Judgment day is nigh. Like it or not America will end up with President Hillary Clinton or President Donald Trump. How to choose? We know who Hillary and Donald are. Both have well-documented histories; journalists have plumbed those pasts and analyzed their characters. But what would they do?
To answer that, we “war gamed” their presidencies. How would Trump and Hillary respond to a murderer’s row of foreign and domestic crises? What moves would they make on immigration, taxes, healthcare and the Supreme Court vacancy(ies)?
As long-time political junkies, we assumed it would be easy to picture Hillary’s presidency. But there was much to be discovered during this event-rich thought experiment.
And then there’s Trump. Sure he’s made a lot of promises, and threats. But it’s safe to assume things won’t go and people won’t play the way he’d like. He prides himself on unpredictability, with no idea what’s coming. That made our job fun and the results surprising.
We encourage you to check out our “Oval Office games” at The Imperfect Compromise. Here we summarize the 5 key outcomes:
- Trump is no dealmaker. Real estate negotiations are child’s play compared to finding common ground with Congress and other nations. In business, both sides come to the table intent on making money, and usually leave with mission accomplished (at least initially). In politics, a deal means nothing but lost votes—the absolute last thing any politician wants. Trump becomes exhausted when the world doesn’t behave the way he demands.
- Hillary battles Congress and special investigations. Yes Trump is subjected to investigations as well, with endless opportunities to unearth his dirty financial skeletons. But an unprecedented level of suffering awaits Hillary, for whom Republicans have a generation-spanning antipathy bordering on hatred. Gridlock doesn’t do justice to the Right’s delight in blocking and harassing her every move.
- Trump offers the potential for radical change. Hillary wields executive power in the Obama vein, adding new rules to existing laws, increasing regulation incrementally. Trump radically revises trade, taxes, immigration and healthcare, quantum leaps previously deemed impossible.
These unprecedented upheavals usurp Congress’s lawmaking power. But strength lies in the initiative. We’ve seen it the past 8 years, presidential orders requiring years of extreme effort to challenge in the courts, with varying degrees of success. Trump goes much bigger than Obama.
To that end, Trump is in no hurry to fill the Supreme Court vacancy; 4-4 stalemates suit him.
- The national debt balloons under both. Neither candidate is allergic to spending. With the Fed’s interest rate reductions failing to stimulate the economy, Hillary finds creative ways to conjure new government jobs and dole out funding. Trump does likewise, and slashes taxes. When coupled with Trump’s drastic regulatory reductions, long-term economic growth should result. But deficits are huge. In both cases but particularly with Trump, interest rates inevitably rise and the debt becomes unsustainable.
- Neither candidate is a real hawk. Trump’s unpredictability doesn’t cow our adversaries from challenging us. They understand he’s a bully who fears a bloody nose; it’s one thing to take aggressive military action against ISIS, but quite another to commit the nation to real war. And Hillary is an inveterate negotiator, scarred by Libya and occupied with building coalitions.
Both presidents search for a way to finesse it, to do everything short of war. Russia crosses the bright NATO line in the Baltics and Iran pays terrorists to blow us up. We do not go to war with either.
How to sum up? It was more exciting to role-play Trump. The nutshell comparison: Trump smashes boundaries, Hillary stonewalls Republicans. But “exciting” doesn’t necessarily mean enjoyable. Under a Trump presidency there is greater potential for a dramatic, unfavorable shift in the world’s balance of power.
Choose Hillary to stay the course of expanding federal government and deepening partisan rancor. Choose Trump for revolutionary potential; he may very well blow things up. Playing this war game in the military sense, we the generals must choose between the low risk, low reward Hillary strategy, and the exact opposite with the Trump gambit.
We’ll see what kind of generals we are on November 8th.