Thursday, December 1, 2016

When it comes to Donald Trump...'s a little like that story of the blind men and the elephant.

Who is this Trump guy anyway? What will he be like as president? Will he govern like he campaigned, as a populist? Or will he be more like a traditional Republican and serve the one percent? Does he want to protect Social Security and Medicare like he said during the campaign? Or will he turn around and sign whatever legislation Paul Ryan sends to his desk? In foreign policy, will he be an isolationist? Or will he "bomb the shit" out of ISIS? Will he support NATO? Or cozy up to Putin? Will he continue tweeting in the middle of the night? Or will he -- at long last -- pivot and act more "presidential"? How on earth will he conduct himself in the Oval Office? How will he govern? Who, after all, is Donald Trump?

Face it: if anyone else had been elected president -- Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, anyone -- you and I would have a very good idea what their priorities would be and how they would govern. But Trump? He's like that elephant in the picture above and we are all blind.

But here's one clue. Frank Bruni of the New York Times was on Charlie Rose recently. And if he didn't put it exactly this way, my takeaway was that Trump -- if nothing else -- wants to succeed at this job.

Now you might be thinking to yourself, "Of course, he wants to succeed! Who wouldn't?" But I would maintain that a Paul Ryan, for instance, would want more than anything else to push a libertarian agenda if he were elected president. I think he'd rather fail while trying than to "succeed" without trying.

So the next question is (and I think Bruni got at this a little), What would "success" look like for Donald Trump? And the answer is, good poll numbers. Remember, this is the most insecure guy you will ever see in your life. Let me repeat that: Donald Trump is the most insecure person ever. What does he want more than anything else in the world? Respect, approval, good television ratings. I'll say that Trump's definition of success is leaving office in four or eight years with the highest approval ratings ever.

And how does he achieve that? By doing popular things, of course. Like saving jobs in Indiana.* And cutting taxes. Your taxes, my taxes, anyone's and everyone's taxes. Republicans just lovelovelove to cut taxes, don't they? (And as for that pesky national debt, well, the next guy can deal with that.) What else is popular? I don't know -- you fill in the blank.

But I can tell you what's not popular: taking away anyone's health care, whether it's from repealing the Affordable Care Act or privatizing Medicare. Those two things, for example, just don't poll well. And so a guy who lost the popular vote is unlikely to do anything that would hurt his poll numbers. Sign a repeal of the ACA or legislation to end Medicare? I think Trump would be much more likely to slap down a Paul Ryan and bask in everyone's adoration at poor Mr. Ryan's expense. Take one for the team? What team? Donald Trump is a Team of One.

My best guess right now is that Trump governs according to polls and what makes him most popular. (Now give me back that blindfold.)

* Although I have to repeat this tweet from Paul Krugman yesterday: Trump would have to do one Carrier-sized deal a week for 30 years to save as many jobs as Obama's auto bailout. 

1 comment:

Ed Crotty said...

"saved" jobs - subsidised $700,000 by Indiana taxpayers. More like "purchased"