As everyone is now well aware, the 2016 presidential election did not exactly play out as numerous polls and pundits expected.
But now that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has conceded and President-elect Donald Trump has made a victory speech calling for unity, we get to the important questions, like what Trump's victory could mean for us here in Texas.
Over the course of a bruising, divisive and hard-fought campaign, we didn't get much in the way of policy talk from either candidate, so it's unclear what the Trump approach is going to be on a lot of issues, as we've noted before. It's been a fascinating show to watch, but because of all the super-personal political scrapping and tussling that's gone on, we have some specifics that Trump has laid out (the border wall, nixing trade deals and getting people good-paying jobs, to name a few) but we don't know how these ideas will work their way into policy.
So what will the Trump presidency mean for issues that really hit us right in the heart of the Lone Star State?
One question on a lot of minds is immigration. Trump called Mexicans rapists in his opening campaign speech and his rhetoric didn't get much less divisive as the campaign played out. This did apparently whip up Latino voter turnout, Jeronimo Cortina, a political science professor at the University of Houston says, but now it's a question of what happens next.
"If you look at the comments that President-elect Trump made in October about ending illegal immigration and deportation, etc., those were troubling, but we'll see if as a leader he makes good on those promises or not,” Cortina says. “If he starts deporting people though, we can't have a conversation about immigration anymore." Cortina noted President Barack Obama and Clinton tried to give Trump a clean slate to work from with their speeches on Wednesday. From here, it will depend on whether Trump decides to stick with his campaign promises of deportation and building a wall along the border with Mexico.
Trump touted the wall as a major part of his campaign platform, so the pressure to get it built will be considerable. “If he doesn't start building it he'll have to deal with that four years from now. But logistically we know it's almost impossible, and that walls aren't going to solve the problem, so I don't know what he's going to do," Cortina says.
Either way, Cortina and fellow UH political science professor Jim Granato agree Trump's candidacy alone has brought out Latino voters at a level we have not seen before. While Trump motivated people in the Rust Belt, it also brought out a strong Hispanic voter response right here in Houston. "Trump ignited the Hispanic turnout here and you can see the effect in Kim Ogg winning district attorney, Ed Gonzales winning sheriff," Granato says.
Granato added that he believes the days of Texas being a Republican stronghold may be over. If Trump does not compromise on his immigration proposals, "that may inspire even more response from Hispanic voters," he says.
The markets took a nosedive as it gradually became clear that the polls were wrong, the pundits were wrong and despite winning the popular vote, Clinton was not in fact going to be the next president.
But from there, the markets and the price of oil both rebounded on Wednesday, most likely because many are expecting Trump in the White House will mean shedding regulations like they're going out of style, as Bill Gilmer, an economist at UH, notes.
Since the U.S. economy has actually been doing pretty well in the past couple of years — it's not stellar but there's been more job growth than we've seen in the United States since the 1990s, Gilmer says — there's some time for Trump and company to figure out what policies will actually be put in place and how he's really going to approach the economics side of governing.
However, Gilmer notes that people tend to give presidents both more credit and more blame for the economy than they generally deserve. "Even the best quarterback needs good players who can block and tackle well to play with him, and if you don't have it, it gets very hard to get anything done," Gilmer says.
In other words, Trump alone won't be able to do much, on the economy or any other front. He'll need good people working for him and people willing to work with him — especially if he intends to actually follow through on his campaign promises about the economy. "He's going to have a hard time delivering what he has promised," Gilmer says. "It's hard to see how he'll deport 16 million people or undo these trade deals that are actually probably popular with Republicans in Congress."
Energy and Environmental Regulations
Well, this will all likely go the way you'd expect it to. Trump is expected to be the kind of president people running the energy industry send love letters. However, he may not be as invested in "Texas tea" (a.k.a. oil) as some would hope. Why? He's talked a lot on the campaign trail about bringing back the coal industry, Ed Hirs, a Houston-based energy economist, says.
"He made a big point of saying he'll work to help out coal, but the U.S. coal industry has a lot of problems, because it has to compete with natural gas and natural gas is so cheap and there's so much of it,” Hirs says. Because of Trump's interest in coal, the Texas energy industry may not get the kind of love some would expect from a Republican president, but there will still likely be incremental differences that favor oil and gas, Hirs says. “It's going to shift for a lot of reasons. For one, the oil industry has shifted a lot under the Obama administration, but the administration hasn't been entirely against it because the industry has brought lots of jobs and tax revenue. That won't be lost on Trump.”
And when it comes to energy infrastructure, particularly pipelines, Trump will probably be significantly more supportive, Hirs says. “I suspect Trump will be much more open to the pipeline industry than Obama has been, which is really necessary because producers need to have a way to get their products to market and more pipelines will be good for consumers as well since they won't have to pay such high prices to cover the cost of bringing the stuff in,” he says. Basically, if anybody still wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline the path is most likely going to be wide open.
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Thus, environmental regulations could be weakened, which will be interesting here in Texas where state regulation is notoriously weak. Trump has said he would fill his cabinet with oil industry executives and would eliminate the federal Environmental Protection Agency entirely (saving more than $100 billion a year and leaving the environment wide open to all kinds of abuse).
The problem is, it's hard to quantify the value of protecting the environment, and the president-elect is the kind of person who looks at the bottom line and goes from there. So this should be interesting. Trump has already tapped a climate change denier, Myron Ebell, to lead the EPA transition team, so just consider the implications of that one and go from there.
Trump has also said he opposes solar and wind energy subsidies. If these clean types of energy haven't become profitable without help from the government, they're in trouble.
Of course, Hirs notes Trump may be swayed if these industries can show it makes financial sense to have the federal government keep funding their efforts and since renewables have gotten closer to being cost efficient, Trump may not scrap them. “He's really set himself up to be about profit and loss, so if it has a profit we can expect him to try and keep that going,” Hirs says.