Friday, November 11, 2016

My first thought upon...

...emerging from the fetal position yesterday was, Trump's victory could be a blessing in disguise.

Now I know what you're thinking: that's a hell of a disguise!

First, consider what might have been. With a Democratic Senate, a President Hillary Clinton would have been able to appoint a replacement for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. If any of the other three justices over the age of 77 had retired in the next two years she could have replaced them too. Hillary could have conceivably appointed four left-leaning judges and tipped the court to a clear 6-3 liberal balance for a generation. That would have been the best-case scenario for Democrats, but it's obviously not going to happen now. That's the bad news.

The good news is that we won't have four more years of gridlock. And that would have been the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario would have been Republicans endlessly dogging a President Clinton with investigations into imagined "scandals" and impeachment threats. Any governing at all in Washington would have been impossible. In 2018 the Republicans were expected to take back the Senate anyway, and the gerrymandered House would have remained in GOP hands until at least the 2020 census (if not beyond). Then, on top of all that, the expansion would have been getting a little long in the tooth and -- like President George H. W. Bush -- Mrs. Clinton may have had the misfortune of running for reelection in 2020 in the midst of a recession.

So that's what we missed: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the Supreme Court, but that's about it.

(Let's pause here to acknowledge the obvious: Hillary Clinton, like Mitt Romney, John Kerry and Al Gore, was a terrible candidate for president. What was her rationale for running? Because she wanted to be president? That's not as compelling as "Make America Great Again." Granted, Mrs. Clinton is a highly intelligent, hard-working woman with an incredible grasp of policy. Although she had terrible political instincts I think she would have had the right governing instincts and would have made a good president. And I'm sure that's why Obama helped clear the field for her.

But, even though I was a Hillary supporter all the way for the reasons I just gave, I couldn't even watch her on TV. Whenever she would come on I would fast-forward to the next segment of the show. I contributed a little money to her campaign, but not nearly what I gave to Obama in 2008 and 2012. And I never considered for a minute driving to Iowa and knocking on doors for her like I did for Obama in 2012.

It turns out that while Trump got fewer votes than either McCain or Romney, Hillary got a lot fewer than Obama. And that's why she lost. Hey, if I didn't care that much about her candidacy, how could anyone else?)

Now, three days after the election, what exactly do we have? A President-elect Trump with the Republican Party in charge of all three branches of the federal government. (And that's not to mention all those GOP governors and state legislatures. Oy!)

What's my mood on the Friday after the election? Hopeful, optimistic. Really.

First, the good news: gridlock is over. With one party in control the government should function somewhat like a European-style parliamentary democracy where the winning party gets to put its agenda in place and -- here's the good part -- we get to see if it works or not.

Now, imagine -- just imagine -- that Trump turns out to be a better president than anyone thinks. And let's just say for argument's sake that the Republican agenda actually works and we enjoy 4-5 percent GDP growth, peace throughout the land, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. (What if arming everyone really does result in less gun violence? I know that sounds crazy but at least we'll know once and for all.) In that case I'll be more than happy to admit I was wrong -- about everything. It's more important for the country to prosper than for me to be right. (In my old age I'm nothing if not pragmatic.)

Now imagine, on the other hand, that the Trump administration turns out to be as bad as you had feared. Then the Republican agenda will be shown to be ineffective at solving the nation's problems and the Democrats will take back the Senate in 2018 and the White House in 2020. The country may look back on the Trump years much as we look back on W.'s administration. The Republican Party will be discredited -- again. And the center/left agenda of the Democrats will be put back in place. (And that's without assuming a recession in the next four years.)

It's important to remember this: we really don't know what a Trump administration will look like. No one knows what this guy thinks about anything. Maybe he'll turn out to be a huge pragmatist like FDR.

In the long run, Trump could actually be the best thing that ever happened to Democrats. What if he doesn't get along with Paul Ryan? What if he turns his back on the GOP leadership? What if, to get infrastructure spending, Trump triangulates with Chuck Schumer and the Democrats. Remember, I'm a pragmatist; if only Republicans can do infrastructure and put people back to work then so be it. (Why, by the way, do Republicans seem to be Austrians when in opposition but Keynesians when in control?) What if Trump returns to his roots and insists on some form of universal health care coverage? What if he decides, again, that abortion really is an issue for a woman and her doctor? What if he turns out to be a lot more centrist than we thought? It's not inconceivable.

Okay, but what if Trump turns out to be as bad as we feared? Well, first of all, he's not going to build that wall and he's not going to deport 11 million people. And there won't be a ban on Muslims. It's just not going to happen. And he probably won't repeal the ACA either; people need health insurance. He may or may not tear up the Iran deal and all the trade deals. He may or may not do all or some of the crazy things he talked about in the last year. If so, the American people will decide if he's an extremist or not.

One thing I feel pretty confident of is that Trump will not bring back all those good, high-paying manufacturing jobs from the 1950s and '60s. Those are lost to technology or Mexico and China and they aren't ever coming back. You just can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. And, sadly, many of the people who put their faith in Trump that he would "Make America Great Again" are going to be profoundly disappointed. If anything, they may suffer the most under a Trump administration.

If Trump can manage, however, to get infrastructure spending past a Republican Congress then maybe he will bring prosperity back to middle America. But is the austerity-minded GOP Congress going to go for that? Well, maybe. Deficit spending is only bad when a black Democrat is in the White House.

So, really, it's a win-win: if Trump succeeds, great; if not, that's ultimately good too.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of playing defense. I'm worn out from always defending President Obama to the knuckle-draggers and mouth-breathers in our midst (and my own family). It'll be refreshing to be on the outside looking in and either watching a great success -- or a great failure. My advice is to stock up on popcorn. This will be fun to watch.


Ed Crotty said...

Ryan wants to jam Medicare voucherization into the Obamacare repeal. Touching the 3rd rail.

James said...

It's disturbing the extent to which his behavior and speech have been normalized. This is a scumbag, a fear mongerer, and a bigot and there's no reason anyone should be okay with his being elected. His administration might be entertaining for a while but in the event of a national emergency things could go from bad to worse just like they did with W. What's up with W. being considered better in Trump's light, by the way? Did 9/11, the Iraq invasion, Katrina, and the Financial Crisis somehow not happen because of this election?

To me Trump and Brexit are signs of a financial system refusing to correct itself in the face of abysmal failure.

As the election shows, none of us knows what the future holds but as the election also shows the future is cause for serious concern.