Trump has won the presidency. Republicans have held control of the Senate and House of Representatives. Angry, red America rules.
Time to take Donald Trump deadly seriously. But the man and so many of his policies have been anything but. Here’s a preliminary run down:
Make Mexico pay for and build a wall along the border – evidently not going to occur. His tack appears to have changed in recent days, suggesting that the USA will build it and confiscate remittances sent home from Americans to Mexico to pay for it. That seems even more far-fetched.
Send in a strike force to quickly defeat ISIS – There’s absolutely no appetite for troop deployments in the Middle East. This may be accomplished by simply backing Russia with airstrikes as they back Assad’s campaign to subdue Syria.
‘Drain the swamp’ – Trump can hardly begin threatening to defenestrate the majority Republican congress he needs to pass his legislation, can he? Even if he does reduce wider corporate influence in decision making, he’s a billionaire and he’s sure as hell not going to decide against his own best business interest. He already said as much during the second debate. If he wants to lead with anything close to competence he’s going to need to assemble one of the most experienced teams full of old Washington hacks to get him up to speed and cover for his gaping holes in knowledge, experience and temperament.
Stop crime and bring employment to inner-cities – Trump’s spent his life gentrifying areas – redeveloping them to create enclaves of opulence and entertainment for the the world’s wealthiest – but has absolutely no knowledge or experience of programmes working with the most disadvantaged in deprived urban centres. He clearly despises affirmative action laws, and doesn’t recognise African American complaints of police racism and brutality, or that the justice system is rigged against them, criminalising millions. My prognosis? He will make it worse.
Renegotiate or end trade deals – There are very clear ways in which this is a non-starter. For one, US companies can sue the government for passing laws that would hurt their profits. In this light, repealing NAFTA suddenly looks like a very expensive proposition indeed. Secondly, just ask Brazilians what decades of high import tariffs have done to the cost of living. Daily life is oppressively expensive. Finally, Dismantling free trade agreements and limiting immigration might help manufacturing, but at the cost of service sector jobs which require global talent and robust, globally enforceable intellectual property regimes. You simply can’t have both economies, and think of America’s most innovate and iconic companies of the last two decades; Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla, Uber, Twitter. Would you trade them for soot-filled skies and night shifts at the furnace?
Invest in infrastructure – Although this policy will win support from many Democrats, most Republican senators are believers in libertarian economics, small state and budget surplus. They’ve blocked Obama again and again as he attempted similar proposals. Government infrastructure investment goes directly against their politics, and the policy platforms they’ve been elected on. This is the ‘ridiculous’ policy that Trump has the highest chance of delivering on, but it’s still unlikely.
What about those Trump can fulfil on, by simply signing his name along the bottom of a decree, or sitting back and doing nothing:
Paris Climate Agreement – It’s over. Anthropogenic climate change won. America will pull out, followed by China. Considering just how long this agreement took to make, environmental hopelessness must reign.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
Iran nuclear deal – That is so over. Republican senators abhor it. A newly thawed relationship will fire with white hot rage. Expect development towards nuclear weapons to restart.
Supreme Court Justices – Well haven’t the Republican’s been vindicated in their unconstitutional and deeply partisan decision to disallow Obama to nominate a new justice? Trump will be able to replace the deceased Justice Scalia with an equally conservative, partisan judge, maintaining the Supreme Court’s 5-4 bias towards conservative judgements like denying abortion and minority rights. In addition, we’re highly likely to see another justice retire or pass away during the next four years. Trump will lock-in the Supreme Court as a conservative, evangelical Christian, gun-loving, Republican, racist, misogynistic force for decades to come.
Abortion rights – 53% of white women voted for Trump. What an astounding power religion and strong men have over human thinking. Well Trump will end federal funding of Planned Parenthood, an organisation that attempts to make safe abortion available to all – as has been constitutionally upheld as a basic right and as is the unquestioned norm in almost all other countries in the world. Expect states to continue to pass legislation putting ever more hurdles and financial costs in place for getting an abortion.
Disenfranchisement – Although not a policy specifically mentioned by Trump, expect minorities and African American’s to find it even harder to vote in 2018 and beyond. 36 states, mostly Republican, have already enacted some form of voter ID law, purporting to tackle ‘exceedingly rare‘ voter fraud but ‘significantly decreasing turnout among minority and immigrant voters‘. In Florida, laws that disenfranchise felons for life mean 1/4 of all black citizens can’t vote, but then only 8% of them voted for Trump anyway. Suspicious of the early voting numbers coming out of Nevada, Trump identified voters queued up late into the night during early voting as predominately Hispanic and likely to be voting Democrat, so yesterday (unsuccessfully) sued the registrar. The chairman of Nevada’s Republican party explained; ‘Last night in Clark County, they kept a poll open ‘til 10 o’clock so that a certain group could vote.’ Chilling.
Obamacare – I’m not 100% sure if the president alone has the power to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as Trump and Pence have promised, and there are provisions in it that attract broad popular support. This will likely end in a new bill that will need to pass through Congress, dismantling most of it’s provisions but ensuring that those with existing conditions can get insured (assumedly at prohibitive cost). Yes, there really are a people on earth who want to have to worry about losing their job, getting sick and becoming destitute every.single.day.
Tax cuts for individuals and businesses – This is where the uncertainty increases. I’d bank on some kind of tax cut happening, but tax and spending must be approved by Congress. Republican Senators are very supportive of the composition of Trump’s proposed cuts – overwhelmingly benefiting the richest 0.1% – but will baulk at the cost, estimated at $9.5 trillion in the first decade. Expect a scaled down but no less regressive plan to pass both Houses.
What strikes me, just as it did about the UK’s decision to leave to EU, is the incomprehensibility of Trump voters. They see the antidote to all their anger and distrust at politicians and policies and the lack of meaning in their lives as electing the most conservative version of the conservative party, running on a programme of castles in the sky and patently undeliverable policies.
Beyond the party, in Trump, disaffected Americans are trusting everything to a man with a shady history even by the murky standards of billionaire property developers. A man totally without experience in public office. A man who has committed acts that if committed as president, would end in his impeachment. A man who only ever exaggerates – about his own intelligence, his wealth, the state of the nation, Hilary Clinton. A man who both has no principles, saying whatever will please the audience in front of him most, and whose most principled stances are utterly horrifying.
In interviews over and over I’ve heard supporters pick and choose the things Trump’s said that they believe in and support, and the things they dismiss as ‘he was joking’, ‘it’s been misrepresented’ or ‘he expressed that inappropriately and I hope to see him mature in his view’.
An evangelical Christian interview by the BBC in Cleveland Ohio claimed that while Trump wasn’t a Christian, “he’s certainly raised up by God now to be God’s man at this moment”. The man agreed with Trump on policy only about abortion, claiming that his attitudes towards women and Muslims were not “what the media’s making out them to be”.
A Republican voter also interviewed in Cleveland dismissed the obvious incongruity between Trump’s preaching that he’ll bring business back to America, even as he continues to outsource his own businesses overseas, saying “that’s a piece of his empire. He’s a global businessman”. He supported Trump because of his plan to revitalise the local economy, and his record as a businessman and problem-solver.
Republican Governor of Virginia Jim Gilmore insisted that when Trump was insulting Latinos, including his now infamous quote “When Mexico sends its people… They’re rapists.” or when he claimed that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in presiding over Trump’s case because he was “of Mexican heritage” (the judge was born in the United States) Trump was in fact talking about illegal immigration. Republican consultant John Reid called that statement “a mistake that [as a skilled politician] you don’t make”. He suggested that “we stop talking about” that so we can focus on Trump’s economic plans.
The chair of Republicans overseas, Mellise Sumstrum, interviewed on the today programme insisted that Trump’s tough talk on trade isn’t about putting the barriers up but instead “it means don’t forget your own, look to those who haven’t necessarily done well”. This is the welfare state. This is state level policy interventions that were precisely implemented by democrats to aid the losers under globalisation. These were systematically dismantled under Republican presidents Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr, and by Republican state legislatures wherever they took power.
Saba Ahmed, founder and president of the Republican Muslim coalition explained to the BBC in June why she would be voting for Trump. Her conservative beliefs pull her naturally towards the Republican party and its opposition to abortion and support of ‘traditional family values’, business and trade. She dismissed Trump’s emphatic call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”, and statements he made about Muslims such as “I think Islam hates us… There is an unbelievable hatred of us”, replying “he wants to learn, and he can make mistakes, and yes he may have said some things to offend our community, but he’s sorry for it and he’s going to make up for it by having a Muslim on his cabinet” (there is absolutely no evidence to support this belief).
A Republican voter interviewed in Cambridge, Ohio first denounced Trump, saying “I don’t like him, he’s not a true Republican to us”, but then admitted she voted for him anyway because he’s anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, and will put the right justices on the Supreme Court.
Projection and blind faith.
Yet from ABC’s exit poll, 65% of all voters said they don’t view Trump as honest or trustworthy.
The voters of 2016 may come to be known as Trump’s coalition of the gullible. Calculated or not, Trump secured the Republican party nomination and all the votes of steadfast evangelical Christians and traditional, small government, low tax Republicans that wraps up, and went voraciously after the dispossessed and disaffected. Telling them anything and everything they wanted to hear, in simple, repetitive language they could instinctively connect with. Most of those who listened and were convinced were white, high-school educated men, but it was enough to grant him the keys to the White House.