On Donald Trump — hoping for the best and expecting the worst
By a college freshman who thinks he knows better
Thoughts and Feelings
Writing this essay leaves a bitter taste and a sick feeling in the stomach (also extremely annoying since I’ve had to update and edit this thing back and forth 14 times since he’s been flip-flopping on issues every day since he won). I am controlling my inner urges to spew out slurs, so it might sound apathetic at certain points. I was caught off-guard by this loss. By 7 a.m., I was already hoping for something that would disqualify him, like an indictment. But I had to accept the reality. November 9th was a loss for a lot of people in America and many more across the freedom-loving world. But it was also a win for many voters wanting to let everyone know what was on their mind. Racism, sexism and hate was not on top of the list for many. It was the economy, jobs, and security. They were scared, angry and even perhaps hopeless. But none of that makes their voice invalid. Election day was equalizing day. It was the day they got to throw the orange fizz-molotov cocktail at the political machine, the elites, the rich and the educated. As a foreigner with relatively lower stakes, I am inclined to respect their will and imperative. After a cooldown period for the nation and the world, President-elect Trump will walk into the place that once housed the mavericks of his country. Although he is by no measure a role model, I hope he is capable of treat the White House with the grace and honor it deserves, just as his predecessors had.
How He Won
Hillary Clinton’s Firewall fell in spectacular fashion. Not even Pennsylvania stood. As pundits and news network scramble to speculate why she had lost every single swing state, most pointed to the obvious: white voters in rural America. Trump may have lost almost every minority but made enough grounds in the white vote to make up the difference. These are the same white working class who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. Back then, they voted for an embodiment of hope and change. Maybe in Trump, they still see the same. To them, they weren’t betraying the Democrats, the Democrats had already betrayed them. This article from Cracked may help you picture what went into their decisions.
Trump won 53% percent the white women vote, according to NBC’s exit polls. So the polls were wrong. His comments, while disturbing, were not enough to change their minds on who they perceived to be their savior. The battle against sexism in America isn’t about whether it’s wrong or not, but rather about whether it exists. Clearly, there is still work to be done, a lot of fighting lies ahead.
Despite being the most qualified candidate in modern history to run for President, barring perhaps only Bush Sr., she was deeply flawed candidate whose horrible handling of her scandals marred her image to the point where voters were simply unable to commit to her. After her resignation as Secretary of State in 2012, the GOP took the cue that she was preparing for a presidential bid. They latched onto any and all of her missteps in their campaign of character assassination, and it worked.
Voter apathy caused by an ugly election season and 2 extremely disliked candidates led a lot of voters to third party candidates. Gary Johnson and Jill Stein siphoned away 4.1 million and 1.2 million votes respectively, just enough in Florida and other swing states that if even half of his voters had voted Clinton, she would have won comfortably. I’m sure Bill Weld is planning on murdering Johnson any moment now. But voters are entitled to their vote. In 2032, we might just look at this election and say “Well, third time’s the charm, right?”
The media is also at fault for the outcome of this election. With the majority of the American public engaging in social media, news nowadays cannot seem to agree on what is fact and what is not. Mainstream has lost its credibility for being the standard bearer of the truth. Using social media and being locked in an echo chamber is the equivalent of locking yourself in your mother’s basement with a machine that will say yes to everything you say and a food delivery system that would give the same shitty, unhealthy pizza every time without telling you the calories count of said pizza. Having information be catered to specific tastes and values has effectively cut people off from debates and discussions that would make them uncomfortable, but beneficial to their world views.
Yes, she won the popular vote and thus should have been the winner. But the race, as it is, has never been decided by a popular vote. Hillary lost in the Electoral College, and in states where it mattered. Trump, on the other hand, energized his base and won fair and square, by the rules of the game in all important swing states that racked up his win in the Electoral College. With Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida in hand, states that have traditionally granted presidents a mandate as he enters the White House, Donald Trump has won, convincingly.
I have noticed that a lot of people are crying out now that the Electoral College should be abolished, that it is undemocratic and so on. While your points certainly are valid, the Electoral College has also served a purpose. It keeps smaller states in the conversation, without being ignored by candidates. I agree that it has been antiquated in its methods and does not reflect the electorate accurately. But instead of abandoning it, why not think about the changes that would make it work better? Get rid of first-past-the-post voting, expand the House of Representatives to reflect America’s growth in population. The USA has had 435 congressional districts for 103 years! California currently has 66 times the number of people in Wyoming, yet it only has only 18 times the number of electors. Another ingenuous proposition, already passed in 10 states and Washington D.C., calls for a change in the way electors are selected, by following the results of the national popular vote instead of the statewide vote. The Electoral College has major problems when it comes to accurately representing the population of the US. Changes to solve this problem would be slower, but more plausible in the near future.
Policy and Administration
So what can we expect from a Trump administration? Obviously, I’ll rule out any apocalypse situation as I still firmly believe in the checks and balances in place to prevent just that. I’ll walk through the most important parts of his presidency and any positives one may look forward to. I will avoid labeling his policies when discussing them as they are literally everywhere on the political spectrum. I must also note that these speculations are purely based on current reports in this election season and his promises in his campaign, so there is no guarantee that they will be true. But I hope to give you a more nuanced look into his positions and set your expectations.
The Economy — a.k.a. the Motherload
Trump has promised a lot of policies that would benefit the blue-collar white middle class and poor people who voted overwhelmingly for him. His policies, however vague, covers the tax system, adjustments to the federal budget and debt, trade and creating jobs.
Donald Trump has promised a series of tax cuts for citizens across the board. Most middle-class families will see a $2700 reduction in federal income tax. However, the richest taxpayers would see a cut of $1.3 million. There will be a simpler, albeit less effective, system of marginal tax brackets, with 3 instead of 7 brackets. The corporate tax rate would also be cut in half, from 35% to 15%. In addition, he has also introduced deductions for family utilizing childcare and eldercare services. They make sense, and as a lone-standing piece of legislation, might be so bipartisan that it can be pushed through Congress fairly quickly.
A report by the Tax Policy Center estimates that the US federal government would lose a staggering $9.5 trillion in revenues over the next ten years should Trump’s tax policies take place, since the recovery of taxes from corporations is no way enough to make up for the massive tax cuts to everyone. His tax plans in terms of revenue, will set back all progress made by President Obama in reducing the deficit and the national debt.
Spending wise, Trump will push for a lot more spending in public infrastructure. This may be one of the two good things that can come out of a Trump presidency. Trump’s plan will create $1 trillion in infrastructure spending through private-public partnerships over the next decade. This spending will undoubtedly result in improvements in highways, bridges cough Chris Christie cough, schools, hospitals, etc. Public-sector construction jobs will be abundant. But knowing the GOP platform, they’ll make this package a set of block grants for states to spread by themselves. This means minorities might not get to benefit from this program as much as white communities. He also maintains that this plan will be revenue neutral. Nobody knows how, but he says it will be.
The military will get a spending boost from Trump. He believes the military is underfunded and in shambles. The Department of Defense will be like that NYU Abu Dhabi kid when the stipends come in. I haven’t seen any details or number on this matter but it won’t be as high as the Bush period.
Trump has supported the repeal of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the response of the Obama administration after the crisis of 2008. The Act has numerous legal safeguards and barriers preventing financial firms from causing another financial crisis. From his rhetoric, one can assume that it won’t be replaced with another set of regulations, and that worries a lot of economists. A regulation-free environment for financial firms could possibly trigger another crisis that the global economy is not ready for. In 2018, Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, the controller the monetary policy of the US, will end her term. Trump will likely choose someone who would be running a much looser fiscal and monetary policy to fit his projections of 4% growth in the GDP, ludicrous for an economy the size of the US. This can lead to serious consequences as the currently tight policy run by the Fed has kept the dollar strong and inflation within manageable limits. If the worst possible case scenario were to happen, everyone just might agree with Ted Cruz for once: we might have to bring back the gold standard, just to keep the world economy from crashing. It will be a cold day in hell when that happens.
On trade, we know with a certain degree of certainty that Trump will walk away from TPP and reduce the freedom NAFTA has allowed. This is bad news for countries that can benefit from TPP and well, everyone who’s not China. Trump is however, against China in the trade war and wants to cut down the trade deficit the US has with China. This leads me to believe that he can be persuaded to pursue a policy that would limit China’s economic influence here. He would also set out to create tariffs that would punish companies for producing goods in other countries and incentivize them to move production back to America. The effects of tariffs are predicted by most economists as being able of triggering a trade war, forcing other countries to set their own tariffs against American products. Trump’s argument for this protectionist policy is that it would bring back well-paying manufacturing jobs for the communities that were ravaged by companies shipping production overseas. But he is not providing a lot of incentives for corporations to actually hire American workers instead of automating their production line for lower costs and protecting their bottom line. In other words, even if his tariffs could force companies to move back, jobs may not necessarily follow.
I’m not entirely sure about the extent to which the legislative branch will accept these measures. The Democratic minority will put up a fight to prevent the ones that will destroy the budget outright and I’m hoping some Republicans can still do math. It will be a bloody fight between party ideology, lobby interest and constituents. Trump’s mandate will have a major effect on GOP’s lawmakers’ decision-making.
Energy and the Environment
Yeah, we’re pretty fucked on this front. Donald Trump has made it clear that he does not believe in the threat of climate change. His initiatives will roll back President Obama’s progress in supporting the green energy industry and reining in fossil fuel. He, with the power of the executive, will lift regulations limiting the oil, coal and natural gas industry. The Keystone Pipeline Project will definitely be approved, spelling disaster for the Nebraska region due to risks of oil spills. The Environmental Protection Agency is likely to be headed by Myron Ebell, a known climate-change denier. The man has himself called out 97% of the science community as being “silly” for admitting climate change is caused by human activity and intends to use EPA funding to engage in lawsuits against the climate-change cause. Yes, the future of the Environmental Protection Agency will be fighting against the people trying to protect the environment. Environmentalists are going to have a very tough 4 years, to say the least.
Donald Trump’s position is pro-choice. He wants to add an additional $20 billion in federal funding for education. He also wants individual state governments to cough up an additional $110 billion for school choice. This funding, he argues, should be able to follow the child into whichever public or private school of their choice. This policy, contrary to what he claims, is skewed to mostly benefit more wealthy families and children. My personal take is that any regulation allowing states to do so can be challenged in the court. However, given Anthony Kennedy’s record and philosophy, it may come to be upheld.
There is no way around it. Obama’s signature legislation will be dismantled. The GOP has the votes and the mandate to do so. 20 million people will lose their insurance. Thousands will die from not being able to afford treatment for their conditions. Or not. Apparently, after his conversation with Barack Obama, he said he just might keep the good parts of it (i.e. the part that allow people to get insurance even if they have a pre-existing condition and the one that let kids stay on their parents’ plan until they’re 26). While there’s not much we can tell on his intention, there’s a lot to be said about his platform. Donald Trump’s plan for healthcare focuses less on people’s right to healthcare, but rather the market’s right to adjust itself and somehow protect consumers from high prices. He wants to break down the state boundaries that ban companies from selling insurance across states and make insurance premiums tax-deductible. The second point makes a lot of sense. The first one, however, raises more questions. Health insurance, like telecommunications and transportation, is a unique industry where having fewer providers and less competition actually helps by making the pool of payers larger, therefore spreading the cost of treatment over a large number of people, making premiums cheaper. State barriers were supposed to be the solution. By opening up those barriers, it will a long time before the market battle can settle with a few providers. Another reason why premiums are high is that drug companies are basically free from having to negotiate on prices. Whatever they charge, the market has to bite. Trump does want to break this monopoly by allowing a flow of cheaper medicine to come in from Canada and other countries. This I sort of agree with (and apparently, Bernie as well). But he still has some plans that are frankly, inhumane. Instead of pursuing policies that allow more people to get access to cheap health insurance, he wants to establish a tax-exempt Health Savings Account that families can draw from to pay for treatment, basically guaranteeing healthcare only for those who can afford it.
It is not known if he would cooperate with the GOP establishment (i.e. Paul Ryan and Co.) to incorporate some of their plans into his. What we do know is that Paul Ryan a.k.a. ‘Paul Rand’ intends to phase out Medicare, the program aimed at providing affordable care for citizens 65 and up and the most popular government program in recent history, in 2017. Yes, you read that correctly. The GOP is aiming to cut insurance for old people, effectively trying to kill off their only reliable constituency, because reasons.
At least there’s a silver lining, if Trump actually follows up on it (I won’t hold my breath): Veterans might be on the agenda for real this time around. As a part of his 100-day agenda, Trump wants to guarantee veterans priority as they receive treatment, physical or mental, from a provider of their choice.
This is going to be long and hard. Trump has no experience whatsoever in this matter and his knowledge is going to be dubious. Experts have called out his plans as being “wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle”. His campaign so far has been one of isolationism, limiting America’s influence in the world, or our interpretation of it, as an ally, trade partner and an enemy. His idea of a global power is purely a show of strength, rather than an ability to forge and protect alliances.
In the Middle East, the fight in Iraq and Syria against ISIS will more likely than not, keep moving in the direction it already is. Trump might just appreciate the generals and intelligence experts’ advice and information to keep the fight on auto-pilot and crush Mosul, assuming it won’t already be taken by the time he takes office. In Syria, Trump will backtrack on the US’s current support of the rebels, basically handing the current war over to Assad’s hands. This will appease Putin as Assad is one of his closest allies in the Middle East. For now, it will give Putin even less incentive to get on the table and negotiate with the Obama administration. There’s no telling how worse the situation in Syria will get in the 2-month waiting period. A two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems impossible now that Trump has come out in staunch support for Israel’s interests and renounced Palestine. The Iran nuclear deal, which put a cap on its nuclear program by guaranteeing that the US stop its sanctions against Iran, is likely to go under review and kept as it is as Trump claimed he would try to re-negotiate. This obviously goes against his campaign promise, but at this point, I’m not sure we can be surprised by anything.
He obviously has favorable views of Russia and current regimes. This will complicate the current administration’s efforts in the Baltics. His assumed friendliness with Russia also means that he won’t be backing future EU sanctions against Russia over the invasion of Ukraine. Without the US’ backing, the EU has one less reason to renew them before they can bite into Russia’s reserves of liquid assets that are literally keeping the country afloat. Eastern European countries in NATO, as well as Japan and South Korea, are already concerned as Trump’s isolationist tendencies and suggestion that he might not uphold their alliances might just put them at risk against Russian and Chinese aggression.
Oh right, CHAINA. Who can forget them? Trump will go out to accuse China of devaluing the yuan in order to ease its exports and impose tariffs on Chinese products in order to get them to negotiate with him. And he might be right, with a price, of course. Given how much China sells to the US, they are extremely limited in their means of trade retaliation. In the bigger sense of things, however, the two countries might enter its most tense period of their relationship. A trade war would hurt both countries’ industries and their people. A Trump presidency would also present China with geopolitical possibilities. Given Trump’s lack of assurance that he would back them unless they contributed more, allies like Japan, Taiwan and South Korea might be nervous and look for measures of self-defense, which do not exclude acquiring nuclear deterrent themselves. Countries in South East Asia will have less incentives to swing in the US’ direction now that TPP is basically dead, and China might just find themselves in a position to assert their authority in the region. Trump has even called out countries like Vietnam as the countries stealing from the US (For my compatriots reading this: THIS IS FUCKING BAD. LIKE, REALLY, REALLY BAD).
All of the above is purely speculation with the assumption that Trump will have the temperament to stay on course with his own policy. That is, of course, a long shot since it took him 5 days to pivot on the Iran deal. Which means I might have just written more than 500 words that meant absolutely nothing.
According to his campaign’s proposal, he will impose harsher, if not impossible vetting of refugees from the Middle East. His campaign has been running under the assumption that the US is letting refugees flow into the country without any control. This is not the case, and I’m sure, just as he had after his meeting at the White House, he would pivot on this issue by letting the process run as it already is, then take credit for the already safe vetting process of refugees (just like he is prone to do). This is the best possible outcome that can come out of his administration.
Luckily, the wall will not happen. It is physically impossible to build, costs too much even for a Republican Congress to pass and most importantly, MEXICO WILL NOT PAY FOR IT. There is no economic weapon strong enough to force a sovereign nation to pay for another’s infrastructure (if it can be considered infrastructure at all). And the wall wouldn’t work. At all. The current border is already too sufficient at stopping illegals arriving by land. Most of the illegal immigrants in the US arrived by plane (you know, one of the many things that walls cannot stop). So yeah, not getting built. (UPDATE: apparently, the wall will be just a few more fences. We liberals are most amused.)
For the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the US, life will be harder. The deportation force Trump talks about so much will be tested in terms of how effective they will be, given that it would be a completely new agency with a mostly untested administration. The sheer logistical weight of removing at least 2 million people from a country is fairly unknown to recent memory. Our best shot is that Trump would be too incompetent to actually accomplish this feat. One disturbing but arguably useless plan to flush out illegal immigrants is cutting federal funding from ‘Sanctuary Cities’, cities that intentionally ignore illegal immigrants caught by local police, refuse to report them to immigration authorities, or have policies that allow them to benefit from public services, in order to force them to cooperate with him and his deportation force. I doubt this would work as well as he claims since cities with large numbers of immigrants are less dependent on federal funding than small towns and suburbs. Trump has also promised to reverse Obama’s executive orders protecting the children and parents of these immigrants and make sure countries receive the illegal immigrants he deported. His policies will cause a net loss for the US’ economy, especially in the farming and service industry, where immigrants would be more willing to do jobs Americans would not do because of low wages and hard labor.
Difficulties will arise for immigrants across the board as he wants companies to prioritize American workers before looking for foreign workers. The H1B visa program, which has helped American companies recruit gifted individuals but also allowed them to recruit cheap replacements for many American workers, is at threat. I personally do not believe that it will be terminated, since it is based on the Immigration and Nationality Act, which means that it will be a long and hard battle fought in Congress to get any changes passed. What is more likely is changes within the executive branch. Trump can direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to set new procedures and standards that would make it more difficult for companies and individuals to obtain work permits in the US. The first way he can do this is to raise the requirement that employers pay to foreign workers 125% of what they pay Americans. It easily provides an incentive for employers to prioritize local resources. However, for companies having trouble looking for qualified Americans in particular industries, this would create a lot of burden as they have to pay more than they would have to in the current system regardless of their needs. There might also be a more burdensome requirement for employers, which makes them perform labor market research before they can petition the DHS for work permits. In the end, I agree with him on this. Making foreign labor more expensive will deter the abusers of the H1B program from hiring cheap unskilled labor, and thus, leave the H1B lottery pool shrunken to the skilled, experts and highly educated who deserve the 125% pay. Fun fact: the top 10 H1B employers are IT offshore outsourcing firms, who hire cheap Indian IT labor to directly replace American workers at companies like Disney. These laborers are less likely to complain or speak out against their employer since they are extremely dependent on the outsourcing company for their visa.
For current international students in the US, the speculation is wild. Although Donald Trump has commented that he supported letting foreign students of US universities stay in the US, it is wise to not take it at face value. There is really no telling what is going to happen. But there is hope that both Mike Pence and Donald Trump will take a more business-friendly approach. Mike Pence supported a measure to expand the H1B cap from 85000 to 115000 while he was in Congress. OPT might be cancelled altogether as critics denounce it as a way for companies to get cheap entry-level employees. All in all, it will be harder as foreign graduates will have to work harder, be even more qualified in a shorter amount to get a chance to stay in the US. It is frustrating but that was the intent of the H1B program, to let foreign specialists do the job unless an American can do the same. So unless you have a master’s degree or higher, it’s very hard to argue that you have more to offer than an American with a bachelor’s degree and your chances of staying now really depend on whether a company values you enough to offer you a higher wage than a local.
Social Policies — The Supreme Court
Donald Trump’s campaign has run on a platform of social conservatism, which has drawn a lot of single-issue voters. The biggest issues for some voters this election cycle are abortion and gun control. Trump has made it clear that he would like to bring America back to the times when abortions were not only unacceptable, but illegal. He also pledges to protect the rights of gun owners. Aside from legislation, Donald aims to accomplish his goals through affecting the judicial branch of government, i.e. appointing 2 to 3 conservative Justices.
On abortion and Planned Parenthood in general, Donald Trump by himself, in my view, has some fairly moderate views. He is pro-life, but aware of the benefits of Planned Parenthood for millions of women. No doubt, he would pursue pro-life policies but he would likely be unable to defund Planned Parenthood early on in his presidency thanks to the work of President Obama. The President right now is launching flurries of midnight regulations that would become law by January, just before Trump’s inauguration. To overturn or reverse these rules, his administration would have to go through a heavy duty rule-making process that a new, inexperienced administration would have problems with. Add to the fact that it may distract the entire machine from his main legislative agenda, I can see Trump just letting it be. There is hope from many liberals and progressives that since Trump has been a Democrat and moderate on this issue for most of his life, he might just ignore the issue altogether. The danger, however, can come from Congress as they can enact the Congressional Review Act to reverse some of Obama’s regulations. However, abortion has been such a seller for his campaign that I doubt he would go back on his insistence. For now, the viable path to dismantling a woman’s right to her own body is through the Supreme Court, having a court case that would reverse Roe v. Wade.
On gun control, Trump has made it clear that he is against any regulation on firearms. With the current Supreme Court and the majorities the GOP currently holds in both Houses, there is little chance of any common sense gun control laws being passed. The NRA and its most extreme members cough Wayne LaPierre cough would largely benefit and that has shown through the market’s rise in value of many gun manufacturing companies. With more liberties in terms of weaponry and the rise in hate crimes after the election, it is predicted that the next 4 years will be extremely ugly and dangerous for minorities and violent crime would go up.
With both of these issues at hand, Trump and his voters aim toward having a Supreme Court that would uphold his legislations against them for possibly 2 to 3 decades. But first, I’ll give a rundown of the current Court:
· The liberal wing currently consists of Justices Breyer, Kagan, Sotomayor and ‘The Notorious RBG’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Kagan and Sotomayor are both Obama appointees early on in his first term, so they’re going to be there for a while.
· The conservative wing now consists of Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Alito and Thomas, after Justice Scalia abruptly passed away earlier this year on his vacation. The three Justices are relatively young (Clarence, at 68, is the oldest of the three), and they’re not likely to go anywhere soon.
· The current swing vote on the court is Justice Thomas Kennedy. Kennedy had been known as a conservative in terms of judicial ideology until the retirement of his colleague, former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. He has been an upholder of abortion rights and gay rights in many cases, siding with the liberal wing. I recommend reading his majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case that establish the equal right to marriage for gay couples.
Trump will have the power to appoint a conservative a replacement to Antonin Scalia. Merrick Garland, the Obama nominee to replace the late Justice Scalia, will sadly not be confirmed. As it will be, the Supreme Court will be comprised of 4 liberals, 4 conservatives and a conservative-leaning swing vote. The danger lies in the second or even third Justice Trump may appoint, who will be on the court for the next 30 years. Ginsburg and Breyer are respectively 83 and 78, which means they have served enough to retire. With Trump coming in and determined to make the court as conservative as possible, neither Justices intend to do so. But no one can really tell, as Justice Ginsburg has already gone through treatment for 2 forms of cancer and will be 87 in 2020, if both can live through 4 years of a Trump presidency. (I personally believe Ginsburg will live as long as she needs to out of sheer willpower. Death is a little bitch considering all the battles she fought in her life. Seriously, she’s an admirable woman, read up on her.) At 80, Justice Kennedy is also eligible for retirement, but I doubt he will since his replacement by Trump would definitely against abortion rights (Justices usually retire when they are sure the sitting President would appoint someone who philosophically align with them).
I went through Trump’s shortlist for the Supreme Court nomination and I am frankly worried. Most Trump’s picks are currently working in what is called the Heartland. His intentions, as it looks like right now, would be to make the Supreme Court less Ivy-centric and more geographically representative of the country (Clarence Thomas is the only current Justice not born on the coasts and not Ivy-educated), which is kind of weird, since no documents has stated that the judiciary was supposed to be so. Whether such a decision to expand the demographic of the Supreme Court would be a welcome change remains a debate for men more sophisticated than I. For this position, I think Neil Gorsuch, Timothy Tymkovich and Robert Young all stand a good chance of being picked based on their experience and seniority in the court system.
His First 100-day Plan — Draining the Swamp
This part gives me a tremendous headache. Usually, President-elects will announce their plan for the first 100 days in office, usually a piece of signature legislation. Trump, I think, has bitten more than he can chew, as his plans include both bold legislative initiatives as well as administrative and governmental changes. I’ve already talked about every legislative measures he plans to pursue so this part will be exclusively about administrative changes.
His administration aims for the removal of corruption and special interests in Washington D.C. through the following measures (you can read more from NPR):
1. Propose a Constitutional Amendment to impose term limits on the legislature. This means members of Congress will be limited in how long they can serve. Of course, this move will be mostly opposed by legislators who have been in office for a long time like Mitch McConnell. Amending the Constitution is not easy. Once passed in both houses of Congress with a two-third majority, an Amendment also has to be ratified by state legislatures. This process can be particularly toiling and takes up a lot of time and effort that can be put into other legislatie efforts. If you watched the movie Lincoln, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I have very mixed feelings about this. On one hand, removing career politicians from office makes room for younger, fresher legislators less likely to be influenced by special interests, lobbyists and other factors that undermine the work of lawmaking. Legislators with term limits are also more likely to draft legislation with the long term consequences instead of reelection in mind. On the other hand, term limits would remove a lot of experienced legislators in Congress. The work of a legislator is overwhelming with an extremely steep learning curve, even for the most experienced of lawyers. Without a class of veteran to pass on the institutional knowledge and experience in nuances, lawmakers will be more prone to making careless decisions that could harm their constituents.
2. Freezing all federal employee hiring except the military, public safety and public health with an aim to reduce the size of the federal government through natural shrinking. This is just dumb. Seriously, there’s nothing I can think of that can be dumber. Oh wait…
3. For every new regulation, two existing ones must be removed. Well shit. I’ll save you the trouble by just saying why this is unarguably stupid. Regulations are in place for a particular reason. Some regulations go together because they cannot work without each other. Not all regulation is bad. To remove a piece would mean reviewing and considering its merits. A simple broad-brush measure is nothing close to a solution, but a rather a feel good campaign promise. End of discussion.
4. A 5-year ban on White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave governmental offices. This actually makes sense. Lobbyists are a major reason why many elected officials vote for objectively horrible laws and general corruption in Washington. By the time the ban is over, most of these officials would already have well-paying jobs that they wouldn’t need to be lobbyists. This might get a lot of support from the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party.
5. A lifetime ban of White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government. Another sensible proposal. Keep them coming, Donnie.
6. A complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections. No brainer.
So four out of six Trump proposals make sense on paper. Well, they do, until you look at the transition team who are going to help him carry out these changes. At the head is now Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who just took over from Chris Christie, who I suspect is being dumped by Trump because of his political baggage and possible indictment over Bridgegate, the scandal of the Washington Bridge lane closure when he was governor of the state. The Vice Chairs of his transition committee also includes, wait for it, Dr. Ben Carson, Newt Gingrich, Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani and Jeff Sessions. Also part of the team will be his immediate family, Ivanka, Donald Jr., Eric, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, self-hating gay entrepreneur Peter Thiel, the Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and the CEO of his campaign, Breibart CEO Stephen Bannon. According to reports, Trump’s team is overwhelmingly unprepared for the task at hand, compared to Romney’s team 4 years ago. Understandable, since not even they expected to actually win the whole thing, and thus have not even prepared any policy papers or statements (I read the plans on his campaign website, they’re basic pdfs with little to no formatting, no citations of research and proof to speak of and the occasional typo). Apparently, his staff was even surprised that they had to replace every single one of the 4000 staff in the White House after President Obama leaves office. Early signs have pointed toward a largely ineffective administration in the early months of his term and a number of shakeups in the future. Trump has shown a level of patronage that has put Andrew Jackson to shame. God help us all.
Trump has also announced his White House leadership team. Reince Priebus will be his White House Chief of Staff while Stephen Bannon will be his Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor. Throughout the campaign, Priebus and Bannon have often clashed as the two represent very different philosophies when it came to campaigning and governing: Priebus is, by virtue of his job, the standard-bearer of the GOP while Mr. Bannon is strictly anti-establishment. It remains to be seen whether their differences can be resolved and consequently, the administration can operate smoothly without being frozen by in-fighting. It is also very interesting, to say the least, that in order to ‘Drain the Swamp’, Donald has chosen what many would consider as the gunk you would find at the bottom of it; case in point: Reince himself has been RNC chair for almost 6 years. This indicates at least, an establishment-friendly administration rather than one that would kick down the doors guns-blazing. However, giving Bannon such open access to the President has been derided by pretty much everyone on the left. The reason they give for their criticism is that Stephen Bannon represents a sexist, racist, white nationalist point of view that stands to be normalized should he be the president’s top advisor. It also signals towards a presidency of little tolerance for minorities because again, Trump’s chief strategy would be a man reviled by both the Jewish and Muslim communities. It takes a special kind of racist to achieve such a feat.
Trump’s Cabinet shortlist is no less alarming, as it is filled with lobbyists, long time government officials and lawyers. I’ll be going through each position, its responsibilities and its major candidates:
· Secretary of State, handler of foreign affairs and 4th in line for the presidency, would most likely be Former Speaker of the House in the Clinton years, Newt Gingrich. Yes, the guy calling for Bill Clinton’s impeachment during his affair scandal while also committing an affair himself and later resigned in disgrace because of said hypocrisy, just might be the man representing America’s interests on the world stage (have fun, MUN-geeks). This pick would show Trump’s strong stance on the ideology of isolationism and his aim to dismantle the US’s policy of alliance-building for the last 7 decades. Other contenders for the position are John Bolton, former Ambassador to the UN under George W. Bush and Zalmay Khalilzad, former Ambassador to Afghanistan.
· Treasury Secretary, responsible for government financial borrowing, rewriting the tax code and managing the Internal Revenue Service is predicted to be Steven Mnuchin, a former executive at Goldman Sachs and finance chairman of Trump’s campaign. Steve Mnuchin, although having no political experience, is reported as being a more mainstream fiscal conservative and we are expected to see typical Republican policies coming from his Department.
· Defense Secretary, overseer of the military and its fight against the Islamic State: Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and Former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Michael Flynn, both members of Trump’s leadership team are the main contenders for this position. Outgoing Senator of New Hampshire Kelly Ayotte, whose stance on foreign policy is more in line with the GOP establishment, is also being looked at as a potential pick. While the former two are definitely Trump cronies, Ayotte is at least a mainstream, serious choice who would signify that the Trump administration would not be walked over by Putin.
· Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement officer and frankly, the Cabinet position that makes me the most nauseous. The top choices are Chris Christie, Jeff Sessions and Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor. Chris Christie, however, stands to be ignored completely, which leaves Jeff Sessions, who has zero business being the AG and Giuliani, who has even less business being the AG. The Department of Justice is going from Eric Holder, freaking Eric Holder, to either Jeff Sessions or Rudy Giuliani. My head hurts.
· Interior Secretary, managing the US’ public lands and waters, will decide the country’s development that would either stop the growth of oil, coal and gas or expand it without restraint. In contention are 3 executives from 3 major corporations, Gryphon Investors, Continental Resources (oil and gas) and Lucas Oil Products, and 2 former governors, one of whom is SARAH FUCKING PALIN. This video would help me explain my frustration because I just can’t. Thanks America.
· Agriculture Secretary, overseeing the farming industry, food quality and developing markets overseas for American products, will bear some of the responsibility for Trump’s position on international trade. I was kind of optimistic since it’s a position you’d have to do well to screw up. Until I saw the name on top, Sam Brownback. Fuck. Sam Brownback is governor of Kansas, and more often than not, that’s an objectively bad thing to put on your resume. Long story short, Brownback cut taxes to the point where Kansas’ economy broke so hard that they just stopped publishing reports on the economy. That’s all I have to say.
· Commerce Secretary, overseeing the Census, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and other agencies, has 4 major contenders. Make that 3 since Chris Christie was also considered. The other 3 are Dan DiMicco, former executive to a steel company, Lewis Eisenberg, private equity chief for Granite Capital (no conflict of interests there) and Linda McMahon, executive to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). I wish I were joking.
· Labor Secretary, enforcer of rules that protect workers’ right, distributor of unemployment benefits and publisher of economic data, will most likely be Victoria Lipnic, a fairly bipartisan commissioner to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. There’s not much to be said about her positions and very little information is being floated at this time.
· Health and Human Services Secretary, who will help Trump with his agenda in replacing Obamacare and manage the FDA, Medicare and Medicaid, programs that insure a third of America, has a few interesting contenders. And by interesting, I mean absolutely bat shit insane. Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Rick Scott are the names in contention for now. Fun fact, every single one of them got beaten by Trump in the primary and all stand for the same awful philosophy when it comes to healthcare. At least Jindal is somewhat competent, but considering Trump’s tendency to reward loyalty, the position would go to Carson. I give him a year before he is fired, and then shaken awake. (UPDATE: Ben Carson will reject the offer of HHS, citing his own lack of experience in running a federal agency, as if that had ever stopped him from running for President.)
· Energy Secretary, manager of America’s nukes. The names being floated are mostly hailed from the private sector and only one has had any political experience, working as advisor to GWB. Very hard to speculate, but also less consequential than the other positions.
· Education Secretary: the Department of Education is a target of shrinking as Trump wants education to be increasingly the responsibility of the states. Again, Ben Carson is tapped, as well as Bill Evers, a policy expert at the Hoover Institution. As long as it is not Ben Carson, I’m happy. Man, 2016 has set a low bar.
· Secretary of Veteran Affairs: again, a fairly small position to fill with only one nominee. Jeff Miller is the retired chairman of the House VA Committee and will face the task of improving the department as per Trump’s platform.
· Homeland Security Secretary, the guardian of America’s borders, also head of the Department that hands you your visa, is a highly contested post, since they will be handling immigration, a major part of Trump’s platform. 2 county sheriffs, Giuliani, Jeff Sessions (who is an extreme opponent of immigration) and Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee are the contenders. One of the sheriffs, Joe Arpaio, had just been voted out of office for his hard-line stance on immigrants with his overboard handling of immigrants in Arizona. The most suitable out of this pool is Rep. McCaul, by virtue of not being 1) a county sheriff, a position nowhere close to having the experience and knowledge needed to run a federal department and 2) Rudy Giuliani or Jeff Sessions.
· EPA Administrator, overseer of environment regulations, is probably going to be Myron Ebell. As I mentioned above, having Ebell as head of the EPA is like trusting your ice cream truck with a guy who makes nothing but chili.
· U.N. Ambassador, second the Secretary of State in representing America, will be Richard Grenell, spokesperson to the Mission to the United Nations under the Bush administration, unless Kelly Ayotte doesn’t get Defense Secretary.
· C.I.A. Director will have to deal with a modernization plan put in place by the current Director. Top contender right now is Michael Flynn. Other contenders are 2 former chairmen of the House Intelligence Committee and an adviser under the Bush administration.
Well, I guess the swamp isn’t getting drained any time soon, given Trump is filling his Cabinet with mostly familiar faces in Washington. It’s not so much ‘Drain the Swamp’ as ‘We’re getting the band back together’. I still maintain that it will be a clunky organization despite the amount of experience Trump is bringing to the White House. Advice to White House staff, maybe lock them in a room and put on 6 seasons of The West Wing?
The Two Parties
Despite their win in this election, the future is quite uncertain for the Grand Old Party. Many expected a Clinton win in the White House and had been putting distance between themselves and their nominee. There had been talks of putting John Kasich, a moderate who had been a hardcore NeverTrump front-liner, at the top of the ticket in 2020. Talks of reform to the party, to stop catering to the Tea Party and the alt-right and go back to mainstream conservatism in order to regain ground in the center were rampant until November 9th. Trump’s victory has thrown every projection out the window. Now that they have control of both the legislature and the executive, the GOP has found itself in a rare moment of unity, barely. The mandate they carry into 2017 and 2018 will be tested as the GOP civil will inevitably lead the party into chaos between the three factions: the establishment led by Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, the Freedom Caucus, also known as the Tea Party and the Trump alt-right coalition. In an amazing twist, Paul Ryan’s job as Speaker has barely been save by the bell as the Trump win removed the sensibility of a threat from the Freedom Caucus to depose him. Mitch McConnell has played his cards right this election season, but his relationship with Donald Trump remains to be seen, as they stand split on various legislative stances. We are still not sure if Trump will be a president running based on anti-establishment principles or an “Art of the Deal” president.
It is extremely unlikely that Trump would get the nomination of the party again in 2020, assuming he doesn’t get impeached by then. The economy will have dived off a cliff and the GOP will face a choice of whether to double down on stupid and get an even more extremist, right-wing, evangelical conservative to run or abandon their social platform entirely and set their focus on economic issues for political salvation. The 2018 midterms election, facing a Democratic Party energized by the progressive left and back with a vengeance, will probably help them decide. It would also be a referendum for a Republican government that is more accountable than ever now that they hold both Congress and the White House. Should they face a net loss in the Senate and House, it would probably be a good idea to move back to moderate stances. The danger for that is a possible revolt from both the evangelical Christians and the alt-right racist movement, which would hurt the party in the short term, but would eventually make them competitive in the next 20 years, when demographic changes would finally remove the white vote’s status as the majority in the US.
It is a devastating loss for the Democrats. They thought they had this election in the bag, and just might take back the Senate and reduce the deficit in the House. In the end, they crashed and burn. The Democratic National Committee is desperately in need of cleaning house after the scandals with former chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and acting chairwoman Donna Brazile. There are calls for a change in the party’s platform to be more progressive, moving further to the left in order to balance the extreme right-wing politics of the Republican party, while also putting effort into shifting its focus from Wall Street interests to those of the working class, a reliably Democratic voting block that has shifted to Donald Trump this election.
Right now, the candidate for the next chairman of the DNC with the most support is Keith Ellison, a Representative from Minnesota. He is a black, Muslim progressive with a record of building grassroots support for himself and his allies, and is considered to be an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter. Right now, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, retiring Senator Harry Reid, Senator Cory Booker and the top ranking Democratic Senator, Chuck Schumer have all thrown their support behind Ellison, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi expected to follow suit. It is widely viewed as a move by the establishment to accept this shift in order to energize and inspire Democrats into voting in the mid-terms and build a movement that would win them back lower-level governments across the country. Howard Dean, chairman from 2005 to 2009, who performed a 50-state strategy that gave Democrats the House in 2006, is also running for his old job back. Although he may be very qualified for the job, he is not seen as a confident choice for a newer, more progressive Democratic Party. I personally would like him to work with Keith Ellison once Ellison is chosen as the chairman. With the combined talent of the two, America may just see a surge in local level political power by the Democrats at a level unseen in at least a decade. If the party can go through with the reforms, the future looks bright.
When it comes to the White House, the Democratic Party has a wealth of experienced and competent candidates to choose from: Bernie Sanders, who has not ruled out a run in 2020; Elizabeth Warren, the staunch liberal warrior from Massachusetts; Cory Booker, the charismatic and popular Senator from New Jersey; Tim Kaine, the step-dad of America and Julian Castro, the current Secretary of HUD, former Mayor of San Antonio, Texas and a Latino. My guess is that the ticket for 2020 will be a hard liberal at the top and a moderate to balance the ticket. With such a cast of talent to pick from and 4 years of building support from the ground up, the Democrats are poised to be back in the White House, win back the Senate and maybe even take House for themselves in 2020.
The Way Forward for the People
Ultimately, the victory of Donald Trump will spell as another period in human history known as the “stupid season”. The world is moving faster than ever. Globalization has connected many parts of the world but also left some in the curb. 2016 is a year for progressives and globalists to look back and see the price not they, but others are paying for the direction in which the world is moving. A year to take a step back, be humble and acknowledge that their views and policies are not objectively good for everyone. A Trump supporter may be racist or uneducated, but deep down, they’re still people, with real needs, real emotions. They have bills that they can’t pay, children they can’t feed. They are hurting. They need this win. That’s why their jubilance is just as justified as our bitter heartbreak.
However, I’m not saying that liberals deserve this loss at all. A Hillary win would have been a win for women, African Americans, Muslim Americans, Hispanic Americans and other minorities. It did not come this year, and it will be an ugly, painful and dangerous 4 years for them. But that’s the beauty of democracy, you get a do-over every once in a while. I believe you have the strength and courage to keep fighting the good fight, no matter how the bets are stacked against you. You are the reason America is great.
I also hope that this election and the coming years has given those who sat out this election a reason to regret their decision and join the frontlines for the progressive cause, or at least, for the good of their country. The next 4 years might just open your eyes to how much is at stake, how many will suffer and how irresponsible it is to not vote because neither option is appealing to you. At the end of the day, your country will make a decision even if you take no part in it. Remember this lesson in 2 years, do not repeat your mistake.