Working in liberal academia as I do, I’ve been dealing with an avalanche of comments from colleagues expressing profound shock at the result of the presidential election, expecting me to agree. I have to throw cold water on their comments — and place myself in suspect status — by saying, “Actually, I’ve been speculating for months that the polls have been underestimating Trump’s support, due to a ‘Bradley Effect’ [in which Trump supporters are reluctant to admit it to pollsters].” I never predicted a Trump victory, but I maintained that it was much more likely than the pollsters and the press were saying.
Even on the day of the election, 4 pm California time, one very erudite colleague dismissed the LA Times/USC poll, which had consistently shown stronger support for Trump than what other polls had indicated, as an “outlier,” and claimed that any Bradley Effect was in the other direction (women reluctant to admit they supported Hillary for fear of angering right-wing males in the household). Just four hours later, NPR was reporting that Trump had all but won.
Because I saw a Trump victory as quite possible these last few months (and to some degree because I am a Bernie supporter), I’ve had time to think about what he ought to do in office. Not that I have any influence on that, but still I’d like to make some suggestions to the president-elect:
- Focus on solutions, not retributions. Resist the chants of “Lock her up!”, for instance.
- Choose cabinet members and advisers who reflect the needs of those who voted for you. Please, not the likes of Grover Norquist. I was so disappointed in 2008 when Obama, who promised so much economic change, chose as advisers the same old people who arguably were major contributors to the Financial Crash, e.g. Rubin and Summers. And no matter how well-qualified your chosen advisers are, actively seek opinions from the other side on important issues.
- Do NOT go headlong into the health care issue early in your term. It’s the new Third Rail, as seen in the huge midterm election losses experienced by Bill Clinton and Obama, largely due to controversy over health care. Yes, Obamacare is beginning to run into some serious problems, but go slowly on this one. And remember, many of those who voted for you have found Obamacare to be the solution to scary situations they had found themselves in.
- On the immigration issue, borrow from the 1992 Clinton slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Due to your views on immigration, you have been unfairly accused of racism and xenophobia. You need to remind people that these are indeed economic issues, and by the way, that affect far more people than the press gave you credit for. The 1997 NRC study found, for example, that immigration costs the average California family $1500 extra in taxes per year. Thus, this is a practical issue, one that you should solve humanely but effectively. Moreover, there are Executive Branch steps you can take in this direction:
- Take a balanced, practical approach to unauthorized immigration. Assure people that you don’t plan to be any more aggressive in deportation than Obama has been; the ethnic activists say even that has been far too much, but you will get much credit if you give some assurance to the actual people at risk. On the other hand, take steps to solve the jobs and fiscal problems caused by the illegal inflow. You’ve threatened to withhold federal dollars from Sanctuary Cities, who after all, are flouting federal law. I agree with that (with a “devil in the details” disclaimer), but how about going further, doing something on the same lines for E-Verify? For instance, press cities and states to require that any business seeking a license utilize E-Verify in its hiring; to not do so amounts to encouraging hiring of the unauthorized, again flouting federal law, thus providing justification for your action.
- Take executive action to help fix the rampant abuse of the H-1B work visa and employment-based green cards. Each year, dole out the 85,000-visa H-1B allocation according to offered salary; those who wish to hire cheap labor will likely come up empty-handed. This simple step would go a long way to stemming the abuse of H-1Bs as cheap labor. Roll back Obama’s action to extend the Optional Practical Training time for foreign students. Order your National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health to give grant funding priority to graduate programs with higher percentages of domestic students. And again, listen to the IT workers who supported you, and whom you had speak at some of your rallies, rather than solely taking advice from Peter Thiel.
- “Kiss and make up” with Senator Elizabeth Warren. My phrasing here may be humorous, but my point is dead serious. She doesn’t like it, but millions of your supporters are the same people whom Sen. Warren has so tirelessly and courageously stood up for throughout her career. Don’t let yourself become a tool of the big banks.
And good luck, Mr. Trump. All those Democrats who (correctly) complained that the Republicans were stonewalling any and all of Obama’s efforts will now do the same to you.