Everyone interested in organizing to win future presidential elections will closely study Donald Trump’s path to the presidency. Since vote tallies are still incomplete in some key states, we’ll have to wait to see just how thin the margins were in the battleground states and just how large was Hillary Clinton’s win in the national popular vote. While I look forward to digging into all that later, here are some scattered thoughts about the election so far:
How will Trump Govern?
Trump’s presidency is going to be similar to that of George W. Bush. I expect big tax cuts for the wealthy put on the national credit card. He and the Republican Congress will probably repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and no, they’ve never had a replacement plan and likely never will. The only thing that gives me hope on this point is that they may be cowed by the political repercussions of throwing more than 20 million people off of their health insurance plans.
Trump may get an infrastructure bill in exchange for signing off on all the tax-cutting, entitlement-cutting, and welfare-cutting bills Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell send him. If we get an infrastructure bill, it will also be on the national credit card.
Maybe Trump’s Mexico wall will be the goal of an infrastructure bill or in addition to one. The wall is another priority I’ll be interested to see whether Ryan and McConnell share or not, if it’s actually even a priority for Trump himself. On trade, his incentives will be to forget he ever talked about trade protectionism because Ryan and McConnell won’t move bills on that front. Trump has made vague promises to protect entitlements, but destroying Social Security and Medicare has been a major goal of Republicans going back decades now. Democrats in Congress would make sure Congressional Republicans can’t override a Trump veto, but would he have the guts to veto legislation killing entitlements? Why would he pick that fight with his own party and shatter the dreams of generations of Republicans?
So I doubt Trump will build a wall or restrict trade in any meaningful way. “But Trump’s a truth-telling outsider!” his supporters say. He can’t possibly renege on his most important campaign issues! He can and he probably will. Trump needs cooperation from Congress. Congressional leaders agree with him on tax cuts and repealing the ACA. They’ll give him those things, but trade protectionism and probably the wall are non-starters for Ryan and McConnell.
How does a Trump Presidency Go Badly?
There are two worst-case scenarios for a Trump presidency. One is that Trump and his administration do nothing to stop – or worse, they aid – continued attacks on the rights of minority groups and women. Those attacks may be through law, like how Wisconsin recently made it extremely difficult or impossible for hundreds of thousands of its citizens to vote in this year’s elections. Or those attacks may be violent, carried out by individuals or hate groups. Jim Crow all over again, 21st century style. There are signs this is happening already; see here and here. The second worst case scenario is that Trump gets into a war, either by blundering his way in or starting one deliberately (perhaps to quell scandal). By the way, these worst-case scenarios are not mutually exclusive and come on top of how I predict he’ll govern above.
Any best-case Trump presidency scenario would also have to include Trump himself disavowing hateful rhetoric and dealing forcefully and decisively with attacks on minority rights or violent attacks on minority persons. While Bush was bad in practice on rights issues, he did condemn hateful speech and attacks on minority groups. I hope Trump and the vast majority of his supporters follow Bush’s example there. The obliviousness many have shown to the awful possibilities presaged by Trump’s campaign does not give one confidence.
The Meme That Must End, Now
I see some college-educated whites are already blaming Clinton’s supporters for Trump’s election because they say Clinton’s supporters needed to be taught a lesson about not being politically correct wusses, or something. This is a meme that seems to be getting some traction, and it needs to stop. College-educated whites, you can eat your Trump cake, but you can’t keep it too by blaming Clinton’s supporters for it. By definition, people casting their votes for Clinton were the only ones in the country trying to prevent Trump’s victory. The country can get through a Trump presidency, but it will be harder if his most powerful supporters – college-educated white people – refuse to take responsibility for him or fail to mitigate his darker potential consequences.
To riff on this a bit longer, what is it with white people and political correctness? I’m a white dude and I have a vague sense of what being anti-p.c. is all about, but maybe I don’t really understand it. I mean, Facebook friends and acquaintances’ pages are currently filled with some version of the following: “I’m sorry but I had to vote for Trump because somewhere there’s a liberal arts college that created a safe space.” Another version goes like this: “I’m sorry but I had to vote for Trump because black people can say certain words in the hip-hop rap but I can’t say those things loudly in a restaurant.”
What am I missing? I know my tone here is not conciliatory. These are trying times. But I’d like to hear from people about this. Can anyone explain why my caricature of p.c.-obsessed conservatives is unfair?
I hope the worst-case scenarios don’t happen, obviously. They’re unlikely to occur but only about as unlikely as I thought Trump’s chances at winning the election were: something like 3 to 1 or 2 to 1 odds. I’m more confident that Trump will govern like Bush. That is a feature, not a bug, for many people in this country and while I won’t like it, Republicans have the right to do it after winning the election. They will likely enact policies I don’t like, run an incompetent administration, and produce needless suffering. Of course, I hope I’m wrong about those, too.
It’s important that Trump’s supporters know our worst fears for his presidency. If we cannot agree that minority citizens deserve equal protection and access to our laws as well as freedom from intimidation and violence, well, we know where each other stands. On other policy matters, we can agree to disagree on the merits, but we expect a full and honest accounting of united Republican government performance. I pledge here to admit I was mistaken should Trump have a generally peaceful and successful presidency. I sincerely hope he does.