Monday, November 14, 2016
The cancer that was the 2016 presidential election is finally over. Hillary Clinton was dealt a devastating defeat. Donald Trump defied conventional wisdom on every conceivable level and will soon occupy the Oval Office for at least the next four years. Republicans are euphoric. Democrats are stunned, depressed and feeling despair. There's panic and protest in the streets.
While I joined half the country last Wednesday morning in wishing it was all just a bad dream, I believe the zombie-apocalypse-like Trump presidency that Democrats viscerally fear may never materialize. In fact, I suspect the left may ultimately end up pleasantly surprised and appreciably happier with Trump than the almost 60-million mostly angry white conservatives who voted for him.
To understand what a Trump presidency might be like is to take a deep breath, strip away the anger and emotion and truly understand the man himself. What motivates him. What he craves. But more so, what's in his heart (yes, even Trump has a heart) and how his core values (or lack thereof) will dictate the direction in which he takes the country.
To be sure, I remain as disgusted with Trump's unprecedented insolence as any of my fellow Democrats. I loathe his bombast and bullying. I deplore his sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist comments. I cringed at his incendiary rhetoric and ridicule of POW's, the disabled, the media and the principles of the U.S. Constitution, to name a few of his targets. Which is why my 12-year-old daughter and I were front and center in Saturday's massive protest outside Trump Tower.
I am mystified that his voters could not see through his incessant, audacious lying. That evangelicals supported someone who violated every principle they stand for. I feel physically ill that our president-elect boasted of sexually assaulting women because his power and celebrity gave him that 'right.' I'm unnerved and appalled that we wouldn't want to leave our 16-year-old daughters alone with the President of the United States. I mourn for the office, and that we've lost such a precious role model for our children in Barack Obama.
It's shocking that Trump was able to win without releasing his tax returns, that he faces imminent trial for fraud, that he bankrupted multiple businesses, that he's found bromance with brutal dictators such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Hun Sen and Robert Mugabe. It's unsettling that he never served a day in office or the military, got trounced in the debates by a Clinton hat-trick, and is woefully deficient in not just experience, but intellectual curiosity and a sophisticated world view. But all of that is irrelevant at this point. The bigger question is, what happens now?
Will Trump cause the destruction of American civilization as we know it? Hardly. I am not ready to accept that this lifelong pro-choice, pro-gay marriage New York social liberal and fiscal conservative has suddenly morphed into Attila the Hun or David Duke-on-steroids just because his narcissistic personality disorder drove him to do and say anything to get elected, no matter how irresponsible or reprehensible.
Throughout his career Trump's been consumed by an insatiable hunger for attention that he obsessively feeds regardless of the personal, business or political cost. He lacks impulse control and has a childlike attention span, resulting in missives that are less attributable to any great conviction over a particular subject, like healthcare or immigration, than they are to bluster, braggadocio and a pathological need for acceptance.
I don't accept that Trump truly believes most of the outrageous positions on which he's aggressively campaigned. Rather, unlike his former opponent Sen. Ted Cruz or his vice presidential running mate Gov. Mike Pence who are unapologetic ideologues, Trump is simply addicted to the love in whatever room he happens to be playing. His "fans" wanted the hockey fight, not the actual game, and Trump was all too happy to oblige. ("And who's gonna pay for that wall!?")
But these misguided supporters will soon find out that it's one thing for Trump to declare for example that 'We're gonna bring back the coal, steel and manufacturing industries and create so many new jobs your heads will spin' and another for him to actually execute.
Trump's already reneging on his promise to immediately repeal Obamacare, and it appears he's also planning to dial back his vows to "jail" Hillary; "tear up the Iran deal;" move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; and build that "impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall." And he's not even President-elect for a week yet.
Trump will ultimately deliver a crushing blow to those who put their hearts and souls into his campaign because he was going to improve their economic standing and make their America "great" again. Imagine their disappointment and anger when the factory jobs don't magically reappear. When the rich, not the poor and middle classes, receive the tax cuts. When the little guy doesn't get his minimum wage increase because Trump thinks it's too much. When Trump abandons them and leaves them scratching their heads wondering how the heck they could've been so duped by a Manhattan playboy billionaire who lives in a gold-covered mansion in the sky, travels on private jumbo jets and limos, and who convinced them that because he so masterfully gamed the "rigged" system he's best suited to fix it.
Let's face it, when the ugly outer layer is stripped away, Trump does not support the KKK. He will not ban Muslims. There will not be a Mexican wall. He won't be killing the families of terrorists. The U.S. will not abandon NATO. NAFTA's not going away. There will be no immediate repeal and replacement of Obamacare. He will not appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton. Women won't be "punished" for abortions. And he will not appoint ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices, especially those who will overturn Roe v Wade.
So what will we see from President Trump? To be sure, we'll continue to witness erratic, petulant, bullying behavior from the most thin-skinned president in history. The Tweets will continue (read: impulse control problem and the hunger for attention) as will his blatant, unethical self-enrichment. The only wall he's going to be building is the one around his business and finances, which will be managed in a laughable albeit contemptuous "blind trust" by his children Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr.
Bolstered by a Republican-controlled Congress, we'll experience a shift back to conservatism relating to foreign policy, the economy, the environment and education. We'll likely see, for example, a repeal of Dodd-Frank. Big tax breaks for the wealthy, and an easing of corporate taxes and regulation; changes to the estate tax; a passage of the Keystone Pipeline; a scrapping of the Paris Agreement on climate change; a neutering of the EPA; the institution of school vouchers. But these changes are rooted in classic Republican policy ideals, not a tectonic shift to the alt-right, despite his appointment Sunday of Breitbart's Steve Bannon as senior strategist (who's likely to become a pariah in the West Wing, on Capitol Hill and among the media). The more telling appointment is that of Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff. It'll ultimately be his administration not Bannon's.
Donald Trump is indeed a bully, but like all bullies he's also a coward. We've seen how the impersonal and seductive perch of Twitter empowers him; how safe and easy his 3am penthouse attacks can be. We know he's most comfortable spewing hateful tough-guy rhetoric to thousands of love-struck fans at his rallies, but when face-to-face with his adversaries he folds like a $2 lawn chair (see: Mexican President Pena Nieto and Carly Fiorina). This is the Trump we'll likely see in the Oval Office. When confronted with vehement opposition, as we've already started to witness, he flips like an insecure Russian acrobat.
I believe the real Donald Trump is not the rabble-rouser who deceptively fed blood-dripping sexist, racist red meat to his rapacious base. Instead, he's more likely the Trump who surprised his base, and Democrats, by saying transgender people should be able to "use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate." Once the shock of the election wears off and the proverbial dust settles and the overpowering sense of fear subsides, Democrats may just realize that it is the right who should've feared "President Trump" the most.