Short Note 19 February 2016
America’s 2017 President
by Cees Bruggemans words 580
There is still much choice at this early stage as to who will become America’s next President. For the outside world this may matter more than for America itself. For at home, the President has to share space with the Congress, its House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the Supreme Court. The checks and balances build into its domestic political system ensures a government of paralysis, where no-one can easily dominate, and where denying legislative initiatives is a fine art.
In contrast, the President stands much stronger in his position as Commander in Chief in foreign relations, with fewer checks. This has clear implications with regard to the present leading crop of presidential candidates.
Democrat Sanders is a one-idea candidate, favouring a socialist economic policy paradigm for America, with no expressed interest globally. His election would not necessarily see his favourite policy adopted at home (Congress would see to that), while he might not have a presence internationally.
America arguably today plays a moderating role internationally where conflicts arise such as in the Middle East, and as regards border ambitions of Russia and China. For America to stand back, it would create a vacuum in these arenas, inviting others to become more assertive, having implications for regional outcomes, in the MidEast, Europe and for nations bordering the South China Sea.
If Trump were to become President, the same reality applies domestically as for Sanders. So any ideas of treating incoming South American migrants differently would run into all kinds of domestic checks and balances.
On the other hand, Trump might just love the assertive potential of being the American Commander in Chief, with wide-ranging powers to deal with foreign affairs. One doesn't know how a President Trump might differ from candidate Trump, but there is a deep sense of dread in the greater world of having to accommodate a Putin-kind of assertiveness in a future American President.
Would this increase the potential for global conflict? This would be one fear in the event of a Trump presidency. Perhaps good for gold, but our wagon is no longer exclusively hitched to that star. Our interests today stretch much wider.
In contrast, a Hillary Clinton presidency would again be checked at home regards any outspoken policy ambitions (as also befell Obama, only likely even more viciously than happened to him). However, internationally she is well versed and might make a good President, if it is an effective global policeman one is looking for, acting sensitively rather than aggressively, being supportive where it counts and thwarting when needed.
America will exclusively select its next President. If the world had to participate in the election, too, the leaderships of countries like Russia and China and some regimes in the MidEast would probably prefer a President Sanders, giving them more scope for their own policy preferences.
The rest of the world would probably opt for a President Clinton. As to who would prefer a President Trump, the psychology of that preference would need to be closely analysed.
South Africa, too, would probably be best served by a President Clinton, in terms of knowledge of the region, and taking into account our best interests, as much at home as abroad.
As to who will really become the next American President, it will be a choice whose global ramifications will go wide and which apparently have so far hardly been debated or discounted by global financial markets. Is that because Clinton remains the bookies favourite by a huge margin?
Bruggemans & Associates, Consulting Economists
Short Profile Dr CW Bruggemans
Chairman, Bruggemans & Associates Consulting Economists
Consulting Economist, Avior Capital Markets
Consulting Economist, Ince (Pty) Ltd
Consulting Economist, Hellmann Logistics (Pty) Ltd
Consulting Economist, Bureau for Economic Research (BER), Stellenbosch
Honorary Professor of Economics, University of Stellenbosch