Issues & Advocacy

2016 Election Report: Presidential Race


Trump Wins

Defying what nearly every political pundit and Washington insider had predicted, Donald J. Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States. Though pundits never saw a zero percent chance he would emerge victorious, they saw his path to victory as much narrower than his opponent’s. In the end, he pierced deep blue territory by winning traditionally Democratic-leaning states and garnering an expected 289 electoral votes with the most razor-thin of margins. This election has adhered to one norm: It has been almost impossible in modern American politics for one party to control the White House for three consecutive terms. Eight years ago, the American electorate wanted change when they elected President Barack Obama. Eight years later, the American electorate still craves it. 

This was not a typical election, and it has left political pundits in both parties scratching their heads. It is astonishing that President Obama enjoys job approval ratings of over 50 percent and his party’s Presidential nominee was defeated by a Republican who is deeply unpopular with numerous segments of the American electorate. But Trump was able to tap into a far deeper vein of voter anger, anxiety and antipathy to Washington than anyone thought possible.

In defying the predictions of the prognosticators, President-elect Trump bested his Republican primary rivals, and ultimately defeated one of the most well-funded and well-organized campaigns in modern American political history. Trump rode a wave of anti-establishment sentiment and economic angst that ultimately swept him into the Oval Office. This was not a campaign of ideas or competing public policies as much as it was a campaign of personalities. This was a campaign of Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton. Period. Full stop. Next question.

Both Trump and his opponent were viewed with distaste by many in the voting public – see here,  here and here. Trump generated controversy from day one and faced unprecedented issues that would not only have sunk any other political campaign, but likely would have drummed any other politician out of public life permanently. Remember when other Republicans were calling for Trump to step aside? The infamous Access Hollywood tape emerged just as early voting was either ongoing or about to start in some states across the country. Republicans -- both elected officials and political operatives -- were in full-on panic mode about the contents of that tape and how it could affect the elections. Their fears were replaced with relief as the storm blew over, and may have even provided a wave in favor of many Republicans races across the country. 

Hillary Clinton had her share of self-inflicted wounds as well. The air of untrustworthiness surrounding her was too much for the American electorate. A week before the election, the FBI director sent a note to Congress informing them that a new batch of Clinton e-mails had emerged. Turns out that there was really nothing there. However, the timing couldn’t have been worse for Clinton, who was already suffering from deep trustworthiness issues with voters (see analyses in Washington Post, Roll Call and Time). 

Even more amazing about Trump’s victory is that the make-up of the electorate was already trending away from both him and the Republican Party. Republicans may have had a slight disadvantage going into this election no matter who the Democratic or Republican presidential nominees were. The Democratic Party’s coalition of voters has become far more diverse over the past 20+ years, according to Pew Research Center.  According to Pew’s thesis, the traditional Republican Party -- which typically skews more Caucasian and older -- may be figuratively dying out. Those who align more with the Democratic Party are typically younger (51 percent under the age of 50) and more racially diverse.

David Wasserman, writing for FiveThirtyEight, made the point that a reliable Republican Party voting block (white voters without college degrees) declines by 3 percentage points as a share of the overall electorate every four years. Democrats have traditionally seen strong support from African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and other non-whites -- all groups that have dramatically increased their overall share of the electorate. Those non-white voters accounted for 12 percent of the electorate in 1980 (Reagan v. Carter) and 28 percent in 2012 (Obama v. Romney). Early voting data over the weekend held that Latinos were swinging heavily for Clinton, bringing many to worry about the viability of the Trump campaign. Remember, too, that the Republican Party issued an autopsy of sorts after the 2012 election, detailing how the party could attract a broader cross-section of the American public into the Republican tent. Donald Trump threw those suggestions out the window, burned them, and buried the ashes in a deep hole at an undisclosed location. In 2016, the Republican Party did not need them.

Impact for restaurants

As for what this means for restaurants, a new Administration always presents new opportunities and challenges for an industry as diverse as ours. We will likely see an increased effort toward border security and, potentially, broader immigration reform. Given Trump’s background in the hospitality industry, it is likely he will push for his proposed tax cuts and regulatory reform for the business sector. Further, we may see relief in some of the burdensome requirements imposed on businesses and employees alike in the health care space, as well as in labor regulations (looking at you, Overtime Rule). 

The National Restaurant Association is looking forward to working with the Trump transition team and the Trump administration to advance the goals and agenda of the restaurant industry.