The most distinguishing feature of the 2016 election was how much people disliked the two major party candidates running for president. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have carried with them historically high unfavorable ratings throughout the campaign, right up to the end.
On the night before Election Day, Clinton’s unfavorable rating (determined by the RealClearPolitics average) stood at 54.6 percent.
This number would have been more concerning for Clinton supporters if it weren’t for the fact that Trump held an even higher unfavorable rating of 58 percent.
This means that either candidate winning the 2016 election would have done so despite over half of the country viewing him or her unfavorably.
To put these numbers in perspective, on the week of the election in 2012, President Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney held unfavorable ratings of 46.1 percent and 44.6 percent, respectively.
According to David Dulio, the chair of the Political Science Department at Oakland University, these two candidates’ unprecedentedly high unfavorable numbers will have a major impact on what Trump will be able to accomplish when he takes office.
“Historically, presidents take office with high approval ratings,” Dulio said. “There isn’t necessarily a direct link between favorability ratings and their initial job approval rating, but I think that it is fair to make a comparison.
“The deeply held beliefs about both of the 2016 candidates aren’t going to disappear. Both Clinton or Trump [would] have a hard time governing. You have to have people behind you. You have to have the country behind you if you want to govern effectively.”
An important thing voters should remember — something that is likely to be lost in the post-election celebration and misery — is that Trump will face an uphill battle to accomplish his policy agenda.
“A great percentage of the things that both candidates talked about, they will not be able to do,” Dulio said. “ . . . is Hillary Clinton going to deliver on free college tuition? No. Congress isn’t going to pass it. Is she going to deliver on raising the minimum wage? Even with the GOP controlling only one part of Congress, it wouldn’t happen.”
A legitimate concern among many voters (something that has not been alleviated by the rhetoric or track record of either one of the candidates) is the idea that either candidate would expand presidential powers as a means of implementing their unpopular policy agendas or working around a recalcitrant Congress.
However, according to Dulio, President Obama’s tenure shows that checks to presidential power remain intact.
“The president is limited with what he or she can do with executive action,” Dulio said. “Obama has done it, but look what has happened. He has gotten sued and has been largely unsuccessful.”
Another obstacle for [INSERT WINNER HERE] will be working with Congress.
“It’s incredibly important to have Congress on your side,” Dulio said. “If they want to govern, they are going to have to do something to get along with Congress . . . For example, after the 2014 election, when the GOP took control of both the House and the Senate, neither side was willing to work with the other, and it poisoned the water from day one.
“Before the new Congress was even seated, President Obama came out with the immigration bill that was done using executive action. He then went on to veto several bills right away. The Republicans were done after that.”
Dulio went on to explain that, given Clinton’s previous work in the Senate, if she had won, it would be unlikely she wouldn’t try to work with an opposing Congress.
“Based on Clinton’s work in the Senate, she is probably unlikely to do something like that,” Dulio said. “But, if she keeps these kinds of unfavorable ratings, and has middling job approval to start, there’s no reason for Congress to work with her.”
In American politics, there’s generally a disconnect between the promises made on the campaign trail and what politicians actually do in office. Given the fact that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two of the most polarizing figures in American political history, it’s clear that either candidate would face heavy opposition to their policy agenda going forward.