Three things to expect from the Trump era

Summary: What can we expect from the Trump era? The internet overflows with guesses fueled by imagination plus Trump’s vague and contradictory statements. Here are three more, but better founded. Trump will make the 1% happy. Populism is toast. Congress will set the agenda. See the reasons; put your reactions in the comments.

Trump: Make America Great Again

Key #1: Trump the outsider becomes an insider

“What might President Trump’s defense policy look like? We have few solid facts to go on. But one is of overriding importance: because Trump is anti-establishment…”
William Lind.

History teaches that events make opinions. As I said in January (when he Wise said Trump’s odds of winning were a joke), Trump’s rise will resemble events in March 1815, when Napoleon broke his exile on Elba and marched to Paris. See the headlines in Le Moniteur Universel reporting his progress.

  • The cannibal has left his lair. — March 9.
  • The Corsican ogre has just landed at the Juan Gulf. — March 10.
  • The tiger has arrived at Gap. — March 11.
  • The monster slept at Grenoble. — March 12.
  • The tyrant has crossed Lyons. — March 13.
  • The usurper was seen sixty leagues from the capital. — March 18.
  • Bonaparte has advanced with great strides, but he will never enter Paris. — March 19.
  • Tomorrow, Napoleon will be under our ramparts. — March 20.
  • The Emperor has arrived at Fontainbleau. — March 21.
  • His Imperial and Royal Majesty entered his palace at the Tuileries last night in the midst of his faithful subjects. — March 22.

Americans love a winner. Doubly so for our journalists and courtiers in the Versailles-on-the-Potomac. Trump the outcast will become Trump the star. So our leaders will work with Trump.

Trump’s campaign put him in opposition to our ruling elites. Will that be the pattern of his Presidency, or will he pursue policy changes they both want?  They have a long list of shared goals, a list to keep Washington busy for four years (see the next section).

We know two facts about Trump. First, his history shows no signs either of strong ideological convictions or of rebellion against his fellow plutocrats. Second, he is a master of the deal. Both imply good news for America’s 1%! Perhaps the deal has already been made…

Donald Trump: Art of the Deal
Available at Amazon.

Key #2: The Art of the Deal in action

Trump might already have started betraying populism. He plans to make massive tax cuts for the rich financed by borrowing. (The GOP’s previous two tries at this almost wrecked the government’s solvency; third time’s the charm!)  Trump’s initial objectives include Wall Street’s top Christmas wish — repeal of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. — and the Right’s favorite: repealing ObamaCare. One of his Trump’s key economic advisors disclosed plans to scrap regulations limiting Wall Street’s ability to scam clients, replacing it with more of the self-regulation that has failed so often.

Trump probably will support many upopular right-wing policies, such as loosening safeguards for workers, repealing environmental regulations (e.g., Clean Power Plan), crushing unions, and tax cuts for the rich.

People are policy in Washington. His campaign finance chairman is Goldman Sach’s alumni Steven Mnuchin (Goldman wins because they back both candidates). Rumors are that he and JP Morgan head Jamie Dimon are among the likely Treasury Secretaries. “Donald Trump Ran on Protecting Social Security But Transition Team Includes Privatizers.”  Watch his appointees to see what to expect from Team Trump.

My prediction of the result: populism is toast, as America’s elites repeat their successes with the Tea Party (the GOP turned them: born fighting the banks, ended electing the banks’ servants) and Occupy Wall Street (brutally crushed, in 2016 the Democrats supported Goldman’s candidate).

Key #3: Congress is the strongest branch

“It is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.”
— James Madison explained in Federalist Papers #51.

Everybody focuses on Trump as the big mover of 2017-2020, ignoring the other players at the table. Such as the leaders of Congress. They have solid Republican majorities in both Houses — one of the most ideologically coherent caucuses in modern American history. It’s a tool — well-stocked with right-wing activists ready to wield it.

Political gurus talk about the imperial presidency, but the Founders believed that Congress was potentially the most powerful branch of the government. They have taken the initiative from the President before — Nixon was not one of our great liberal presidents by choice — and might again if Trump cannot manage them. Obama felt the power of their disciplined ranks of conservatives. Trump also suffer if they see him departing from the Right path.

The likely result will be a power struggle between Congress and Trump, with the House as center ring for budget fights and the Senate for tug-of-war over appointments and treaties. The first salvos have already been fired: “GOP insiders to Trump: Leave the policy to Paul Ryan.”

Update: another possible break between Trump and the House: Paul Ryan’s extremely unpopular plan to privatize Medicare, anti-populist.

Who will win? FDR lead a Congress united to face obvious foes. He did so resolutely and with almost more-than-human skill. LBJ was a masterful manipulator of Congress, pushing them to achieve the almost unattainable goals that he set for them. Reagan led Congress to boldly cut taxes and boost spending. Trump has set for himself goals almost as ambitious as FDR and LBJ. Time will tell whether Trump has the discipline and ability to manage Congress, or if they will manage him (I’ll bet on Congress). Either way, America will take a large step to the Right during the next four years.

“I call them girlie men.”
— Arnold Schwarzenegger mocks the California legislature, showing how not to pass laws (17 July 2004). Bet that Trump will try this tactic.

"Change" signal

Understanding the results of Campaign 2016

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about the Republican Party, reforming America: steps to new politics, Campaign 2016, and especially these…

  1. Ron Paul’s exotic past tells us much about him, the GOP, libertarians – and about us.
  2. The key to modern American politics: the Right-Wing Id Unzipped.
  3. A look into the GOP mind: untethered from reality and drifting in the wind.
  4. The GOP budget shows us the New America that lies ahead.
  5. Mike Lofgren: Republicans Are Revolutionaries, Not Conservatives.
  6. See how the Republican Party’s history brought forth Trump2016.
Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again
Available at Amazon.
The America We Deserve
Available at Amazon.


17 thoughts on “Three things to expect from the Trump era”

  1. I think it is really hard to predict anything about the relationship between Congress and the Trump White House until we know more. On Tuesday we will see who the nominees for Speaker are. Trump and Ryan are not political allies, so Ryan seems pretty vulnerable to me should a credible challenger emerge. Of course this is intimately tied up with the question of whether any high-level Republican Representatives are expecting to take jobs in the Executive Branch, which I am too outside-of-the-Beltway to know. But Trump is definitely in a place to make or break a lot of GOP midterm primaries, so his sway over the Speakership — should he opt to challenge Ryan — is not inconsiderable. On the other hand, he might decide it’s strategically wise to attempt some sort of detente with the GOP elites. (I’m skeptical of that.)

    We should know more very soon.

    1. sfficht,

      Perhaps. Some of those things might be true, or not. For example, Trump’s “definite” decisive influence in the GOP primaries. He has low approval ratings. That Republicans like him more than Hillary tells us little about his influence in the primaries. Esp since the major influence of national political leaders is giving funding. It’s not clear Trump can play that card.

      1. That’s a fair point. But Trump’s low approval ratings in the general electorate may not be relevant for determining the outcome GOP primary challenges in bright red districts. And as the president, Trump is de facto leader of the party, so he gets a big say in the disbursement of party funds.

        I see the big unresolved tension as whether Trump’s “dealmaking” tendencies will lead him to a hardline negotiating stance (which might put him in temporary alliance with the Tea Party GOP back bencher types, who are temperamentally if not ideologically aligned with him in their opposition to the establishment), or to an expedient reconciliation with the party elites like Ryan (in the interest of advancing “big picture” agenda items like corporate tax reform). People are trying to read the tea leaves about this by analyzing his transition team and likely cabinet appointments. But it still seems premature to draw conclusions.

        Personally I could imagine good policy outcomes, from my perspective, regardless of which tack he takes, but it depends on how he prioritizes his agenda. If he goes the combative route, we will see slow progress on the domestic front, which might stymie some of the projects I’m least excited about (e.g. the Wall); my main concern in this scenario will be how Trump conducts foreign policy, since with Congress gridlocked the President would be paying more attention to foreign affairs. If Trump goes the cooperative route, I worry about who Trump *appoints* on the NSC, since they’ll be the point people on foreign affairs. In this latter case the GOP should be able to pass at least one major legislative package, and I can only hope it’s something I like (corporate tax reform, major deregulation, etc.) rather than something I don’t particularly like (a sweeping restrictionist overhaul of immigration, some crudely counterproductive pro-law-enforcement bill on criminal justice, or something similar).

        Actually, examining Trump’s 100 day plan with a focus on domestic agenda items that require Congressional action, most of it seems neutral to positive to me (although a lot of the best stuff seems unlikely to happen, e.g. congressional term limits). Some negative highlights:
        * tariffs to discourage businesses from relocating overseas — crude protectionism
        * tax deductions for child and eldercare — opposite of tax code simiplification
        * Restoring Community Safety Act — increased federalization of local law enforcement in response to a statistically questionable increase in crime. (I believe the crime surge exists in certain cities, and I can even believe it is partly tied to a Ferguson Effect, but this seems like exactly the wrong sort of hasty federal legislative response.)

        Those three seem moderately bad, but not signficantly worse than a lot of Hillary’s proposals. They’re also smallish proposals, not necessarily the sort of big-ticket sweeping reforms Trump might attempt to push through in an egotistic, Obamacare-like effort.

        Maybe the biggest negative outcome with a cooperative Congress would be if Trump succeeds at repealing and and replacing Obamacare and does so in a stupid way, that neither makes health care a freer market nor offers assistance to the people who lose coverage. That could potentially cause a lot of people a great amount of damage without accomplishing anything positive. So maybe that’s what I should worry about most.

      2. sffict,

        “But Trump’s low approval ratings in the general electorate may not be relevant for determining the outcome GOP primary challenges in bright red districts”

        He has low approval ratings in the GOP as well, as Presidents go. There is little evidence “definite” decisive influence in the GOP primaries.

        “And as the president, Trump is de facto leader of the party, so he gets a big say in the disbursement of party funds.”

        No, that’s not how it works. The Party has its own machinery. It might accept him as their leader, but it is not “de facto” true. Certainly not automatic to give him key to their funds. That would be insane to do with Trump.

      1. sflicht

        I agree. More strongly, I believe an open mind — and uncertainty about our assumptions, let alone forecasts — is the best attitude now. I doubt if Trump knows what he will do next. Still less certain is how the rest of the US political system and public will react to Trump’s moves. Then there is the big question, about Trump’s ability to react to events.

  2. Read this here once upon a time: “The caravan moves through town and the dogs continue barking.”

    Quite complex things at play in DC. Mirroring the similar in the EU. Repubs think they have a mandate and the Dems? Leaderless and MIA. We read here “Populism” is dead and LePen has 40% percent and Holland 8% in France. How much longer will so many underestimate Mr. Trump? Are those Jobs coming back? Was Dodd Frank a working remedy? Will Health Care costs suddenly go into remission? Will we stop giving F15s to small Baltic countries?

    Same old same old….maybe? Divisiveness, one half against the other half (59 Million for each), conflict and dark days.

    “It’s the economy stupid.”
    Who said that?

    We just can’t know but bets are it won’t be calm or good for at least one half, That darn Jim Comey!


  3. If Trump doesn’t quickly and decisively do many of the things that he campaigned on, it’s going to get jiggy very quickly.

    And if he tries an Obama type of style (“I picked the wrong team or had it picked for me by Citibank” or “Congress wouldn’t work with me”)? Jiggy.

    And if “they” remove him in one of several ways? Triple jiggy.

    It’s not going to be possible for the 1 percent to prosper on this one. The jig is literally up.

    1. restless,

      I don’t understand what you are saying. What is “jiggy”?

      “It’s not going to be possible for the 1% to prosper on this one. The jig is literally up.”

      Why? The GOP-dominated Congress will pass Trump’s bank deregulation and tax-cuts-for-the-rich bills almost instantly – which are the 1%’s primary goals. Trump and Congress will certainly loosen environmental regulations, put more pressure on union, and take scores of other plutocrat-friendly actions. The 1% are sure winnings of 2017-2020. We just don’t know by how much.

      1. defines jiggy as nervous; active; energetic; excited.

        I define it as excited times, neverous times, active times. I’m sure you can understand what a fed up public does to a repubilc when things get jiggy.

        All of what you say makes no difference. Either things get done or the jig is up, no matter the reason they didn’t or couldn’t get done.

      2. restless,

        (1) The US has had many periods when things got “jiggy”. The Republic remains standing.

        (2) I gave you a list of major accomplishments that are almost certain. Others are likely, such as a substantial increase in the Syrian war (bipartisan support). Your concern that no “things get done” seems odd. The GOP controls both Houses and the Presidency. Lots will get done.

      3. Editor:

        Reply to 1): I know the history. There was also a Civil War that perhaps almost changed that. History is not now. And many things can change. Just because they did not before, is meaningless As history has proved over and over again.

        Reply to 2): A substantial increase in the Syrian war would be counter to one of Trump’s campaign promises and also would lead to hot war with a nuclear state or states. Thus, it does not matter what the GOP controls. The first part of that or is the important part: Trump has made a series of very strong promises and very broad ones. People voted for him to emphasize the need for economic and social relief. You apparently believe that those promises can go unfulfilled, because the 1 percent, because Congress, because the GOP.

        They can not and they will not. The. Jig. Is. Up.

  4. For lack of anything better to go by, I’m assuming Trump is shooting to be Reagan 2.0.
    Deficit spending, supply side economics, plenty of flag-waving. I assume corporate America will humor him if this is the path he takes.

    For this to work politically, Trump voters would have to be satisfied enough beating the Democrats that, and forget how his election season started out with a complete repudiation of the Republican establishment.

    Another political thing – Trump seems far stronger in attack mode than on defense. Now that he’s taken out both Bush and Clinton (who expected that?), he will need some new enemies. I’m not sure who that is going to be. Reagan had the Russians…

  5. Re: Trump vs. Congress: FM is correct that Congress SHOULD be in charge according to the Constitution and the Founding Father’s wishes but it has been quite a while since Congress last acted in unison against the wishes of the President. These days, Congress’s single greatest power is to fail to do something.

    My prediction is that will continue and, after the initial honeymoon period where somethings are possible, Congress will respond to Trump with the same sullen apathy (except when goaded by events) that they responded to Obama, Bush, and Clinton’s second term. The result will be a strengthening of the Imperial Presidency.

    I also expect Trump to fall into the same trap as Schwarzenegger and mock Congress, which, as FM already noted, does nothing to improve the speed or quality of the legislation they pass.

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