Strange potential consequences of a Donald Trump presidency

Image: Monty Python

I have consistently criticized — and ridiculed — Donald Trump. Now he will be president. Stop crying or cheering for a minute, and consider what might happen next. I have. Like a true analyst, I put emotion aside and make some sober predictions. At the heart of this analysis: Donald Trump is no Republican, and owes nobody anything.

If you are a supporter of Hillary Clinton and want to continue to lick your wounds, I feel you. I watched while most of my friends traded Facebook posts on how awful Donald Trump is. It’s not that I disagree — the number of loathsome, terrifying, and deplorable things he said was frightening.

But now he is free.

He has no responsibility or loyalty to the Republican Party. He is free to go in any direction that he thinks makes sense.

He has no responsibility to keep his promises. He repeatedly contradicted his own earlier statements, and it didn’t cost him.

He may even become free of some of his vindictive nature. Trump likes to win. He just won. Perhaps he will concentrate on savoring that, rather than inflicting pain on his past enemies. His victory speech was gracious.

Campaigning is about image and making promises. Trump played that game and won. Governing as president is about solving problems. Trump’s opponent now is the entrenched federal bureaucracy and the Congress. With that in mind, here are some things that could happen:

  • Trump will not destroy the government. Our government is robust. It survived an ineffectual Jimmy Carter, a senile late Ronald Reagan, a philandering Bill Clinton, and a dopey George W. Bush. It will survive a volcanic Trump. Congress will not follow Trump over a cliff. Strangely, I think that Democrats and Republicans will find common ground in resisting the most irrational impulses of this president, to preserve their own power as well as preserving the union. The Supreme Court will not do his bidding. Ask those who lived through Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor of California. Governments move slowly, and Trump will not be able to change that.
  • He and his working class followers will take over the Republican Party. Trump won with union members, rural voters, and white men, not with the moneyed patrician class. He is a protectionist against free trade. His support of social conservatism is opportunistic, not heartfelt. The new Republican party will be the party of disenfranchised workers, not business. Corporate interests will lose power because they will no longer have a party behind them.
  • Racism and violence will not prevail. These were positions that energized Trump’s base. The deplorables rose up to smite Hillary Clinton. But while riots, racist slogans, and armed protests served candidate Trump, they’ll hurt President Trump. He is no longer against the establishment — he is at its head. Trump will repudiate the worst of his followers when and if they become a problem.
  • War on gays and choice? I don’t think so. Trump’s embrace of social conservatism was always a pose. He can only get so much done. I don’t think he will push or even get behind new federal abortion laws, defunding Planned Parenthood, ending gay marriage, or bathroom rules. Trade and business is what he cares about. Except this: his Supreme Court Justices must pass a Republican Senate. So that is where the battle will be fought.
  • He could actually reform campaign finance. This is a “drain the swamp” issue that Congress will not lead on. It’s perfect for Trump to make his mark. Trump will appoint a Supreme Court Justice who will reverse “Citizens United.” He will take on Democrats and Republicans on this, which would be popular with everyone except lobbyists.
  • He could actually fix Obamacare. Republicans want to repeal Obamacare completely. That’s pretty unpopular with people with pre-existing conditions, 24-year old children, and serious and expensive medical problems. Obama would have liked to change the system — perhaps adding a public option — but never could with with Republicans running Congress. Trump has the opportunity to start with fresh thinking. Think about it: “repeal and replace” really just means “replace.” Since he is not beholden to insurance companies or healthcare lobbyists, Trump could potentially do anything to bring the cost increases into line. This is a complex issue that is beyond Trump’s understanding — beyond nearly everyone’s understanding — so a solution would depend on his attracting one of the “best people” to propose a fix. I suggest Clayton Christensen, dean of disruption and author of “The Innovator’s Prescription.”
  • His chief of staff will be crucial. Trump’s people apparently told John Kasich that if he were VP, he’d end up in charge of “foreign and domestic policy.” Trump does not have the attention span to read position papers and make carefully considered decisions. He will set goals and make public statements, while the real work of understanding, deciding, and governing will fall to someone else. I don’t think Mike Pence is that trusted advisor. I don’t think Kellyanne Conway is up to the job. Unless there is a real heavyweight in that position, Trump will get nothing done. Whoever takes this job will be the most powerful man in the world.
  • So will the legislative liaison. Trump does not have the relationships in Congress to make stuff happen. Unless he gets someone who knows Capitol Hill, nothing will. Is this Newt Gingrich’s role?
  • There will be no wall. The wall costs too much, is impractical because of the landowners near the border, and has dubious benefits. Things that cost money need legislative approval. Even with a Republican Senate and House, Trump won’t get this. He’ll scream and make the legislators pay a political price, but there will be no wall.
  • He will set the environment back decades. He will pull out of climate deals. Pipelines and fracking will spread. Trump has said global warming is a hoax, and I think he believes that. This issue might well define the presidential campaign of 2020.
  • There will be a fail-safe between Trump and the nuclear button. Trump relinquished his Twitter in the final days of the election, because he knew it was in the best interests of the campaign. Will he do the same with the nuclear codes? Even if this happens, we’ll never know. But I don’t think Trump or his White House will make it easy for him to launch a nuke.
  • Women candidates will eventually prevail. I think the election of 2016 was not about a man vs. a woman. It was about a man who connected effectively with his base and a woman who didn’t connect with hers as well as she needed to. In the end, more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Trump. America will elect a woman president within the next 12 years.
  • The press will prevail, too. The national press, from CNN to The New York Times, is doing some soul searching today. They know they played a huge role in electing Trump. I expect a vigorous and skeptical press in the Trump Administration. And Trump will find there is nothing he can do about it.

When I told my wife today that I would be writing some optimistic things about a Trump presidency today, she said “Who is this person that I just woke up next to?” I am hopeful that the Trump who will run our government will be different from the one that just ran such an evil campaign. Trump’s supporters want him to tear down the government and start over. The government is too entrenched for that to happen. But he may get the chance to tear down some of the worst parts of it, and even those of us who feared this day more than anything else may get some things we we’ve always hoped for.

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    1. I appreciate your post except it seems to me that it goes against all that Without Bullshit stands for. Guess we all have to wait and see.

    2. Poor Josh–putting on rose-colored glasses and trying your best to turn the Trump disaster to a win–Josh, that’s bullshit.

      We all now have to live in a terrible four-year no-divorce marriage and it’s going to be quite hurtful and destructive for all of us, even if he only does 20% of the things he says he wants to do.

      Get real: To expect this guy to change his ways is totally unrealistic. Throughout the whole campaign he showed us he never learned a thing.

      I particularly feel badly for Hillary, a dedicated, intelligent woman who spent whole her life in politics only to be defeated by a jerk at the end. Must be terrible hurtful.

      1. Apparently you live in narrow. minded Rose colored glasses too. Personally, I think Washinton needs a change. I don’t think either one was a great pick. So why don’t you wait to see what he will or will not do before being so one sided .

        1. Pam,

          Everyone saw the disaster coming. Well, it’s here. Do you still feel his comment was too one-sided?

          It won’t get any better with him in office. How long can we sustain this type of behavior?

  1. I really hope you are right. My biggest worry is that he gets bored and effectively cedes governing to Pence, who is truly terrifying.

    1. Agree 100 percent. He won’t do everything he has promised, but he has already hurt the country simply by being elected. Not for white, privileged males though. We will just be ducky.

  2. Fine summary Josh. Another silver lining is this. Eight years ago America thought it was electing Jesus and expectations for an effective Obama administration were unrealistic. Today, expectations couldn’t be lower and are, therefore, likely to surprise to the upside.

  3. I believe that Trump will use his position of power to improve his financial wealth and influence. I see him as very opportunistic with a high tendency for greed.

    1. The purpose of money, for rich people, is to accumulate comfort, power, and an assurance for the future. By becoming President, Trump already did that. He doesn’t need more money.

      Of course, this will slow down a few of the lawsuits against him . . . .

      1. It seems that these .1% ers — not matter how many billions they have — never have enough money, so, I do expect Trump to exploit his position. At this level, money is more about ego and Trump will never get enough ego gratification.

  4. Willing to make a side bet that there will be some kind of construction on some kind of wall, with an over/under of $2 billion? In other words, if we spend more than 2 billion, I win, and less, you win?

  5. The question is: is Trump merely a reality TV star, in which case his inflammatory tweets accomplished their goal to get more followers, retweets, free PR, etc. or whether he is truly an authoritarian demagogue and tries to implement some of his crazy policies. After his victory speech, it’s hard to tell…..

  6. Fantastic post Josh. This post does more than you think – it shows a deeper, more personal layer of you as a person and takes this beyond simply “reading another blog post from that guy Josh.”

    Thank you.

  7. Josh this is great and somewhat therapeutic to the shell shocked. My read on trump has always been that he is an amoral sales man…. he will do anything and say anything to win. He saw a path to win and Candidate Trump came on the scene (and it came on them scene years ago with his birtherism). Now that he won he’ll focus on being the Greatest President Ever ™ and he will realize quickly that Candidate Trump and Greatest President Ever Trump are very different people. At least that is my hope.

  8. Essentially, his position on the environment can kill mankind. That is the shots how he signed us up for… No matter what other deplorable shit makes its way through.

    It may be too late to save anyone, regardless. Read about our environment. This shit is real.

  9. If you are a man, you have absolutely NO right to say this wasn’t man vs. woman! NONE! You have NO idea! If Obama had lost, try telling a Black person it wasn’t about the color of his skin! Sexism and misogyny exists and don’t you DARE blame anything on that woman- if you do, you’re at best ignorant of misogyny and this patriarchy, and at worst- an active participant.

    1. I don’t believe my gender disqualifies me from having an opinion on my own blog. I believe this country can elect a woman president, even if it didn’t choose this one.

      I’ve also deleted several comments after this one that just rehash arguments that people had over and over during the election. Since this is my blog, I act in the best interests of all my readers.

  10. Australian journalist, broadcaster and historian Julia Baird revealed on our ABC after the election that she had been part of a small group of foreign journalists who met with Trump during the primaries and were sworn to secrecy until after the election. She says he told them everything he said was “just an opening gambit”, and that if he won he would decide what to do based on what he found once in office.

    She is the sister of Mike Baird, the conservative Premier of New South Wales, our most populous and prosperous state (like being Republican Californian Governor and House Leader combined).

  11. I would love to read a post on how accurate you feel your predictions were. To me, this post indicated that you thought Trump would become reasonable once in office. We all hoped that would be the case. However, that did not happen.

  12. Wow. Interesting column, especially now we’ve had almost 4 years of a Trump maladministration. Trump told us exactly who he was during the campaign — and there were lots of women who also told us who he was as well. But honestly, who could have read the tea leaves and known he would try to totally gut our system of government. And, further, none of those people who cheer-led from the sidelines seem to understand how much we needed government systems in place to ease us through our various crises. Now we need those systems and they are gone. It’s almost like a dictatorship.