Donald Trump is still President-elect. In 11 more days he will become the 45th US President and the consequences of the 2016 election will begin to be revealed. Trump has woven insiteful advice with his own intellect and killer instincts and achieved a victory most thought impossible. The elephant in the room is will President Trump be as effective when he attempts to put his policies in place in the context of the Republican controlled Congress and the unpredictability of world events.
Looking ahead, here are some thoughts.
- The President-elect has selected a cast of strong willed people to form his cabinet. The question of the day is, will the new cabinet members be allowed to run their own show, or will the “White House” run it for them? Of course Donald Trump will be the President and as such these cabinet heads report to him, not Congress, and not the voters. But strong willed people normally do not take kindly to anyone telling them how to do their jobs. Who will be the first casualty and will it happen in the first year?
- The Republican controlled Congress is a quasi stable majority. Republican unity results only from their shared desire to control of Congress, and the perks that follow. As demonstrated with this 115th Congress’ first action, attempting to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, Congress’ leadership is neither strategic or purposeful. Someone as canny as Donald Trump should be able to pick them apart and get their rubber stamp on any of his initiatives. But what might happen if some part of the Republican Congress gets its back up? What if Congressional members criticize the President?
- Most financial prognosticators are predicting good things for Wall Street. Tax cuts and spending programs (like infrastructure investment) may stimulate economic growth, some positing as much as 7% GDP growth. But what if promised corporate tax cuts simply flow to the investors and owners pockets and not to creating new jobs? What if infrastructure spending turns into pork barrel projects for key Congressional Committee chairmen? And what if some of the “pork” falls from the pubic trough into the lap of a Trump family member?
- Repeal and replace Obamacare represents the most obvious risk to this Republican honeymoon. While Republican messaging today (like patient centered healthcare, not Washington centered) is carrying the day, what if the “replace” plan bombs? What if the replace price tag unleashes fiscal conservatives’ wrath? And, what if Republicans can not stop with Obamacare but feel the urge to rush on with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security?
- What if Japan thinks through the President-elects threat towards Toyota building a plant in Mexico? Does anyone rationally believe that other countries will subjugate their own economies to prop up Trump’s Make America Great Again? Picking on small countries like Mexico may appear risk free but other countries are watching and can be expected to prepare defenses if not collaborate jointly to counter balance the new bully.
- The urge to roll back much of the social progress that has been made in the last 8 years will be huge. Gay rights, women’s rights, and immigration reforms are obvious targets. But don’t over look the myriad of ways to suppress voting rights. This two edged sword may delight some Republican voters but could just as easily bring forward new charismatic Democrat leaders.
The picture just outlined is one of many fast moving parts. Any of these changes could create unforeseen consequences, which in turn could splinter the Republican majority bringing to an early halt many of the Trump agenda items. And should the Republican controlled Congress somehow get to think it was more powerful than the chief executive, they will be in for a fight they can only have nightmares about.
Over the past 8 years the 7/24 news media has grown a business model which feasts upon statements or events which titillate, arouse, madden, or otherwise encourage the reader or listener to jump to some unsupported conclusion or opinion. The media appears to bear no remorse over the dumbing down of news and instead values only its audience ratings and its bottom line. What if enough of the major information sources caught their collective breaths and revisited their journalistic standards? Remember the Watergate investigations?
And let’s not forget the unknowable. What calamities might be waiting around the corner. What if North Korea develops the capability to deliver nuclear weapons intercontinentally? What if Pakistan is overthrown and its nuclear weapons land in a Middle East country’s hands? What if China loses control of its economy and the Chinese Government needs to create an external enemy in order to maintain its domestic control? And, and, and…
Most of all, one must remember voters represent a fractured electorate. Donald Trump will become President with a minority of the popular vote, and his electoral college majority was wafer thin. It will not take much convince enough voters to make Trump a one term President. And most elements of the Republican Congressional majority would prefer a one term Trump than for themselves to lose reelection. I wonder who has got whose back?
Governing is much harder than running for office.