Donald Trump is the President Elect of the United States. The night of the eighth, I sat at the edge of my bed, turning the phrase over, examining what it means for our future. On this subject, there is a massive amount of ground to be covered. It is a subject so broad, with ramifications so massive, that I most certainly will not be able to capture the scope of it all in one article. Today, I will give a birds eye view of what I image the Trump Presidency will look like. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will examine each of the subjects discussed here in far greater depth. As I examine all the elements, really only one theme leaps out at me: the absolute uncertainty of what exactly the next four years of President Trump will contain. The man is a real wild card. He could be an excellent president, he could be a catastrophic president and he could be anywhere in between. Given the sheer murkiness of the tea, any attempt to read the tea leaves (my own reading included) should thus be taken with many grains of salt.
Great White Hope: How did we get here?
The election of Donald Trump is best understood as a massive failure of the establishment. Both the Democratic and Republican establishment failed to grasp the threat they were facing and failed to react appropriately, while the establishment media failed to give him respect as a legitimate and viable candidate. What none of these institutions realized was that this contempt played right into the Donald’s hands. Over the course of the past generation or so, millions of average Americans have drifted away from elite sensibilities and institutions. This drift has produced an intense distrust for the media, politicians, and business elites. As non-liberal, non-elite whites have seen their standard of living deteriorate, this distrust has only grown. Liberal elites under Obama made things worse through their crusades for political correctness and embrace of a privilege theory. In the past eight years, the world changed so rapidly and so visibly that it set white heads spinning. The haranguing nature of political correctness only made this problem worse, as the privilege theory which undergirded it demonized and villainized middle america as sexist, racist and homophobic.This kind of socio-economic pressure can only build for so long before erupting, and in 2016, erupt it did. Facing attacks from without and decay from within, whites asserted their identity on the national level, elevating Trump as the tribal leader. Trump thus became the ultimate protest vote. He is a resounding shot by the silent majority against the elites who lecture and harass them while doing nothing to stop their slide into poverty.
Build the Wall: The Donald on immigration
From the literal dawn of his campaign, Trump has placed immigration at its center. His hardline opposition and his harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration was vital to his success, playing no small part in drawing crowds and media attention. During his campaign, he has promised to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States and build a ‘big beautiful wall’ along the southern border to make sure they stay out. Coupled with this was the promise to intensify border security, and greatly empower law enforcement officers on the border, a promise which earned him the endorsement of ICE, their first Presidential endorsement ever. As with all things, it is hard to tell how serious Donald was about this. Proponents of free migration and more open borders are certainly shocked and terrified. As for Muslim immigration, it is safe to assume that it will grind to a halt. there will be no Syrian refugees allowed into the country, and Muslim travelers to the United States will likely face intensified harassment at airports and borders. The fact that the Donald build his campaign on immigration, and thus has the most to lose if he fails to deliver on his promises, leads me to believe that he will make good on his promises in some form. In the days since the election, Trump has promised to immediately deport around three million illegal immigrants and has not let up on his talk of a wall (though it will be a fence in some places). While the dystopian vision of a deportation force going house-to-house to deport millions of people will likely not come to pass in it’s entirety, immigration activists are not wrong to fear President Trump. He is certain to step up a policy of deportation which was already aggressive under Barack Obama and generally make life difficult for those who seek to enter our country.
Out come the Truncheons: racial relations under Trump
While race relations have hardly been improving under President Obama, it is almost impossible to imagine that they will go anywhere but south under President Trump. Trump ran on the most racially charged platform since George Wallace in 1968, garnering the enthusiastic support of numerous open white nationalists in the process. While the David Dukes of the world are certainly an extreme example of Trump’s following, the racial animus permeates Trump’s base of support, as it has been shown that Trump supporters are far more likely to think that blacks are violent and criminal. While Trump himself may not be as openly virulently racist as some of his most odious cheerleaders, his administration will likely see serious steps backwards for American Blacks. Trump ran claiming that he was the “law and order” candidate, a phrase which historically has meant more police power and an intensified police presence in black communities. To this end, Trump has also called for a national stop and frisk policy, a policy decried as racist by Black organizations. At the height of ‘law and order’ politics, In the late early nineties, Trump took out a full page ad in the New York Times urging the death penalty for the central park five, five black men accused of raping and murdering a jogger. Though these men were later exonerated, Trump remains largely unrepentant about his role in fanning the flames of public anger. While there can be no denying that crime is a serious blight upon black communities, an aggressive, tough on crime philosophy has only exacerbated the dysfunction of these communities. An expansion of police powers and a doubling down on law and order policies almost certainly bodes ill for the Black Lives Matter movement and the health of the broader Black community.
Who Gives a shit?: Trump on social issues
Throughout the election, I found no accusation to be quite as hollow as the accusations of homophobia, transphobia, and general social backwardness aimed at Donald Trump. It would be almost impossible to honestly describe Trump as a social conservative. On a personal level, the twice divorced, five-children-with-three-women, and unprecedentedly crude Trump is hardly a moral exemplar. At the end of the day, it’s hard to grow up in New York and be immersed in ‘New York Values’ without becoming reasonably socially liberal. While the man may be coarse and crude, I actually believe he is fairly forward thinking for a rich white man born in the 1940’s. In a 2000 interview with the LGBT magazine Advocate, Trump expressed indifference to a co-worker’s sexual orientation. Earlier this year, during the transgender bathroom debate, Trump came out and said that he would let Caitlyn Jenner use whatever bathroom she wanted at Trump tower, which is a taco-bowl-tweet way of supporting trans rights. At both the RNC and in his acceptance speech, Trump stated and restated his desire to protect LGBT citizens. Trump is no social conservative, but this does not change the fact that the Party and apparatus he has behind him is. Vice President Mike Pence is a firm proponent of the “pray the gay away” approach to homosexuality, and led the charge against gay rights in Indiana under the aegis of religious liberty. In congress, possibly the most reactionary Republican Party ever awaits Trump’s rubber stamps. Seeing the writing on the wall, the LGBT community is in an abject state of panic. While Trump may not hold tremendous bigotry in his heart, I cannot imagine him expending his political capital to protect them from his own allies. When considering women’s issues, the same logic applies. Trump himself has shown to be a grossly misogynistic individual, bragging about sexual assault and routinely evincing an attitude which would not be out of place in the boardrooms of Mad Men. As with LGBT issues, the policy implications of Trump’s personal immorality are unclear. Trump also refused to take a hardline on Planned Parenthood, vacillating on whether or not he would defund the social conservative boogeyman. Trump has claimed to be pro-life, but this position can hardly be considered to be set in stone. Much like the LGBT issue, it is hard to imagine Trump will spend a tremendous amount of his political capital defending women’s issues. As a whole, it is likely that social issues will take a backseat for President Trump, and he will defer much of this to the Party, which is rightfully frightening for those with a socially progressive world view
You get what you pay for: Trump’s economy
Trump’s lack of expertise is at it’s most egregious when it comes to the arcane, complicated world of fiscal and economic policy. To this end, we can expect that Trump will defer to both his advisors and the Republican Congressional authorities. Iam genuinely not sure which is worse. on one hand, Trump’s utter lack of knowledge and sheer volatility could easily produce a financial collapse, on the other, the congressional Republicans are so out of line with conventional economic logic that they could also easily produce a financial collapse (as Anne Coulter so helpfully pointed out, the last time Republicans had such unilateral power was immediately before the great depression). In the field of healthcare, it appears that Trump has already walked back his promise to repeal Obamacare, after being confronted with the political danger that comes from depriving twenty million people of their healthcare. The Trump fiscal policy also grants massive tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy, and will run up deficit spending to the point where a massive economic catastrophe will become inevitable.
The Gates go up: Trump and trade
Any discussion of the economy under Trump cannot be considered to be complete without a discussion of trade policy. In this realm, Trump has historically opposed lowering barriers on trade. In the early nineties, he was a fierce critic of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) , and has criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on largely similar grounds. He has an intense protectionist streak, seeing free trade as the root cause of the gutting of working class America. Trump has promised to renegotiate NAFTA, scrap the TPP, and erect trade barriers such as import tariffs (One of his campaign promises was a 45% tariff on Chinese imports and a 35% tariff on Mexican imports). Trump has also been highly critical of our trade arrangements with China, routinely claiming that China is playing us for suckers. To this end, predictions of trade war between the United States and China have been a frequent part of this election. These predictions are entirely reasonable, In his seven-point trade plan, Trump has promised to label China a currency manipulator and bring suits against China for its practices, provocations which could easily escalate into a full-blown trade war. As in most things, it is virtually impossible to tell how this will play out. Much like his stance on immigration, it is hard to imagine Trump softening his stance on free trade, especially when one considers that his opposition to trade is one of the few consistent positions he has held for the last twenty odd years.
Is it getting hot in here?: Environmental policy
Energy and environmental policy is almost certain to be another realm where Trump is an unmitigated disaster. In the past, Trump has claimed that global warming is a Chinese conspiracy designed to cripple American manufacturing. While he walked this fanciful claim back during the election, Trump still does not grasp the existential threat posed by climate change. As if to emphasize this ignorance, Trump appointed Myron Ebrell, a noted climate change denier, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) within days of his election as president. Trump has also promised to essentially erase president Obama’s largely positive environmental record by withdrawing from the Paris climate accord and removing many of restrictions placed on fossil fuel producers. The removal of these restrictions will likely ratchet up natural gas exploration, amplify the controversial practice of fracking and pave the way for the Keystone XL pipeline. On the stump, Trump promised to make coal country great again. Despite the fact that coal is not economically viable and one of the most immediately pollutant forms of energy, Trump likely intends to bestow political favor on the hard-hit coal counties which helped deliver him Pennsylvania and Ohio. While I am not an environmentalist by any stretch of the imagination, it is hard to understate exactly how destructive Trump’s environmental policies will be. I see this as the most frightening element of Trump’s policy. Damage to society can largely be healed, but it is far more difficult to repair damage to the environment we rely on to live.
Pop goes the World: the Trump doctrine
Globally, the greatest cause for concern about President Trump has come from his ideas on geopolitics. More so than any other Presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, Trump is an dangerously revisionist President. He has shown an utter disregard for the norms and structures which have dominated the world in the years since the Second World War. The shock to the system that Trump represents is so immense that some commentators have called it the end of Pax Americana. Due to both his erratic nature and isolationist impulses, it should come as little surprise that most foreigners living under America’s security umbrella are dismayed by Trump’s win and many of our geopolitical rivals are thrilled. Most thrilled is Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which supported the Trump campaign via wikileaks during the election, and is likely besides itself to have an American president who has spoken fondly of Putin. Less thrilled are the nations of NATO, an alliance whose value Trump has called into question. He has threatened to withdraw protection from nations which do not pay their fair share, a threat which has caused the Baltic nation of Estonia to prepare for an insurgency against what they see as an imminent Russian invasion. In the Middle East, the Sunni states are likely panicking, as Trump has been a harsh critic of theirs, and his administration is likely to tip the balance in Syria in favor of the Assad Government. On the Pacific Rim, Trump has in the past questioned the value of the security alliances with Japan and South Korea, which will likely see an intensification of militarization in both nations. As a whole, Trump’s presidency will likely be a stressful time for American allies, while a boom time for authoritarian powers, and has the very real prospect of being a time of global instability unseen since 1945.
In the halls of the Trumpen king: The Trump White House
Given Trump’s sheer inexperience in the realm of politics and policy, the efficacy of his administration will be will be largely dependent on the people he surrounds himself with. The Donald’s inexperience will result in a White House Staff and Cabinet with an extraordinary degree of power and latitude compared to their predecessors. Yesterday evening, Trump made his first announcement on this subject; that he was appointing former RNC chair Reince Priebus as his Chief of Staff and Steve Bannon, Breitbart chairman and former campaign Chief Executive, as his Chief Strategist. With this move, Trump has shown that he intends to split power between the GOP establishment he needs to govern the nation and the anti-establishment alt-right that helped elevate him to the Oval Office in the first place. As for the rest of the Trump cabinet, the past few days have been awash with baseless speculation. Bearing in mind that all the speculation is baseless and probably wrong, I am going to make a few educated guesses as to which of Trump’s top surrogates are to be empowered. First, Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General is probably a fairly safe bet. For Secretary of State, Giuliani’s name has also been speculated about, as has former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Many of the names being speculated about are cause for concern simply because of their sheer incompetence. Among my friends, it has become a running joke that Sarah Palin will be Secretary of the Interior while Dr. Ben Carson could be named Secretary of Education. The fact that these people are even being vetted is concerning, as they are by no stretch of the imagination the best and brightest the American right has to offer. Still, as the ground is far from settled in this matter, I intend to reserve my judgement until we have a more complete picture of the Trump cabinet.
Et tu, Brute?: Trump and the GOP
Possibly the single largest shock of this election was the sheer size of the majority, on all levels of government, won by the Republican Party. For the first time in almost ninety years, the republicans have total dominance over the branches of government. While this is certainly cause for concern for many liberals, the unity of this GOP can be described as fragile at best. Trump may be aggressively anti-establishment, but the Party he needs to work with is still firmly in that same establishment he attacked and insulted throughout the primaries. During the General Election, establishment Republicans kept Trump at an arm's length, many going so far as to out and out repudiate him after the leak of the hot mic tape in mid-October. Now that Trump has delivered an overwhelming Republican victory, he likely has a massive slush fund of goodwill to draw upon, but there is no question that the marriage between Trump and the GOP will be an uneasy one. Trump holds many views anathema to the movement conservatives which dominate the GOP. Many opposed his open xenophobia, disdain for trade and isolationism. If Trump wishes to enact his agenda, he may be required to go over or through his own Party. Directly behind Trump stands Mike Pence, a man with impeccable movement conservative credentials. Trump is no longer on the campaign trail, he is now in the halls of power. If he does not tread lightly, he could find the knives of his Republican brethren in his back.
The long march: the future of the Democratic Party
In the days leading up to this election, emotions were heady in the Democratic Party. Trump was floundering, and it looked like the Party had not only the Oval Office, but a majority in the senate within their grasp as well. The elections proved to be an utterly shocking and devastating defeat, with the Party thrown out of power entirely. Given these devastating losses, the inter-Party strife many expected to face the GOP in the aftermath of the election is now playing out within the Democratic Party. The unity between the Bernie Sanders progressive wing and the establishment of the Democratic Party has all but come undone in the days following the election. Many members of the Party blame the DNC for saddling the Party with a weak candidate and fueling the fires of corruption allegations, most notable of which would be a DNC junior staffer who publicly gave interim chairwoman Donna Brazile a tongue lashing. The first battleground between the moderates and the progressives will be the DNC chairmanship, a position responsible for raising funds and providing national support to races. Progressives have nominated Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota for leader of the DNC. Already, many heavyweights, such as Bernie Sanders, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, and his predecessor, Harry Reid, have thrown their support behind Ellison. While Ellison has not officially thrown his hat in the ring, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean has. While Dean may hold progressive views and have a record of efficacy in the position, his vocal opposition to Bernie’s candidacy will make him anathema to many progressives. The choice the Democrats here will likely set the tone for their next few years. Now in opposition, the range of options for the Democrats exists on a spectrum with conciliatory at one end and insurgency at the other. Many progressive thought leaders (most prominently, Michael Moore) are now calling on the Party to treat President Trump with the kindness and dignity of the Tea Party during the Obama years. While the left may not be as loud as the right, there is no doubt that the rifts opened by Bernie Sanders’ primary have opened again, igniting a new battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.
Bull in a China Shop: The Donald’s and democracy
Donald Trump is unlike any previous President-Elect in modern history. He is a man with no political experience; a real estate developer with an uncanny talent for garnering publicity. He has no philosophical background and no real political education. Perhaps as a result of this ignorance, Trump has made many concerning statements over the course of the election, causing many to fret that he is a genuine threat to American democracy. Trump has talked about strengthening libel laws, a move which could easily restrict press freedom. Trump has expressed admiration for authoritarian leaders, most notable of which is Putin. Many see echoes of Hitler or Mussolini in his swaggering populism and mastery of speaking to the masses via new media. As a result of Trump’s election over five days of continuous protests have erupted, and many on the left are preparing for the worst, both mentally and practically. While this is not entirely fair to Trump, it is not hard to see why they are frightened.
There is no telling exactly where Trump’s Presidency will lead. The man is truly the ultimate wild card. He could make America great again. Far more likely is that his lack of experience, poor temperment and weak supporting cast will do immense damage to America and her standing as a global power. These serious misgivings aside, I do agree with President Obama. The man is owed the benefit of the doubt. Only time will tell what a Trump administration will bring. For many further to the left of me, those protesting against Trump on the streets, this advice is anathema, and the time for action is now. To them I say, It will not be long before the day to push back comes. Until then, progressives are best suited to get their house in order, and make the best possible plans and organizations when the call comes. Until then, it best to get used to the phrase “Donald Trump’s America”.