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Can Election 2016 Have a Happy Ending?

April 14, 2016, 11:28 AM UTC
Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Campaigns In New York City
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 07: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton campaigns with borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. on April 7, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The former U.S. secretary of state first spoke outside of Yankee Stadium before riding the subway from the 161st Street station to the 170th Street station. (Photo by Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)
Andrew Renneisen —Getty Images

Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia Business School and former Jeb Bush adviser, came by Fortune’s offices yesterday. And for those of us who care more about governance than politics, he offered the most optimistic prediction I’ve heard yet on the outcome of this year’s dispiriting elections.

Like many, he believes either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will win the Republican nomination, but neither can win the general election. That probably puts Hillary Clinton in the White House, but also likely leaves Republican Paul Ryan as leading power broker in Congress. Hubbard suspects Clinton, Ryan and the whole political class of 2016 will be chastened by the angry voters who powered Trump and Sanders this year, and will feel compelled to work together to fashion a response. Doing nothing—the preferred solution of the last half decade—won’t be an acceptable answer.

The possible result: A grand bipartisan compromise that pairs support for American workers—an expanded earned income tax credit, improved worker training programs, new infrastructure investment—with support for American business, including corporate tax reform and approval of new trade agreements.

Sound far-fetched? Perhaps. But that’s at least one scenario in which the strong message being sent by voters this year could lead to a productive outcome next year. Hope springs eternal.

I’m off to D.C. this morning, where I’m moderating a panel at the Committee for Economic Development on the short-term focus of American companies and what’s behind it. If I find the answer, I’ll report back tomorrow.

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