One is a secretive hawk with a somewhat dour, awkward demeanor. The other is a shoot-from-the-hip opportunist who vacillates on issues in order to have the greatest effect on a crowd or a deal.
In the realm of presidents, that might describe Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. But in our current election, those descriptions also would fit Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. That crazy crisscross was one of the fascinating aspects of the election identified by pundits Michael Lewan and Frank Donatelli during a discussion with Senior Editor John Hilton and me. An edited version of the conversation is one of the features in this month’s magazine.
The pair alluded to the unusual circumstance that voters cannot reliably expect the stereotypical party lines from the candidates. But I filled in a couple of details in the description above.
I added the Nixon reference because I am writing this on the Monday after it was disclosed that Hillary Clinton left a Sept. 11 commemoration after falling ill. The campaign was slow to acknowledge that she had pneumonia. That reluctance to reveal is a common criticism of her and of the Clintons in general. They hide information until they feel sufficient pressure to disclose. Then the disclosure itself is not as damaging as the lack of transparency.
That sounds a lot like Nixon. The cover-up is what got him into the most trouble.
Other aspects of Clinton’s history sound like what you would expect from a Republican. She leans toward hawkish positions. Clinton was principally responsible for bombing Libya and pushing Moammar Gadhafi out of power.
Then Donald Trump sounds more like a Democrat, criticizing not only the Libyan intervention but also Clinton’s vote authorizing former President George W. Bush to use military force as a last resort in Iraq. Trump also admires Russian president Vladimir Putin’s bombing of Syria and invasion of Crimea.
So it is difficult to know exactly what Trump would do on the international stage. Really on any stage, for that matter. Unpredictability is one of his intriguing characteristics, but it is not what you expect of Republicans, who are usually proud of their unwavering devotion to plainly-articulated principles.
Turning to finance and insurance, you find other surprises. Here we have a Democrat who has become really cozy with Wall Streeters. And then we have a Republican calling for restoring the Glass-Steagall Act, a
Depression-era regulation that hemmed in banks and securities firms until replaced by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999.
Gramm-Leach-Bliley, proposed by three Republican legislators and signed by Democratic president Bill Clinton, loosened many of the restrictions and has been blamed for some of the conditions that led to the 2008 economic collapse.
Trump also supports scrapping the estate tax, which is not great for high-net-worth life insurance strategies but aligns with the anti-tax tendencies of Republicans. Clinton wants to lower the exemption and raise the rate, which would broaden opportunity for life insurance sales.
The candidates fall within the party lines on other tax issues as well. Trump wants to reduce the number of brackets and lower the rates. Clinton wants to raise rates on the top 1 percent.
On the fiduciary rule, Clinton favors the Department of Labor’s conflict of interest regulation. The Sen. Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic party and Bernie Sanders supporters would likely rebel if she did not support the rule.
Trump has not stated his position on the rule, but it is surmised that he would not support it. He certainly is not a fan of regulation or regulators. But even so, it would be unlikely that he could do much to remove the rule once it has gone into effect and the financial and insurance industries have realigned to comply with it.
ACA Repeal? Reform?
Both candidates advocate substantial changes to the Affordable Care Act, which many would agree needs extensive repair at least.
Trump called for repealing the ACA and deferring to Congress for a replacement. If Trump is elected, this is probably one of the surest outcomes. That’s because if he is elected, voters would also likely vote to retain Republican control of the Senate and House.
In that case, the likely ACA replacement would be a version of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s proposal. That entails decreasing regulation and offering assistance through policies such as tax credits.
Clinton has said she would keep the ACA but called for substantial changes, such as extending Medicare to people 55 and older. If she faces a Republican Senate and House, Clinton’s proposal is unlikely to get very far.
Most peg Clinton as essentially a moderate Democrat on regulations and financial matters. It is not so clear where Trump falls on the spectrum. It is even difficult to say that he would be a hard-liner on immigration, given his moderating statements.
Stability is usually the province of Republicans, but their candidate cannot be described as steady. And reform is often associated with Democrats, but many liberals suspect their candidate leans conservative on many of their prominent issues.
As we look toward the expanse between now and Election Day, the only prediction that we can assuredly make is that we will be in for more surprises, comebacks and plummets. And that the outcome will be one for the history books.