracted to Trump.
Coming to terms with the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid coverage in Tennessee is critical, according to Fitzhugh.
“It’s there for the taking, and I think she would be supportive of that and work toward getting Tennessee to do that and that would be a huge positive for Tennessee and the economy,” Fitzhugh says.
“We’ve left about $2.5 billion on the table that would circulate and multiply itself and would put us in a situation where we wouldn’t have some of these problems that we have in our state.”
The Insure Tennessee proposal is opposed by Republicans largely because it uses $1.2 billion annually in state taxes paid through the Affordable Care Act. Despite being proffered by Haslam, in two years it hasn’t reached a floor vote in the House or Senate.
Some Democrats say they believe using those funds to catch people in a coverage gap would help shore up uncertainty in the health insurance market.
The Department of Commerce and Insurance approved premium increases late this summer for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, in addition to Humana and Cigna, which also participate in the marketplace coverage in the state.
But then BlueCross BlueShield dropped its individual coverage plans in three major urban areas, leaving more than 100,000 people to search for new coverage plans starting Nov. 1.
Casada says he’s heard Clinton wants to tweak the ACA, but he’s not sure exactly what her plan will be.
“If you look at the big picture, I really feel like Hillary will bring more government regulations, through the EPA, Department of Commerce, etc., and I think it’s going to further cause the middle class to shrink at an equal rate that it has been the last eight years.
“And I think [a Clinton administration] will increase the budget deficit and further drive down the growth of the economy,” he points out.
Even though Haslam consistently touts new job openings at plants across the state, and Tennessee ranks high in the number of foreign employer investments, Casada downplays the impact of Obama on Tennessee and says Clinton will continue enforcing policies that hurt nationally.
“We have been fortunate here in the state compared to others. The other states are really suffering with job growth, new jobs, construction, etc.,” Casada says.
“We’ve kind of been one of the unique states in the country where we haven’t been affected, and I would put forth that the national economy is so big it would dwarf whatever good things the state of Tennessee could do.”
DesJarlais says a Clinton presidency “would essentially be a third term for Obama” and argues the president is campaigning for her to keep his programs in place despite criticizing her eight years ago for the same things Trump points out.
“She promises higher taxes and more government – which flies in the face of what an overwhelming majority of the people in Tennessee’s 4th District want,” DesJarlais says.
Clinton is proposing tax increases on wealthy households and businesses to cover $1.65 trillion in increased spending over 10 years for college education, infrastructure and paid family leave, according to a Wall Street Journal article, while Trump is proposing to cut spending by $1.2 trillion but trim revenue by $5.8 trillion through tax reductions and repeal of the ACA.
DesJarlais doesn’t expect Republican majorities in the Tennessee General Assembly to be “enthused” about a Clinton administration and says he expects them to “remain vigilant” against a Washington agenda being forced on them at the expense of Tennesseans.
DesJarlais, considered one of the most conservative members of Congress, has voted more than 30 times to repeal the ACA. He says the Republican Party has a program to replace it, which includes health savings accounts and allows companies to compete across state lines.
“Expanding Medicaid remains a matter for the state Legislature to decide,” he states.
“It has already been summarily rejected multiple times, and as long as any expansion plan is authorized under Obamacare, we should remain skeptical that it will do anything other than provide minimal coverage at exorbitant costs.
“I don’t anticipate that the voice of Hillary Clinton would be any more impactful on this matter than Barack Obama’s.”
Cooper, however, sees “significant differences” between Clinton and Obama and points out she is “more hawkish” on foreign policy than Obama.
“But unquestionably, with her experience in government, she’s more of a known quantity, and that should reassure conservatives, because you don’t want to bet your country on a rookie,” says Cooper.
Cooper believes a Clinton presidency would have “a very positive impact” on Tennessee because she was a next-door neighbor in Arkansas for 18 years and vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine of Virginia is a neighbor on the state’s east side.
“Tennessee is sandwiched in the middle, so they know our kind of folks and they know our part of the Sun Belt,” Cooper adds.
Cooper hopes Clinton can solve problems within the ACA and work “constructively” with the state Legislature to pass a plan so Tennessee doesn’t continue losing more than $1 billion annually in taxes paid without Medicaid expansion.
Casada accuses Clinton of being “on record articulating open borders,” even though during the final debate she says her statements with those words deal with energy, not jobs or the movement of people.
“I just feel like it would be an influx of people that are not only illegal, if you will,” says Casada. “Of course, under her program they really won’t be illegal because she’ll open up the borders. But it will be an influx of people who aren’t looking to become citizens and further be a strain on the economy through our social service programs.”
Political commentator Nolan agrees Clinton will hold on to Obama’s refugee programs and might even want to expand the numbers, noting, “There will be pushback about that,” especially if it takes legislation.
Clinton likely would use a victory to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform, he adds, but passing it in the House will be an “uphill” battle.
“I don’t think we’re going to see an epiphany by Republicans to suddenly come over and support that,” Nolan adds.
Cooper, meanwhile, says much of the candidates’ talk about immigration is “campaign rhetoric,” from both camps, and he points out the Republican-controlled Senate passed an immigration bill in 2013 by a 68-32 vote yet the bill has never reached a vote in the House.
“That’s insane,” Cooper says. “But that also shows you how close we are to a policy consensus.”
He contends it’s about “as crazy” as the Tennessee not taking a vote on Insure Tennessee during a 2015 special session and two regular sessions since then.
Conservatives won’t say one good word about Clinton. Casada even points out the Bill Clinton campaign put her in charge of quelling the women who accused her husband of rape and sexual assault during his presidential runs.
But Fitzhugh respects Clinton, calling her “one of the most prepared persons ever to become president.”
Her road to the White House became tougher last week amid the FBI’s resumption of an investigation into her email while serving as Secretary of State.
Besides that hurdle, Clinton might not be “lovable” and her personality probably doesn’t suit everyone, Fitzhugh adds.
But, he notes, “I think she has an excellent head on her shoulders. I think she knows the Constitution, she knows American government. She has the ability to work through issues and get good people around her to do that.
“There’s no quick fix. If you’re one who believes America’s down the tubes, it’s going to take a while to bring it back up through those tubes. And if you think we’re moving in the right direction, these things work slowly. It’s not gonna happen overnight.”
Sam Stockard can be reached at email@example.com.