By Alex Moore
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re more than likely aware that Donald Trump has been elected POTUS. A week and a half after the election results were tallied, that still feels utterly preposterous to type. If you’ve read a single subject or predicate that I’ve produced and published for The Sellers Group, then you’re aware of where my loyalties were this election cycle. This is not a post to complain, however, quite to the contrary. Instead, I will attempt to approach his forthcoming presidency with complete objectivity and outline a few specific areas where I feel he will be able to enact significant change. It should go without saying, but none of this is intended to gloss over his racism, sexism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, ignorance of rudimentary policy issues, science denial, authoritarian impulses, character fla…okay you get the point.
Much of what I am writing is completely predictive and, as such, should be read with a critical eye. Obviously, none of us have any idea how Trump plans to govern. Honestly, I highly doubt Trump himself knows how he plans to govern. However, I still feel as though there are a host of different areas in which he will have the opportunity to enact substantial change over the next (God willing only) 4 years. This post will touch solely upon domestic variables, while my next post will address some foreign variables. This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list or analysis, just to quickly highlight a few key policy areas that Trump’s first term may shake up.
Perhaps the most influential outcome of the 2016 election cycle is that Trump won the presidency in conjunction with the GOP maintaining a majority in the Senate. Thus, the GOP will have the ability to nominate and confirm a conservative justice to fill the vacancy left upon Antonin Scalia’s death. Moreover, it is possible, considering the court’s current makeup, that Trump will have the opportunity to nominate 1, 2, and maybe even 3 more justices to the court. This is awful news for those of us who support women’s autonomy over their bodies, unhindered voting rights, sensible gun laws, the premise that black lives matter, and a wide variety of other issues that the vast majority of millenials support, yet the GOP inexplicably fails to modernize their viewpoint on. This is scary. Trump may end up having the opportunity to shape the court for decades to come. This will bring far-reaching consequences.
Other Domestic Issues
I doubt that Trump will enact significant change on the domestic front. Most obviously, this is due to the fact that there are, of course, significant checks on the power of the executive figure embedded within our constitutional framework. Even when taking into consideration the fact that the GOP controls the House, Senate, and White House, this still holds true due to the icy relationship between Trump and congressional GOP leaders as well as the ideological differences, of which there are plenty, between Trump and the GOP orthodoxy. Moreover, Trump’s ideological convictions are as clear as mud. He hasn’t gone into any semblance of specifics on any policy areas (even when he has on the rare occasion, these specifics are completely rooted in absurdly wrong factual basis). Lastly, half of the maniacal stuff he proposes is blatantly unconstitutional, most notably every time he opens his mouth about Muslims. Thus, this is about as predictive as it gets.
Of course, the biggest domestic policy issue on the table is the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s crowning legislative achievement and a trigger word for conservatives across the United States since ‘09. While the GOP has long promised to overhaul the sweeping changes to the healthcare system brought by Obamacare, I doubt we will see significant change. I truly don’t believe that the GOP wants to pick up the political hot potato of 1. Taking away healthcare from the millions of folks who have gained it under Obamacare, despite the troubled first few years of the legislation and 2. Actually having to govern and implement their own national healthcare plan. There are minor tweaks to the law that may occur, such as removing the individual mandate, but I doubt substantial change will happen on the healthcare front.
On the fiscal front, Trump and congressional GOP-ers will most certainly agree to enact massive tax cuts. However, they will also most certainly ram heads over Trump’s repeated insistence on maintaining current levels of entitlement spending, as well as his promises to increase military spending. Congressional budget hawks will be floored by Trump’s absurd proposals that will exponentially boom the national debt. I have no clue how this will play out. Trump has placed himself between a rock and a hard place here. Substantial amounts of his supporters love that he will protect current levels of entitlement spending while other pools of his supporters want to slash entitlement spending. GOP leaders in Congress, most notably Speaker Ryan, are firmly within the lower taxes/slash spending camp. This presents an interesting dynamic going forward.
I also have no clue how Trump’s infamous calls for a border wall with Mexico and plans to deport millions of undocumented migrants will play out. The odds of Mexico paying for some idiotic border wall are about as high of the odds of ’06 Kobe Bryant passing the ball to Smush Parker with 2 seconds left in the 4th quarter of a tied game. The wall, as well as the deportations, will cost a substantial amount of money and are, quite frankly, just stupid investments of upwards of 200 billion dollars, as some estimate. However, Trump making immigration quite literally the centerpiece of his campaign leads me to believe that he may actually remain true to his words on this front in order not to risk enraging his already enraged base of support. This could get ugly.
On a variety of fronts, Trump presents an existential threat to the United States as we know it. Climate change is up near the top of this list. The threat posed by climate change needs no explanation (watch my boy Leo Dicaprio’s recently published documentary on the subject). Historians will look favorably on Obama’s presidency. His action on climate change may turn out to be the most lauded aspect of his entire presidency. The Paris Accords, a massive multilateral initiative signed about a year ago, are the most comprehensive international initiative ever to address climate change. Moreover, on the domestic front, Obama has enacted a series of executive orders to substantially lower the US’s carbon footprint. Trump, of course, infamously denies the science and claims climate change is a Chinese hoax. He will most certainly undo Obama’s executive orders and will also most certainly not abide by the historic and widely praised Paris Accords. Pray for our grandchildren.
A Final Word
The Western world is currently threatening to undergo a massive transformation, the likes of which we haven’t ever really seen. Throughout the West, voters on the fringe right and fringe left are succumbing to populist demagoguery and loudly repudiating the liberal world order that has embodied the post-Cold War international system. Brexit, Trump, Euroskepticism throughout the EU, and other illiberal movements are undermining the global order that has made post-WW2 world history an absolute anomaly as by far the most peaceful and prosperous time in human history. In 2017, France will elect a new president (you think our election was a dumpster fire? You’re in for a treat here, Le monde ou rien, mon ami). Angela Merkel, who many now consider the “leader of the free world” following Trump’s election, is up for re-election in Germany. Follow these closely. Fringe right wing movements threaten both countries, and Europe, enormously. In 5 years, the Western world may be unrecognizable if we aren’t able to stem this massive movement of populist rage. Get involved. I like the post-Cold War liberal world order and you should too. Let’s not let Trump, Farage, Le Pen, or any other demagogue undermine it.
Photo Credit: Lee Chapman