We are still in the first week of the “First 100 Days” and have learned a lot about what to expect from the Trump presidency. Here is what we know and what we don’t know:
What We Know
- Trump won’t change. He won’t become presidential. He won’t turn nice. He can’t. It is not in his DNA.
- Trump is an incorrigible liar. He can look directly into the TV camera and with his typical snarl proclaim that the crowds at his inauguration dwarfed those at Obama’s, that the sun suddenly came out and the sky turned blue as he began his inaugural address, and that he won the popular vote by a landslide when you take into account the votes of five million illegal immigrants. Hey, the American people watched this on TV. We didn’t see the sun come out. We saw the photos comparing his crowd with the crowd at Obama’s first and second inaugurations. We read that no evidence has turned up anywhere about voter fraud. Yet he won’t give up; and after a while, if you lie enough, people start believing. Most of his ardent supporters already do. It appears that Orwell’s 1984 has finally arrived.Now you can say that this is little stuff. Who cares how big the crowd was? Who really knows about illegal voting? Give Trump a little slack. Maybe Trump is right on some of this. No. He is not right, and if he lies about relatively trivial stuff, what can you trust him on? The answer is nothing.
- Trump will try to limit freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Trump has expressed his contempt for the press since he began his campaign and has now increased the decibel level. He describes journalists and reporters as the lowest life form and boasts about how much he hates them. He is now threatening to shut down the briefing room and move it to another location and to decide unilaterally who can attend briefings (Now it is the Press Corps who decides). He talks about how the press is unpopular and no longer trusted by the American people. He has referred to the NY Times and the Washington Post as perpetrators of fake news. His Press Secretary and his spokespersons defend Trump’s views as “alternate facts.” He has threatened to sue news companies for libel that say uncomplimentary things about him. If you really want to worry about something, the attack on the news media should be at the top of your list.
- Trump cares nothing about the white working class. Trump’s cabinet has more billionaires, multi millionaires, Wall Street titans and tycoons than any in history. One of his top priorities is tax reform, which means tax breaks for the rich and trickle down economics. He will continue to throw red meat at his ardent working class supporters, but his policies will do nothing for them. They will lose their health care when Congress repeals Obamacare. The prices at Walmart will go up when we get into a trade war with China, and the much promised, high paying manufacturing jobs will not return due to automation and technology.
- Trump’s first goal is to erase the Obama legacy. He has ardently started on this in earnest. Everyday he smiles as he vacates another Obama initiative—the trans Pacific trade deal, parts of Obamacare, and the Keystone pipeline for starters. Many others will follow.
- Trump is targeting immigrants. This is hardly a surprise since he made it the central theme of his campaign. He is moving forward aggressively on The Wall and deporting undocumented immigrants. Today he announced ominously that he would curtail federal funding for any and all sanctuary cities.
- Trump has declared himself the Great Populist. His mantra is jobs, jobs, jobs. I don’t have any trouble with that if it happens, but most of his policies will hurt not help the working class. He paints himself as their savior, and many believe him despite his elite cabinet selections. He trashed “the elite” at his inauguration. This is likely to turn out to be the greatest lie of all and its credibility will depend on his constant stoking the fire—finding scapegoats to turn people’s attention away from his policies that hurt rather than help them.
In summary we know a great deal about what is in store for us, and none of it is good. However, there is still much we do not know. If there is any silver lining at all, it could lie in how the answers to the unknowns turn out.
What We Don’t Know
- What will the Republican-controlled House and Senate do? Let’s be clear on this: Trump is not a conservative. In fact many of Trump’s promises are the exact opposite of what traditional conservatives believe and stand for.
- Trump promised in his campaign a major investment in infrastructure. Obama tried to get this kind of legislation passed and never got one Republican vote. Furthermore this will cost a lot of money. Where will the revenue come from to pay for it? How can true conservatives support this?
- Traditional conservatives favor small government and balanced budgets. Though Trump has put a hold on federal jobs and pay, the infrastructure initiative combined with tax breaks for the rich would add trillions to the deficit. Where will the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus come out on policies that will increase the deficit beyond anything we have ever seen? Wasn’t this their raison d’etre to begin with? Are they simply going to roll over because a right wing firebrand is now in power?
- Traditional conservatives favor free trade. Trump has already trashed the trans Pacific deal and is going to “renegotiate” NAFTA. He is threatening a trade war with China. How will traditional Republicans come out on this?
- Traditional Republicans distrust Russia and prefer military intervention when the U.S. is threatened. They are especially wary of Putin. Putin is Trump’s hero. Trump wants the U.S. to be Russia’s friend, and he tends toward isolationism, not intervention, in foreign policy.
In other words, Trump is not your typical Republican. He has hijacked the Republican Party. He is a strongman, a populist nativist. Will the Republicans simply fold up their tent and go along with his extremist and dangerous policies? It only takes a couple of senators to oppose him to block much of what he wants to do. Do any Republicans have a backbone and integrity?
- Will Trump go after the Dreamers? If Trump goes after the children who were given a chance by Obama because they came here very young, most with their parents, he will create an uproar, and there will be resistance. It could create a calamity not that dissimilar from the roundups that occurred in Nazi Germany. It appears he is anticipating this by first cutting off federal funds for the sanctuary cities, but massive Dreamer deportations have not yet started. Pray that they don’t. When and if they do, we will be entering uncharted waters. It could rip our country apart.
- Will Trump destroy the environment? Yesterday, January 24th, Trump issued a gag order to the EPA, prohibiting them from talking to the press. There is no evidence that Trump has acknowledged that environmental change is real though under oath several of his Cabinet appointees did admit that climate change is happening. Can anyone convince him to at least be neutral? Will he opt out of the Paris Accord? If he takes a hard line on this and backs away from the progress made under Obama, it is another in-your-face move, which will cause an enormous backlash. And will the Republicans simply go along with this? Do they realize the damage he would do?
- What will happen if the good jobs do not return? Trump’s inaugural speech highlighted one thing—bringing good jobs back. Who can argue with this? But will it happen and what will be the reaction if it doesn’t? We have good data on what happened under Obama. Over 17 million jobs were added. Unemployment came down from almost 10 percent when he took office to 4.6 percent when he left. This is considered near or at full employment. Over the past year incomes have started to increase across the board. During the last several months employment was increasing at 150,000-180,000 jobs a month. So what happens if Trump does not top Obama’s job creation performance? What happens if the high paying manufacturing jobs don’t materialize? How long will it take for his base to realize they have been duped? What will they do? What lies will Trump tell to make people think that his approach is working when it isn’t?
- What will happen if his supporters lose their health care? Repeal is pretty much a done deal. Replace is not. Close to 30 million people will be affected by whatever emerges, as will hospitals and insurance companies. If people start losing insurance or are no longer able to pay for it, what will they do? Many of these people probably voted for Trump. Will they realize they have been led down a primrose path? What lies will Trump tell to make them think they are winners instead of losers?
- What will the American people do? The massive marches that happened on Saturday were extraordinary. There has never been anything like it in all of American history–over 500,000 in DC, 400,000 in New York City, 250,000 in Chicago, thousands and thousands in hundreds of U.S. cities. Demonstrations were held in 670 locations world-wide. Trump did not win the presidency legitimately. Russian meddling and FBI incompetence had to have an influence. Though he disputes it, he did not even come close to winning the popular vote. He does not have a mandate.
So what are we going to do about it? How can the energy and determination that happened on Saturday be maintained, nurtured, and focused? How can resistance remain peaceful and be effective? How can those of us who are against almost everything he stands for and is trying to do make a difference? It is in our court. I am confident that the movement will grow though I do not underestimate the challenge nor really know what the desired outcomes should be. But in the long run it will be up to us to figure this out and make it happen.
We are only in week one. I fear the news for the next 100 days will only get worse. We can’t sit passively by and watch as he directs the country toward a precipice.