Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Trump Presidency: Resurfacing & Hope

This is the final installment of my series on the archetypes of a Trump presidency. These ideas come out of an exercise I used to alleviate the anxiety I felt on Election Night as the returns confirmed a Trump win. I was overwhelmed, disappointed, dismayed, but most of all, worried. So, using a method called ‘mind mapping’ I put all my associated thoughts about the upcoming administration down on paper. What emerged was a map of actions, observations, and forces that could shape a Trump presidency into five distinct scenarios.
External forces, say if Trump is in debt to international individuals or institutions, could contribute to a presidency that was designed to extricate Trump from an adverse financial situation. This line of thinking led to two archetypes, the ‘Puppet’ and the ‘Sellout’.

If instead of external pressure to perform Trump is driven by his own personal need for respect, power or domination a very different set of possibilities emerge. In the scenario where Trump allows his own needs to shape his presidency we may see the characteristics of the ‘Cappo’, the ‘King’ or the ‘Dictator’.

These were the results of capturing all my anxieties on paper. I’m glad I did. Not for the scary visions of what ‘could’ be, but because it reminded me of what is. And what America is, is the key to surviving a Trump presidency.

Let’s first look at what Trump is not. He is not a politician. The fine art of political negotiation is not in his repertoire. Trump is likely to try to bully, short circuit, end-run, or ignore the process. It won’t work. Where in business he seems to rely on his reputation to be able to bluster his through, the same tactics may not play well in Washington, D.C. where insiders have practiced politics for decades.

Trump also appears to lack patience. Does he have the ability to see years into the future and the ability to strategically position the nation for that emerging future. The inability to patiently think through a complex formula or policy hints at Trump’s other lack, self-control. His presidency could be rife with errors in protocol and diplomacy, simply because Trump cannot contain himself.

This brings me to another thing that I see lacking in Trump, discipline. The atmosphere of the White House, the rituals of the presidency, the demands of protocol and tradition will probably keep Trump uncomfortable, irritable and off-center. I suspect he will find the role stifling, at least in the beginning. As he grows into the role, and shapes it to himself, there may be more attempts at bullying, snubbing and self-idolization.

Looking at everything Trump lacks I cannot imagine that he will meet with success. And the situation certainly does not rely on Trump alone. There are so many other players on the board you really have to wonder how anyone could remove them all to achieve sole mastery. Aside from the people who have already conflicted with Trump there are those who are in complete opposition. Paul Ryan, Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, Colin Powell, every previous president who is alive, these people are not going to vanish. Nor are they going to stand by and twiddle their thumbs, at least not all of them. Trump is one man with no political connections who has stepped into a world that is based on political connections.

And even if we take Trump’s failings out of the picture, and remove all of the other people in Washington D.C. to clear the path, there is still a monumental obstacle to Trump ruling by fiat, and that is the American government and the Constitution that it is founded on. No matter how much a single person in the position of President wants to rule by edict, the very checks and balances of our magnificent governmental system will be there.

The Supreme Court, no matter how Trump may try to sway it, will be there. And any Justice approved by Congress had better be free of encumbrance and fair minded. And the role of the Supreme Court is to maintain the legality of laws, in light of the founding ideals of our nation’s founders. Our Constitution was created to ensure the fundamental rights of all people. And as we have marched from 1776 to 2016 steadily, though not always linearly, the Supreme Court has upheld that ideal that all people are created equal.

And then, there’s Congress. Yes, both House and Senate are controlled by the GOP at the moment, what there is left of it. The party seems to be roiling and twisting upon itself, trying to find a way to coalesce. But, with Trump already walking back on promises, he’s not even President yet, how many of the die-hard GOP will back him. With the bitterness of the campaign, the odious behavior of Trump himself, how many of the GOP can stand to be in the same room as Trump, let alone follow him unquestioningly. And this is supposedly his own party.

Add to that the fact that although the GOP has the majority, they do not have unquestioned control of the House of Representatives, nor of the Senate. They don’t posses, and at the moment cannot numerically hold, a super majority. So, the idea that the GOP will work together as a well oiled machine to support a president that many of their own find offensive is not a certainty, to say the least.

I think we can count on the Democrats in office to work as the opposition. Strangely enough, I could see this situation of a Congress united against an ‘outsider’ as an opportunity. The strategy of working across the aisle, and over Presidential veto, may present itself as one of the few roads to legislative success.

And then, there is this last lovely glimmer of hope. The LA Times published an article titled “A primer on executive power: Trump can't end same-sex marriages, but he could speed up deportations” Go! Read it! I’ll give you a summary below, but really, go, read it. It just might help you feel better.

Trump cannot touch abortion or same-sex marriage. These are held in the legal purview of the Supreme Court. It would take a legal suit that went all the way to the top to overturn the current standing of these decisions.

Trump cannot touch libel laws or institute ‘stop and frisk’, these laws are not held at the federal level, but at the state level.

Trump can influence immigration laws, but anything he attempts to do is subject to review by the Supreme Court. He would also face legal litigation on any attempts to stifle the EPA or environmental measures put in place by the Obama administration. It is important to note that this opposition would have to come from citizens and environmental groups.

Trump would have to convince Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

After all this, examination I’m feeling more hopeful. Certainly my anxiety is down from “This is a disaster” to somewhere in the “Time to get to work” frame. Yes, there are some really ugly, scary scenarios out there. But most of those would require some kind of vacuum or laboratory with controlled environments to work. In short, our destiny is in our hands. If we don’t like what the view might be, then it is up to us to work for something better.

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