Nation Will Be No Worse for Trump
By Bill Hume
Without a doubt, it was the most surprising election result in the history of American presidential contests. Donald Trump, bombastic reality star and maybe successful businessman, managed to get elected president of the United States.
The man who was easily baited into losing his cool by a well-prepared woman in a set-piece presidential debate is poised to become the man in charge of America’s position with the world in the balance – with one finger on the nuclear trigger.
He who denigrated minorities, women, Muslims, Mexicans and plump beauty queens is now in charge of binding up the wounds in a deeply divided country. He who boasted of grabbing women by the pussy and getting away with it because of his celebrity status is now the Mother of All Celebrities.
Taxes, Obamacare, Mexico border wall, trade agreements, global security alignments – there is virtually no significant policy arena Trump didn’t upend during the campaign.
But here we are. We have a national Republican Establishment making nice for the television cameras but very anxious behind the scenes on who will do what to modify or block which Trumpian gambit.
The GOP leadership in Congress now has the majorities – and the presidency – for doing a number on Obamacare. All they have to do is come up with a scheme that will please the already flush health insurance behemoths and blunt the rising premiums – while simultaneously keeping accessible insurance for the Obamacare contingent and the permanent disability sufferers.
They face a Trump agenda that in several significant areas flies in the face of orthodox Republican doctrine and/or goes the opposite way of GOP-allied interest groups.
Republicans face interesting times ahead, in the curse of the old Chinese proverb.
Both major political parties come out of this election in disarray, if not shambles – at least in terms of their old patterns of national organization and leadership. With the ever-increasing role of Citizens United political money dominating the debate, it may be we are already deep into the decay of the parties as relevant entities.
All that said, only a minority of the Americans who swept Donald Trump into the presidency were bona fide inhabitants of Hillary Clinton’s basket of deplorables. The significant if not overwhelming majority were middle-class Americans a lot like the Clinton voters, who differed only in that they were against the political status quo more than anything else.
They despaired of the verbose gridlock of the Washington political colony. They probably didn’t care for the offensive aspects of Trump’s talk and behavior any more than the Clinton voters, but above all else they wanted deep and permanent change in the distant and indifferent laws and regulation radiating out of the nation’s Capitol. It doesn’t register with them that the media routinely exaggerate the scope and effect of it.
The only presidential result that came close to my dismay at the Trump victory during my journalist years was when that retread actor Ronald Reagan ascended to the oval office.
No background, no experience (well, he had been governor of California), all talk and no leadership depth – that was my assessment. Well, Reagan is remembered today as one of the great presidents of the 20th century – at least among Republicans.
After all, didn’t he bring down the Soviet Union? That occurring on his watch was likely as attributable to him as was the unprecedented budget boom of federal surpluses during the Clinton years primarily attributable to Clinton. Intentions and resolve notwithstanding, the inertial resistance to directional change of the Battlestar Galactica that is the federal government makes any basic restructuring of the system a pipe dream.
But, Reagan had the gift of gab – and from his original “Shining City on a Hill” image of America forward, he spoke positively and optimistically – and people believed. He was, in a word, a leader. A leader in the sense of being someone who could go to the front and people would follow. Not necessarily one who had the best, brightest and most prudent plan for where to go. How will Trump prove to be relative to that model?
In the final analysis, the people with whom Trump surrounds himself will probably prove more significant in the record of his administration than Trump himself. It’s not even certain it will prove to be a conservative administration in all aspects.
We survived Reagan, we survived Nixon, we survived Bush and Clinton – in fact, American democracy survived all of our presidents prior to Trump. The odds are good we’ll survive him as well.
Bill Hume is a former editorial page editor of the Albuquerque Journal and later served as a policy adviser to former Gov. Bill Richardson.