George Boardman: Trump’s not likely to be as big a success (or disaster) as people believe
January 15, 2017
For better or for worse, Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States at high noon Friday.
For Trump's supporters, the better will mean an America-first policy, lower taxes and less government intrusion in our lives, and endless opportunities to grow an economy that will recapture the working class jobs that have been lost to automation and foreign countries.
After all, Trump has pledged to "bring back" millions of jobs, enact a "beautiful" health care plan, build a "big, beautiful" wall along the Mexican border to keep out illegals, and "drain the swamp" in Washington.
For Trump's detractors, the worse will mean a halt to the social advancement of those of us who aren't white heterosexual males, an end to that annoying "political correctness," more polluted air and water, an end to reproductive and other rights women have taken for granted, and a general coarsening of what passes for civility.
After all, Trump has pledged to appoint a Supreme Court justice who is pro-gun and anti-abortion, support defunding of Planned Parenthood, emasculate the Environmental Protection Agency, make coal a relevant source of energy again, and has shown by his general deportment that boorish behavior is acceptable.
The people who voted for Trump have said they want major change, but may give the new president little time and few excuses if he doesn't produce.
"Voters showed they were willing to rock the boat in order to get change," said Republican pollster David Winston. "If they don't get change, they'll be willing to rock the boat again."
While there is much Trump can accomplish on his own by using the power of his office, he needs the cooperation of Congress to achieve his major goals. While both houses are Republican, they have a different perspective of the world than the president, and Trump will soon learn that he can't order Congress to do anything.
The repeal of Obamacare is an example of how this works. Practically from the day it was signed into law, the GOP has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Now that they have the power to do so, they're discovering it's not quite that simple.
Polls show that most Trump voters don't want Obamacare repealed without a workable replacement. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll after the election, only 15 percent of Trump voters wanted an outright repeal without a replacement. Republican congressmen represent 55 percent of the people enrolled in Obamacare, and 12 of the 25 districts with the most enrollees are represented by Republicans.
These congressmen want to see a replacement program in place before they repeal Obamacare, and they don't particularly care what House Speaker Paul Ryan prefers or what Trump is now demanding. Ryan claims Republicans have "lots of ideas" about a replacement plan, but have nothing that resembles an actual proposal. Is Obamacare going to be repealed? Yes, but it will become a zombie program for several years, an example of the living dead until the GOP comes up with an alternative.
There are a lot of other things that aren't going to change much, regardless of what Trump and his supporters may want. Here are some of them:
GOVERNMENT: If the size of the federal bureaucracy actually shrinks, it won't be enough for you to notice. Ever since Dwight Eisenhower ended the Democrats' 20-year reign of terror that made big government permanent, Republicans have controlled the White House 36 of the 64 subsequent years. Is the federal government smaller now than it was in 1952?
DEMOCRATS: They're not going away. Whenever there's a regime change in Washington, the political pundits write obituaries for the losing party. Invariably, members of the winning party become complacent — the Beltway has a way of seducing people — and overplay their hand by presuming to have a mandate never intended by the voters. Besides, if less than 80,000 votes flipped in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, Trump would be back on "Celebrity Apprentice" and Arnold Schwarzenegger would still be looking for work.
And you can expect the following to happen:
GOVERNING: It has been observed that Republicans claim big government doesn't work, and then they prove it when they get elected. Trump's political appointees to the various agencies will try to circumvent or ignore the rules they can't repeal, and much hilarity will ensue. Who can forget the Reagan political hacks who insisted that ketchup was a vegetable, and that you can counter global warming by wearing a hat outside? And Interior Secretary James Watt's plan to return federal lands to private ownership? Ask Cliven Bundy how that worked out.
CALIFORNIA: Despite the bravado we hear from the Democrats who run the Golden State, California has a weak hand to play when it comes to resisting enforcement of federal laws and regulations. Our elected leaders know this, but they also know that Trump is not popular in this state. All of this chest thumping is about getting in position to move up the political food chain.
THE WHITE HOUSE: Trump is petty and vindictive, and — in the finest tradition of New York politics — will seek payback against his real and imagined enemies. Trump has a reputation for yelling at his employees when times are tense, so expect to see a lot of stories about "explosions" inside the White House. Finally, he has a history of using people and then discarding them—just ask Chris Christie, Newt Gingrinch and Rudy Giuliani. The back door to the White House will get a good workout over the next four years.
UNEXPECTED: George W. Bush had 9/11 and Barack Obama had the economic meltdown. Rest assured that something nobody can anticipate will distract Trump and derail major pieces of what he wants to accomplish.
Four years from now, Trump's supporters won't have everything they want and his detractors won't see their worst fears realized. But that's the way our system works, generally for the better.
George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His column is published Mondays by The Union. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.