The Trump Effect - White House or No
Now that Trump has proven us all wrong and won the Republican nomination for president, it’s time to seriously examine the repercussions of a Trump presidency. Unfortunately, he, perhaps more than any other candidate, is difficult to assess. Normally, we weigh the voting record and past public statements against the campaign promises and positions of the candidate. Trump has no voting record of course, he’s flip-flopped on seemingly every issue, and the few specific policy proposals that he has revealed have been waived off by his campaign as mere suggestions or starting points in negotiation. More difficult, Trump admitted that the Heritage Foundation was picking his Supreme Court nominees. And he reportedly offered John Kasich full control over “domestic and foreign policy” as vice president so that Trump could concentrate on "making America great again."
Will President Trump be a cheeto-fascist tyrant who builds walls, institutes a police state, and locks up journalists and political opponents? Or does he just want the title, prestige, and monetary opportunities of the presidency – in which case we should be studying up on the record of Mike Pence? (Hint: it’s terrible.) No way to tell, but either way, irreparable damage has been done to our nation by his campaign.
Candidate Trump promises to track down and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. He oafishly demands that Mexico pay for a nonsensical border wall. Trump knows these things would require an unprecedented police state at an ungodly financial cost. I don’t believe that he really cares about immigration, I think he’s just playing call-and-response with the immigrant-hating Republican party base. If anything, he might waste money on more border agents and drones; maybe he tries to ban sanctuary cities, or states from issuing licenses. But if you are one of those 11 million, who are American in every way but on paper, that’s not a gamble that can be taken.
Candidate Trump has promised to ban Muslims and shutter mosques. Unfortunately, hardly anyone defends Muslims (aside from Jews, who know religious bigotry will find its way toward them when allowed to go unchallenged), so who knows? Trump will certainly have the NSA violate the 4th Amendment and spy on mosques (more). He will definitely shun refugees. He has promised to “bring torture back” and kill innocent family members of suspected terrorists. He couldn't be anything but counterproductive with Daesh (ISIS) or Syria (or Yemen, or Somalia…).
On foreign policy, Trump claimed that he advises himself because he has such a "good brain." He has asserted that every country (and Japan specifically) should have nukes. He’s given Putin the go-ahead to invade our Eastern European allies by saying we wouldn’t necessarily fulfill our (NATO) treaty obligations. He praised Sadaam Hussein for killing terrorists. He gave Assad an “A” for leadership. He gave Kim Jong-Un “credit” for taking control. He was all for the Iraq invasion, before he was against. He was all for the assassination of Gaddafi, before he was against. He's wholly unfit, he's blatantly uninterested, and he'll likely be surrounded by the same old republican chicken hawks.
Trump says China and Mexico are killing us on trade, and that he opposes the TPP. His opposition is a major plank of his faux-populism. However, as we all know, Trump shirts and ties are made there. He will happily sign the TPP into law, and claim that he got some meaningless win in negotiations.
He claims that he’ll drive the deficit down by renegotiating the value of government bonds and printing more money. Most economists insist that this would cause the interest rates we pay to foreign investors to soar and the value of the dollar to plummet - plunging our economy into recession and causing worldwide economic chaos.
Trump knows nothing about economics. He knows nothing about business outside of marketing. All he does is sell his name for buildings and gold courses, a brand which only has value because of his perceived wealth. All of his own businesses are failures. Steaks, wine, magazines, football teams and leagues... He takes advantage of tax credits which are only available to couples earning less than $500k. He has been caught conflating revenue and profits. He is a failure and a punchline.
Coincidentally, he knows nothing about tax policy. He claims that he wants to raise taxes on the rich. His tax proposal would, of course, do the opposite. He would, as any good republican, lavish the wealthy with more and more tax breaks while instituting austerity for everyone else. Same old trickle-down nonsense. Same old socialization for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor. Same old privatization of profit and socialization of cost. Same old rigged economy.
Candidate Trump bemoans a rigged political system. He claims to have bought the Clintons off in the past. He insists that candidates are beholden to their superPAC donors. But what would he do to fix it? He hasn’t offered anything whatsoever to get money out of politics. He claims to be self-funded. He claims to be so rich that he doesn’t need the money and won’t owe any favors. In reality, he couldn’t get any big time donors like the Koch brothers or Sheldon Adelson to back him. Instead, he is begging foreign leaders for campaign cash (which happens to be highly illegal, aside from a betrayal of his supporters).
That Trump is a slippery guy. Especially so given an inept media unwilling to challenge the powerful. Trump has in the past referred to himself as “very pro-choice”, yet recently claimed that women should be punished for abortion. He said that wages are already too high, then said that “people have to get more.” He claims that climate change is a conspiracy by Chinese scientists, yet cited global warming as the reason for a sea wall at his golf course in Ireland. Trump says that he was the establishment when he was buying off politicians, but that he is now an outsider as candidate (and establishment again as once elected – just this brief and convenient time away from the establishment during his run for president).
The man is a weathervane. But there are already concrete consequences whether or not he manages to win. With his childish and boorish behavior – making penis jokes, involving the appearance of other candidates’ spouses, calling a candidate a "pussy" and giving sophomoric nicknames - he has shunned accepted norms for polite political discourse. He pushes boundaries which cannot easily be replaced. He has encouraged his followers to physically attack protesters. He eggs on a mob calling for the jailing and assassination of political opponents. He cordons off and verbally attacks the media at his rallies. He bans media which report negatively on him, and sues satirists and comedians for shaming him.
Donald Trump is a simpleton. He is intellectually incurious. He is thin-skinned and ego-maniacal. He has the makings of a neo-fascist dictator who could literally be the last president (pull a Putin, with Pence his Medvedev). He says that he wants to make America great but he hates everything great about America. And even if we are lucky enough to have Hillary Clinton as president, Donald Trump will have already convinced aggressively ignorant racists and bigots - homophobes, misogynists, Islamophobes, white nationalists - that their hate-filled rhetoric is perfectly normal, acceptable, and deserves to be reflected in public discourse and policy.