November 18, 2016
In the immortal words of political prankster Dick Tuck, on the one occasion when he actually ran for office and came in third in the Democratic primary:
“The people have spoken, the bastards.”
Here are my speculations:
We will now have one party rule, so you would think some things will get done, and maybe they will. Basically, if it’s something Trump doesn’t care about and Republican legislators do, it will be enacted, for example some parts of speaker Ryan’s economic plan.
But there are some things Trump does seem to care about. He has spoken in favor of a massive rebuild of our infrastructure, which would provide a lot of blue‐collar jobs.
He has never, to my knowledge, specified how he proposes to pay for this. He could ask the Congress to increase taxes on the rich, which was Hillary Clinton’s proposal and would be a non-starter in the Republican majority Congress. He could present a budget which increases the deficit. Or he could propose huge budget cuts in other federal programs, which would stir up a hornet’s nest of opposition.
Or he could ask the country to look under the couch cushions for change and send it in. Probably would’t be enough.
Likely we will begin with a rapprochement with Russia. But Trump is nearly alone on his views toward Russia. I cannot imagine any group of conservative advisers favoring the lifting of sanctions and granting recognition to the Russian grab of Crimea. But perhaps Trump could negotiate a Russian withdrawal from Ukraine in return for such recognition.
The export of American manufacturing jobs, purportedly caused by inadequate trade agreements, was one of Trump’s primary campaign issues and thus he has a pretty clear mandate to do something about it. But what? Here we have to make a distinction between two separate problems:
1. Export of low-skilled manufacturing jobs to countries where labor is relatively cheap.
2. Disappearance of low-skilled manufacturing jobs through computer/robotic technology.
Regarding number one, he may try to get legislation that restricts the ability of corporations to open foreign plants or use foreign contractors (e.g., virtually all Apple products being manufactured by contractors in China).
But U.S. corporations have invested billions in the present system. Their lobbyists will fight this battle with everything they have. This will be a real test of Trump’s much‐hyped negotiating skills.
Regarding number two, there’s really nothing he can do and eventually he will have to realize it.
The only real answer is twofold: first, policies that encourage entrepreneurs to invest in US factories in newly emerging sectors, such as solar panels. And second, continuing education of the workforce to enable them to perform the manufacturing jobs that do exist today. Many of these jobs are already going begging in the United States.
The Congress has appropriated and the federal government has spent billions of dollars on anti-terrorist programs, actually pretty successfully. Attacks have been mostly limited to lone wolves, and to be blunt, nothing can stop those.
Trump may try, though, by restricting extremist propaganda from the Internet. This will, of course, provoke an immediate legal challenge.
Our government has struck a delicate balance between protective measures and civil liberties and it has worked reasonably well. Trump would be well advised to leave it alone.
If he tries to change these policies by limiting civil liberties, for example by authorizing religious or racial profiling, he will provoke ferocious opposition from a large segment of both conservatives and progressives, both of which groups already mistrust him.
Immigration and borders
If Trump has a clear mandate on anything, it is immigration restriction. He more or less single‐handedly introduced this is as a campaign issue. His main focus seems to be on two groups: Mexican illegals and Muslims.
Regarding Mexicans, he has talked of mass deporations of those already here and building a wall to keep new undocumented immigrants out. Both proposals are totally unrealistic and would be hugely expensive.
Regarding Muslim immigrants, he doesn’t seem to know that refugees are already heavily vetted before they are allowed to come into the United States. And any new restrictions based on religion would appear unconstitutional and would draw an immediate legal challenge. What seems likely is compromise legislation that would allow the president to declare specific countries terrorist incubators and impose tougher standards on would-be emigrants from those countries. This would be cosmetic, but would achieve some political credit.
Local governments of cities and states along the sea coasts will need to accelerate their preparations for rising sea levels. Trump has made it clear that he does not recognize the worldwide scientific consensus on human-created climate change.
Even more than the Democratic Party, the GOP has usually been a “wait your turn” party when it comes to nominating presidential candidates. First you had to prove your bona fides by years of service to the party and often by doing well in the primaries but coming up a bit short the first time ﴾e.g., Mitt Romney, John McCain, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole). Trump, of course, did none of that.
Trump simply borrowed the GOP brand for the campaign. Of the specific proposals he announced during the campaign, some of them fit well with the right’s agenda: repeal Obamacare, lower business taxes, de-regulate businesses, and no new restriction on guns But. several of them are anathema to the party’s professionals and legislators: According to the Los Angeles Times, the official Trump website still touts this promise: “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.”
Since Trump has no political or government experience, he will have to rely on advisers more than most of the chief executives who preceeded him. Where will these advisers come from? Right now it appears likely that they will come from the right wing of the Republican Party. So unless Trump has the smarts and the will to resist it, he will be swamped with ideology-based advice. He borrowed the Republican form for the campaign, but now the party wants to impose the Republican substance for the governing.
After the 1932 election Franklin D. Roosevelt paid a courtesy call on the 90-year old retired Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. After their chat, Holmes is reported to have told a friend that FDR had “A second-class intellect, but a first-class temperament.” It was a compliment; Justice Holmes had seen presidents come and go; he had drawn the conclusion that temperament was the prime quality in an effective president.
Donald J. Trump’s temperament is going to be a yuuuge problem.
Even relatively popular presidents gets criticised. Every president eventually comes to dislike the press. Every president grows a thick skin.
Trump has already expressed his disain for the press, repeatedly, before he has even taken office. There is no sign yet that his skin is thickening.
Most opinion leaders in the U.S. and indeed, around the world, already despise him, with perhaps the exception of Vladimir Putin.
If he fails to deliver on his promises, even many of his supporters will turn against him.
I just wonder if Donald J. Trump is going to find the presidency increasingly uncomfortable and finally unbearable. I question whether he’s going to make it through four years without resigning or becoming a figurehead. Or being impeached.
is the author of Wounded Warrior, a recently published biography of former governor and Supreme Court justice John Swainson. He is also a retired Ingham County Circuit Court Judge and former legal advisor to Gov. James J. Blanchard.