6 Political Predictions for 2017

As President Donald Trump takes office, we checked in with experts on various UMass campuses — Kenneth Manning, professor of political science at UMass Dartmouth, Frank Talty, assistant dean and co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, and Christian Weller, professor of public policy at UMass Boston — to get their take on what to expect in the weeks and months ahead.

1. Scalia's replacement on the Supreme Court will be a conservative jurist.

U.S. Supreme CourtU.S. Supreme Court (Matt Wade photo via Flickr.com)

While this will likely surprise no one, it will change the way vacancies are filled in the future, Manning said.

"The deliberate Senate obfuscation in replacing the late justice will be viewed as an enormous political and policy success for the GOP," Manning said. “In the long run, it will make filling judicial vacancies even more difficult. When the president's political party does not control the Senate, there will be even more attempts in the future to delay and/or refuse to act on judicial nominations.”  

2. Republicans will score some significant policy successes, but they’ll be more frustrated than they expect.

U.S. Capitol Building domeU.S. Capitol Building (Kevin Burkett photo via Flickr.com)

“The GOP will find that achieving as much as they want will be extremely difficult due to opposition from a wide variety of powerful vested interests,” Manning said. “For example, rolling back the Affordable Care Act — aka ‘Obamacare’ — could run into significant opposition from health care networks and hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturers and insurance companies.”

3. Obama will remain visible and active.  

Barack ObamaFormer President Barack Obama (Mark Nozell photo via Flickr.com)

“President Obama will not lead a ‘liberal opposition’ during the Trump administration as some on the left now seem to desire,” Manning said. “But neither will Obama be as silent nor a political ‘non-factor’ as, say, George W. Bush largely was during the Obama years. Obama will not take cheap shots at Trump — as some liberals believe Dick Cheney did toward Obama at times. But former President Obama will be visible and he will respectfully but clearly make his opposition to some Trump positions well-known. This will rally liberals at times and lead to grumbling by Republicans.” 

Talty, of UMass Lowell, agrees that Obama will stay involved but will be selective about which causes he takes on.

“I just do not see Obama stepping aside and leaving the limelight,” Talty said. “He’s well-respected globally, so he may take on a leadership role in some international matters as the Clintons did with the Clinton Foundation. I think he might pick his battles and choose one or two that are high profile. The attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare is something he may have a public position on, and he should; it’s his progeny.”

4. When it comes to Trump’s policies, expect the unexpected.

Donald TrumpPresident Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr.com)

“One of the things we all sort of surmised on the campaign is we really don’t know what Trump is going to do,” Talty said. “His positions down through the last few decades have been evolving. They evolved rapidly in the last two years when the presidential election came on his radar screen, because he was essentially a progressive in many ways — clearly a pro-business progressive — so we wonder if he’s going back to his ‘live and let live’ policy or adopt the socially conservative approach of the electorate that helped get him there.”

“This is one of those things where comedians are happy and political scientists are happy in the sense that this is new territory, and we just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Talty said.

5. There won’t be a recession, but don’t expect the kind of economic growth Trump promised on the campaign trail.  

New York Stock ExchangeTrading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (Scott Beale/Laughing Squid photo via Flickr.com)

“We will continue to have a ‘meh’ economy with slow employment gains, modest wage increases and high and possibly rising income inequality,” said Weller, of UMass Boston. “The main issue is that with slow employment and wage growth, many families struggle to save for their future, so we are looking at college costs, for instance, taking larger and larger bites out of people’s wallets. Yet, with slow spending increases, there is no reason for businesses to invest more, as they will be able to make more money, even without new investments, if the promises for tax cuts made by the new administration and Congress will even partly come true.”

6. There will be tax cuts. Lots of tax cuts.

"Tax" in Scrabble letters(401K 2012 photo via Flickr.com)

“I think that Donald Trump and his administration will start to cut taxes in a number of ways,” Weller said. “This could include some small corporate tax reform and a roll back of some taxes that are used to fund Obamacare, among other things. He may also start to roll back some regulations, such as the overtime rule and parts of Obamacare. These moves will not be good for the economy, as they will weaken workers just as wages start to rise. But, these moves will quickly boost corporate profits, which is what the market cares about.”

“The main point is that the economy is potentially facing a precarious future and it needs a steady hand with clear policy directions, especially to help America’s struggling middle class,” Weller said. “We have exactly the opposite right now: A lot of uncertainty, and whatever policy direction from the new administration and Congress there is suggests more money for high-income earners and corporations and less money for America’s middle class.”

Read more UMass expert predictions.