How to prepare for a Donald Trump presidency without inducing apoplexy

rum_make_america_great_again-_4513393379There are lots of reasons to bemoan the choices in this year’s Presidential elections. The weaknesses of both candidates are manifest and telling, and have resulted in the largest collective moan from the voting public in decades. Moreover, the country is now faced with the prospect of Donald Trump being elected to the US Presidency. This has induced a collective panic unlike I have seen since, well, the prospect of Ronald Reagan becoming President. (Corey Robin has an excellent piece on the institutional amnesia of today’s commentators.) It’s interesting how people seem to have forgotten how genuinely awful the Reagan Presidency actually was—it’s all taken on some hazy glow, largely as the result of a still-supine media. But it initiated and validated the general meanness of the modern Republican Party, which has now reached extreme proportions, but the ground rules of which were initially laid out by Reagan and his Southern California car dealer and real estate buddies. Yes, yes, I’ve seen all the comparisons of Trump and Nixon, but Nixon wasn’t necessarily an awful President, although he was an awful person. Reagan was a genuinely awful President, and the county has been impoverished, both literally and culturally, by his legacy.

So is Trump worse? Perhaps, but it’s a close call, frankly. Reagan didn’t know anything and was proud of it, and was also proud of the fact that he had no interest in learning anything either. (Plus there was that astrologer thing.) Trump is similar in this respect—what he doesn’t know is astonishing, and he doesn’t care that he doesn’t know it either. And it’s easy to see where that can cause a whole lot of trouble—his climate change views, for example, are baffling and potentially damaging for the planet, and our grandchildren. His foreign policy views, while occasionally and perhaps accidentally leavened with a bit of commons sense (just what is NATO’s function these days, anyway?), are simplistic to a degree that we haven’t seen since, oh, George W. Bush. Was that really only the past decade? Yes, it was. The list could go one for some time.

Here is where it starts getting complicated. First, any hope that the top of the Democratic ticket will bail us out really has to be abandoned. The top of the Democratic ticket is a disaster—the campaign to date has been abysmal, against a senator from Vermont that practically no one had actually heard of before he started campaigning, and the people who have been running it, as we now know, show no signs of having learned anything, ever. This appears to be an attribute shared by the candidate herself, who has the political instincts of a rock. So no help there, I’m afraid. The Democratic campaign slogan for the remainder of the year is going to be “We’re not Trump, so vote for us.” This does not strike me as a winning strategy. It’s been tried, in fact—by every single Republican presidential candidate this past year. How’d that work out?

Nor does the strategy of waiting for Trump to blow himself up offer much hope. Is there anything that he has said that hasn’t pissed someone off? Is there anything he could say at this point that would be more insulting, demeaning, or just plain stupid that he hasn’t already said? But he keeps rolling merrily along anyway, and is now the candidate of one of the two major parties in the United States of America. No one saw it coming (not strictly true, but certainly true inside the Beltway), and if anyone still thinks he’s going to do something that will lose him supporters, I have a bridge I want to talk to them about. There is a real chance that he can con people into actually electing him President. He conned people into making him the Republican nominee (although as Eliot Weinberger recently pointed out, given the competition, this wasn’t hard). Perhaps we should all be grateful to Trump for sparing us from the prospect of President Cruz, or President Jindal.

Don’t forget that it’s about the con. Anyone who spent time in New York over the past several decades, as I have, will understand what Trump really is about. Yes, he’s a boor. But he does real estate cons really well in the place where real estate cons have reached an art form, and has managed to extend the con. He had that television show, which, let’s face it, is one reason any number of people will be voting for him. He co-wrote a book called The Art of the Deal. Well, maybe “wrote” isn’t exactly the appropriate term, but it’s a book with his picture on the cover, which for many people is good enough. The con is the thing—if you’ve conned someone, you win. Simple as that. Usually it’s money, admittedly, which is the great motivator of most cons. But sometimes it’s something else—like the US Presidency, which often, admittedly, seems to be for sale. David Auerbach comments that “….even calling Trump a con artist seems an injustice, for a con artist has an ulterior motive. Trump has no motive other than to be the conman, not the conned.” Auerbach says this as if it’s a bad thing. But for Trump, it’s the only thing.

Thus far the reaction among the non-Republicans—and, indeed, among a number of Republicans—has been shock and horror. I’m not saying there isn’t a very good reason for this. But it might not matter. Because he might get elected anyway. Four million people in 2012 voted for Rick Santorum. Lots of people voted for Mike Huckabee—not enough, fortunately for the rest of us, but still. So how can we prepare for a possible Trump Presidency?

Well, the best preparation would be to keep it from happening in the first place. But that may be difficult, and, as I said above, we’ll get no help from the top of the Democratic ticket. Will enough Republicans desert Trump and vote for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld of the Libertarian Party? It’s possible, I suppose, but it’s not something I would count on, and it’s certainly not something I would call a “strategy,” although lord knows what passes for “strategy” at the DNC or in the HRC campaign (same thing, I know) these days.

So the next step is to prepare for an actual, real world scenario of Donald Trump taking the office. Then what? Well, at that point we’ll know what his cabinet will look like—probably a lot like Mike Pence. This is horrible, but no worse than many of the people Junior Bush or Ronald Reagan populated their cabinets with. Some will be a waste of space, but some may not be totally incompetent. I don’t think we really want competent people trying to implement a set of Trump policies, whatever they might be. Reagan was famously disinterested in this sort of thing, which actually turned out to be a blessing—think of how much worse things would be if he actually had been efficient and managerial.

So what’s the best defense here? It’s pretty clear—elect a lot of Democrats to the House and Senate. This won’t be helped by the lack of inspiration from the top of the ticket, and we may very well get people voting Democratic for everywhere on the Democratic ticket except the Presidency. We should prepare for this to happen, in fact. But what this means is maximizing the vote down ticket. HRC has done little here, and neither has the DNC, which we now recognize to be supremely incompetent. There are a bunch of Sanders candidates who may make a difference in galvanizing the vote in some areas. The main thing, however, is to turn out the Democratic vote across the country, something the DNC appears to have difficulty doing. This has always been problematic, especially in non-Presidential years, which is why Democrats got creamed in 2010 and 2014. That cannot happen again.

The point of this is to be in a position to neutralize what Trump says he wants to do—if he even really means it. Deport all Muslims? Fat chance. Ditto the stupid wall. President Trump’s major job should explaining to his supporters why he can’t do what he told them he would do. All of that becomes easier with a Democratically-controlled Senate, and perhaps even the House. Trump offers that kind of possibility—a potentially transformative election. But only if Democrats are smart enough to take it. Given the unlikelihood of this happening as a top-down process, it’s up to the voters themselves, and the candidates for the House and the Senate. Heavy lifting, but possible. The Founding Fathers were pretty smart—Separation of Powers is an excellent idea that has served us well.

The second thing is to lawyer up. Trump will try to discover the limits of executive action, and will probably try to do a number of stupid things through executive action. This is where we take a page from the republican playbook—litigate everything in sight. Every single unreasonable thing Trump tries to do—and there may be a lot or very few of them, who knows?—should be litigated. Many would be anyway, of course, but we need to prepare the resources for doing this. In the environmental arena alone there are a number of organizations who have a good history of litigating the federal government (as well as the states), and who will undoubtedly be busy in the event of a Trump Presidency. If I were running one of these organizations, I’d be doing my fundraising right now—this is probably a better strategy than giving money to the HRC campaign at this point anyway.

The third thing, of course, is civic action. Republicans played a long game, and over two or three decades they managed to take over much of America—through school boards, planning boards, mayorships, state senates and assemblies, whatever. There is a desperate need for a Democratic ALEC. But not having one should not preclude running for the school board. This is where things get done—the fight over evolution in American education is being fought precisely at this level. The fight over the privatization of America’s water resources is also happening at this level. The Republican antipathy to federal land ownership (including National Parks) probably extends to the state level as well. These fights will keep happening until enough of us are sitting on school boards and planning commissions ourselves—and we’ll keep losing until then as well.

Does this mean I’m relaxed about a Trump presidency? Of course not. If nothing else, the guy has incredibly bad manners. But I do not agree with the current trope that Trump is the worst person to ever walk the face of the planet, and that if he’s elected it’s all over for democracy. That may happen, but only if we let it. The thing about democracy is that it lets you partake of the process. It’s when we stop using it that things start getting genuinely scary. But using it can mitigate a lot of potential damage. That’s what it’s for.

8 replies »

  1. WELL, it is obvious you are on the left. I consider myself on the neither. you mentioned how terrible all the right presidents have been, well I am sure jimmy was a great pres and bill well he was the best. dems have an anti gun policy, unless they were for the right to protect yourself with the use of your bodyguards. some of us do not have the money. now I do not consider my self smart even though I did graduate with an ME and went into the MBA program. it has always been hard for me in school but with a lot of effort and study time I did manage to go to college when I was told to get a job with my hands because of my coordination. well sir it is easy to call people stupid because they see the world in a different way. I did learn logic very well though. until the dems get of their high horse and quit trying to take the guns they are going to have big problems. we all know that is what they want although they claim as all anti gun folks they just want reasonable laws, which we already have and a lot of unreasonable ones. we have to have right in the congress and the president. we know how close it is to loosing our second amendment. through the supreme court. we know legislation leads to confiscation. the form we sign to buy a gun came and was translated directly from german. it is the same form hitler used just before taking the guns from the jewish people. at the time that form was put in practice they also made it illegal to have a national gun registry just because of what registries are used for. a deal is not necessarily a con, I have not read the book though. and we know what Hillary does. she takes money from the poor and gives to her self and the rich. your present president he is a dangerous person. are you trying to tell us how great his presidency has been, doubling the national debt in 8 years? get us out of the wars immediately??? an anti gun president that will try and take our guns whether it is illegal or not. I am sure that you have heard of fast and furious, not the movie. right under him holder allowed the and told the ATFE to sell guns to criminals and THEY did not even pick them up. they want crime from assault weapons as you call them. all guns were used by the military at one point or another. holder would not release the fast and furious documents and was in court for a few years. when the last court ordered him to release those documents he resigned 2 days later. what a coincidence. of course our president knew nothing about anything. AT THE SAME TIME THE LEFT MEDIA was saying how the border states were selling guns to criminals. those gun shops called the ATFE and were told to sell them. those guns came from holder and our president and have killed hundreds if not into the thousands now in mexico. killed the border guard Mr. Terry and his family will never see him again. what a great president that will fight gun ownership by selling guns to criminals. Hillary is no better. I believe in freedom to make my own choices whether they are wrong or right and live with the consequences. of course the dems believe they can control everyone’s right to make those decisions. such as when they fought the civil war to keep slaves and the jim crow laws keeping guns from blacks. I believe in freedom and that does not put me in any party. if a lady or child with her parents OK wants an abortion it is their right to make choices not uncle sams. I would rather have trump a pro gun candidate. even a stupid person with the right cabinet if he listens will make good choices. we want to get out of the good old boys or gals political network. at least trump is not with them and that is why the right is a little upset that they might not wield the power they could. it is a good change and with the next president able to appoint 2 to 4 supreme court justices and their vote is now 4 to 4 on whether you have the right to own guns, well simple language can be made to say what ever you want when you change the definitions. the right to self protection with weapons used by the military is really an unalienable right. no one can take that away and if they try it will probably end in another civil war. the other reason it is there is not only self protection but the ability to take back control of a government gone bad. we have never lived the true meaning of the constitution but we have gotten a little closer and further away at times. socialism and further left communism looks good on paper. we all know it never works, it takes incentive away from the table. add greed and other things it just does not work. how many lazy people can the hard workers support before the country goes bankrupt? well we are close now, no one not even the US government can live off credit forever. the world has tried for the last 20 years and the dues are just about ready to be paid. how much money can the central bank print before massive inflation? you and everyone should be worried far more about those things not taking the ability of the people to protect themselves. the world is headed for the greatest depression it has ever seen. you might want a gun then. the rich are guarded with the guns they want to take from the public. 5% of the population maybe less are criminals, the rest do not go around and do mass shootings. it seems anti gun people are paranoid of the citizens. criminals cannot have ammo or guns it is already illegal. neither can crazy people. use a gun in a crime and federally you should get a lot of extra years in a federal prison. why does not Obama get the criminals off the streets for longer. criminals do not follow the law. that means anti gun laws take the guns from honest citizens. the police have no responsibility to protect you there is only one person with that responsibility, if yo do not want to do it, that is your right. DO NOT TAKE MY RIGHTS TO MAKE YOUR PARANOID REACTIONS LESS. prohibition has never worked in the history of the world, it only spawns crime. all drugs should be legal, as it is any child can buy them. that is what prohibition does. it puts money into the worst people in the worlds pockets, when are we going to learn??? if they make guns illegal they can come and kill me first, we need a martyr. guns are used far more to protect people then in crime. the media does not want you to know it. right now I can only vote pro gun and there are getting to be a lot more of us as time goes by. we have the logic.

    • Beginning your comment with “WELL, it is obvious you are on the left.” discredits your entire discussion. Learn to understand that most of us are a mix of “left” and “right” as you might say. In fact, using labels at is inappropriate.

  2. What a crock! The weaknesses of both candidates are “manifest and telling.” Well, so tell us! You failed to do so. Trump has no strengths. Clinton has few weaknesses and has an incredible number of strengths. “The top of the Democratic ticket is a disaster”? Are you part of the RNC? What planet do you live on? What makes it such a disaster. You generalize but offer no substantial remarks.

    This is probably one of the worst commentaries I’ve read during the wacko election season.

    • That’s a very good question, and I probably don’t have a satisfactory answer. People seem pretty relaxed about the Dems regaining the Senate this year–there are many potentially vulnerable Republican Senators, and the view is that Trump is not going to help the Repubican case, to put it mildly. This may prove to be the case, but everyone has been wrong about everything else this year, so why not this as well? And let’s face it, recent pressidential polls are not encouraging here. Let’s say the Republicans retain the Senate (and the House, of course), and HRC becomes the President–then I suspect we’ll have what we have now under Obama–not much. This would be very unfortunate, given the amount of work that needs to be done. The worst case is Trump winning and Republicans retaining everything. This is a very scary scenario, even though it’s not clear that any Republicans want to work with him either. Does terrible stuff happen? Well, the tone deteriorates, but I do think there are limits to what a President can do on his own with an uncooperative Legislature–Obama has had to do a lot with Executive Actions, and I would expect Trump to try to do the same. This is why I discussed lawyering up–much of what he’ll want to do is stuff we probably don’t want to see happen. I may not mind his abandoning trade deals, but if he tries to expel several million people by executive order, I would hope that someone will challenge that in the courts. As I said, people need to start planning now–if everyone waits to see what happens, we’ll be way behind the curve at the start.